Philanthropy, Education, CSR, Poverty Alleviation
China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand

Who’s Doing Good?

4 March 2019 - 10 March 2019


British Asian Trust announces new partnership with British Telecom (BT) to launch program in India. The British Asian Trust, which was founded by Prince Charles in 2007 to fight poverty in South Asia, will launch a three-year program in partnership with BT to employ digital technology to improve girls’ education in India. Working with local sector leaders and social delivery organizations, the new partnership will explore innovative ways in which technology can be used to break down social barriers and help improve education and employment opportunities for around 500,000 young girls. The program will work in and around BT’s India operations in Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, and Kolkata. BT Group’s chief executive, Philip Jansen, expressed enthusiasm for the new partnership, “The world of work has changed enormously during the 30 years BT has been in India. We recognize that digital technologies have the potential to transform opportunities for this and future generations of girls.”


Despite strong philanthropic momentum, India still falls short on funding needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bain’s India Philanthropy Report 2019 heralds the growth of social sector funding over the past five years. The report highlights an increase in private funding at a rate of 15% per year and public funding at a rate of about 10% per year. Funding by individual philanthropists grew the most, increasing by 21% per year. Even if India continues to sustain its current funding growth rate and channels all philanthropic capital into the SDGs, the country will still face an annual shortfall that augurs poorly for achieving the SDGs. While domestic private philanthropy is burgeoning and outpacing public funding growth in India, the report calls on domestic corporations and India’s ultra-high-net-worth individuals to enhance the level and nature of their giving.

Collaboration and women empowerment underscored as key factors of effective philanthropy in India. In response to the release of Bain’s India Philanthropy Report 2019, leaders in the philanthropic sector called for more collaborative action and women empowerment. Roopa Purushothaman, chief economist and head of policy advocacy at Tata Sons, encouraged stakeholders to look at building a “carer economy,” which supports caregivers of children and elders. Anant Bhagwati, a partner at Bain and director at Dasra, a foundation focused on strategic philanthropy, highlighted the critical role of collaborative action for India’s philanthropic spending to reach its full potential. Philanthropist Rohini Nilekani echoed Bhagwati’s views, emphasizing the need for civil society, markets, and government to collaborate for better results.

Why investing in women and girls will take off in 2019. New research published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review delineates the economic benefits of gender parity, highlighting that women could raise global GDP by up to US$28 trillion or 26% in 2025 if they were to attain equal participation. A McKinsey report estimates that advancing women’s equality in Asia-Pacific countries would raise their collective GDP by US$4.5 trillion in 2025, a 12% increase over the business-as-usual trajectory. While growth in gender lens investing is constrained by a sparse pipeline of investees as well as a lack of well-defined metrics, a better understanding of the benefits of gender impact investing, celebrating success stories, and supporting women-focused intermediaries can all help drive more investing in women and girls in the Asian region and boost global prosperity.


Nonprofits focus on “secondary needs” in efforts to rebuild communities in Tohoku. Monday marked eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that triggered a tsunami and nuclear disaster and devastated coastal communities, most notably in the Tohoku region. While Japan’s Reconstruction Agency announced in December that full restoration of the region would not be complete by March 2021 as originally scheduled, nonprofits and volunteers have been playing a major role in helping with recovery. In addition to physical reconstruction, nonprofits and local government are also focusing on “secondary needs” of reconstruction, including emotional and social well-being. One nonprofit, Playground of Hope, is working to restore a sense of community and strengthen emotional and social support by providing outdoor play equipment for children and holding community workshops.


Google launches a free mobile application to teach English and Hindi to children in India. Google’s new offline mobile application, Bolo, is designed to help children in rural areas with poor mobile coverage improve their English and Hindi. The application uses speech recognition and text-to-speech technology with friendly cartoon characters to make language learning more fun for children. Google has developed and released Bolo in the name of philanthropy, stating that it is not looking to monetize the application and that the application is completely safe for children to use. A recent study showed that only 44% of grade five students in India are capable of reading books written for grade two students, and in response, Google stated that its reading-tutor application can help improve these numbers. In the pilot scheme with almost 1,000 children, results showed that 64% of participants improved their reading skills after using the Bolo application.

Lessons from SK Group on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Asia. Companies and institutional investors play a major role in driving innovation, and Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, sheds light on the group’s recent initiatives that focus on accountability and innovation. One example he highlights is the group’s “Double Bottom Line” (DBL) initiative, by which the group reports all of its 17 SK affiliates’ contribution to social value alongside operational profits. Another CSR program, “Social Progress Credit,” was highlighted for its support for social enterprises through cash incentives. With an early acknowledgment of its responsibility in Korea, the SK Group has been a leader in CSR, and its deep-rooted commitment to social good is an exemplar for other companies in the region looking to cut through the noise and be recognized in the CSR space.


Recognition of social enterprises in Asia needed first before regulation. Social enterprises have proliferated across Asia over the past decade, and governments are increasingly recognizing the role that social enterprises play in solving social, economic, and environmental challenges. Last week, Thailand passed a social enterprise act that gives tax breaks and other incentives to registered profit-generating ventures with a social impact mission. This act puts Thailand among the few countries in the region with legislation aimed at such ventures. Romy Cahyadi, chief executive at Indonesia-based Instellar, a company offering incubation and acceleration programs for social entrepreneurs, highlights that recognizing social enterprises as legal entities can offer greater clarity to the sector. However, for many countries where the social enterprise sector is still nascent, there is a greater need for awareness of and education on social enterprises first.


Chinese end-of-life care volunteers bring comfort to the elderly. In 2018, China had 249 million people aged 60 and above, accounting for 17.9% of its total population. With the fastest-growing elderly population in the world, among which nearly 50 million are critically ill, there is a high demand for elderly services and care. One nonprofit, Love and Companion Center, provides end-of-life care for those in need and enlists volunteers from a 500-member group chat on WeChat every week. Since it was established in 2014, the nonprofit has provided over 10,000 hospice services for the elderly and their families through the help of its volunteers.