Asia’s embrace of social enterprises: governments lean in

Philanthropy Impact Magazine, Autumn 2017

Asia is awash with enthusiasm for social entrepreneurship, and Asian governments are demonstrating their faith in it not only with ancillary services but with cold, hard cash.

This article looks at government support for social entrepreneurship, particularly in India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

This article was first published in Philanthropy Impact Magazine.

Turning New Leaves

TreePlanet: Changing attitudes toward forestation in South Korea

Tech-savvy social enterprise TreePlanet leverages growing environmental awareness, current cultural obsessions, and high internet productivity to develop profitable products and services that are designed to get consumers engaged with environmental causes.

“We are a tree-planting company,” said Kim Hyungsoo, co-founder and chief executive officer of TreePlanet. Since 2011, the small enterprise has used revenue from various sources — mobile game advertising, product licensing, and crowdfunding — to pay for forestry initiatives that have resulted in the planting of more than half-a-million trees across working orchards, anti-desertifi cation projects, and urban parks. But Kim’s literal description of his company belies its true purpose — TreePlanet is in fact a project in raising awareness. As important, if not more so, to funding forestation projects is the goal of changing the attitudes of its customers, which TreePlanet does by facilitating a personal
affiliation with forestry projects.

No Shadow, No Worry

WWWSE: Helping a Nation Rethink its Approach to Education

A fervor for education paid big post-war dividends for the Republic of Korea, but also spawned a private market that undermines public education and gave rise to the World Without Worries about Shadow Education (WWWSE) campaign to increase knowledge and decrease anxiety among students.

WWWSE was founded in 2008, its goal to strengthen public education by reducing reliance on private education. To strengthen public education, national policies would have to change; that could only happen if minds were changed.  In six years’ time, WWWSE, or, for short, World Without Worries (WWW), changed many mindsets across the country, from towns to cities to provinces, and, finally, to the nation’s capital.

WWW began with a series of lectures and research papers about the negative effects of shadow education on the nation’s children, including the 40% of those aged 13 to 19 who in a government survey blamed suicidal thoughts on the premium attached to high grades and the CSAT pressure-cooker; and those aged 9 or above who in another government report rated their quality of life the lowest of those similarly aged across 31 of the world’s advanced nations.

In 2014, WWW’s efforts resulted in an achievement few would have imagined: the passage of a national law regulating “preceding education” – or education ahead of the proscribed schedule for learning in the public school curriculum. The law was aimed at ending one of shadow education’s most dramatic effects – almost 92% of students already know what will be taught in the public schools, by at least by one semester in advance and often times by many more semesters.

Popular Mobilization and Democratization: A Comparative Study of South Korea and Taiwan

Jai Kwan Jung (Korea Observer)

Abstract: What is the role of popular mobilization in the process of democratization? Based on a thorough critique of the elite-centric perspective in the literature of democratic transitions, this paper proposes an alternative view. If popular mobilization played a significant role in the initial phase of regime transition, it is likely to have an enduring effect on the development of democracy in the period that follows, because the collective memory of advancing democracy from below shapes citizens’ favorable attitudes toward direct civic action and increases their commitment to democracy. A comparison between South Korea and Taiwan’s paths toward democracy effectively shows how this dynamic operates. While the Korean democratization movement successfully mobilized a massive wave of protests in response to the opening of political space, such a large scale of popular mobilization was absent in Taiwan. The difference in this distinct feature of the early phase of transition appears to be reflected in the degree of public confidence in democracy in the two countries.

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