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.

Overview of Charity Sector in Singapore: 2007 – 2013 (Philanthropy in Asia: Working Paper No. 3)

Alfred Koh, Swee-Sum Lam, and Weina Zhang (Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, National University of Singapore)

Abstract: This is an exploratory study on the state of the charity sector in Singapore using the Commissioner of Charities Annual Reports from 2007 to 2013, available from the Charity Portal. The depth of analysis is much limited by the availability of inter-sectoral and intra-sectoral data as well as the length of time covered by each annual report.

While there are studies that use the same data, we attempt to rationalise the data trends and their implications for strategy making by would-be entrants, practitioners and policymakers.

We first present the broad trend in the net number and revenue growth of registered charities to understand the size of the sector and its financial health. Overall, the whole sector has been growing at a steady rate in terms of numbers and total amount of receipts which include grants, donations and others. Among the three components, grants, or the money given by the government, contributed the most to the total receipts. A more microscopic review shows that the percentages of others to total receipts are increasing.

We analyse the receipts per charity in each subsector at the level of the total receipts as well as its three components. It was observed that different subsectors have different mix of receipts with government grants dominating in the Education subsector, followed by the Arts and Heritage subsector and the Health subsector.

Taken together, this study could be of interest to aspiring entrants who wish to do good while staying afloat at the same time. For instance, the social and welfare subsector is able to generate a greater proportion of receipts from the sales of goods and services. This suggests that models employing social entrepreneurship may be appropriate in building sustainability in this sector.

Finally, subject to the data at hand, we explore the possible research questions raised in the literature that may be of relevance to practitioners and policymakers. We discuss topics such as the relation of donations and economic conditions, crowding-in or crowding-out effects of grants, the cost of donations, and fundraising strategies.

Given the trend of an ageing population, the Social and Welfare subsector may have a greater role to play in the future. Therefore, this warrants more in-depth research on these issues to bring innovation and sustainability in transforming society and community.

Changing Lives with the Gift of Water

Lien AID: Enabling the Rural Poor to Protect Their Health

By helping villagers in rural communities become owners and operators of their own water facilities, Lien AID through its clean water and sanitation programmes has improved the health and well-being of thousands of rural poor in Cambodia and elsewhere in Asia.

The Lien Foundation was established by prominent Singaporean banker and entrepreneur Dr. Lien Ying Chow. Orphaned at age 10 and without a formal education, Lien established the foundation in 1980 with almost half of his wealth to give back to society what it had given to him. Lien AID was incorporated in 2006, with the mission to improve living conditions in developing communities in Asia and as an autonomous vehicle to champion the foundation’s interests in water and sanitation.

By the end of 2014, Lien AID had reached about 682,000 direct beneficiaries in poor communities across Southeast Asia and China. It had built more than 1,300 water facilities and 22,000 toilets. It had made water and sanitation accessible for more than 200 schools and 2,800 villages as well as 59 healthcare facilities. In Cambodia alone, Lien AID had implemented 43 community-based water social enterprises by May 2015 and is looking to deliver at least 18 more by 2018.