Social Enterprises in Asia

Over the decades, social enterprises (SEs) have gained increased recognition for their ability to bring about fair and equitable social transformations. Their unique models provide an additional mode of engagement for individuals and institutions interested in addressing social issues.

Social enterprises (SEs) take the form of a non-profit or for-profit and vary in size and structure but what unites all SEs is their business approach to social change. Instead of maximizing profits, SEs apply market practices to maximizing impact and strive to optimize finances in support of their social or environmental missions. SEs form an integral role in a larger social innovation sector – they act as on-the-ground implementers of social solutions.

Early social entrepreneurs in Asia tended to be foreigners or returning patriates, but homegrown Asian social entrepreneurs are now more common. Some of the world’s largest and most well known SEs, like Grameen Bank and BRAC Enterprises, got their start in Asia.

It is difficult to state the number of SEs there are in Asia since SEs are so diverse in their nature and scope of activities. Because of the relatively recent introduction of the term, many organizations may not even self-identify as a social enterprise even though they function as one.

As Asia continues to undergo drastic social, demographic, and economic changes, SEs can play a role to ensure that future Asian growth is inclusive and sustainable. SEs reach underserved communities, linking them to products and services that enhance their quality of life and income generation ability. However, a number of issues must be addressed before SEs can become a part of mainstream Asian economies and societies.

Read the full report, Social Enterprises in Asia: An Introductory Guide