Who’s Doing Good?

25 November 2019 - 9 December 2019

THE GIVERS

Forbes announces Asia’s 2019 Heroes of Philanthropy. In its 13th iteration this year, the list honors Asia’s leading philanthropists who are helping solve some of the region’s most pressing challenges through donations and their personal involvement. The unranked list features 30 individuals including Azim Premji from India, Jack Ma from China, and Theodore Rachmat from Indonesia. Broadly, 6 individuals from China, 4 from India, 3 each from Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, and 2 each from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Thailand are featured. Korean singer and actress Lee Ji-eun, 26, known by her stage name IU, is the youngest honoree on the list.

Seal of Love Charitable Foundation donates HK$40 million (approximately US$5 million) to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The gift, channeled into the “Seal of Love Foundation Innovation Service Fund,” is aimed at empowering HKUST students to solve real-world problems through innovation and technology. The fund’s first donation is to the pre-existing Student Innovation for Global Health (SIGHT) project, which has been devising creative and affordable solutions to global health issues since 2014. Inventions by SIGHT include a mobile electronic health record system for slums and rural areas in Cambodia and Ghana. The Seal of Love Charitable Foundation was established in 2010 by Lawrence Chan, the heir to Chan Chak-Fu, a pioneer in the global hotel industry.

THE THINKERS

Asia home to the majority of people fleeing ‘climate chaos,’ Oxfam study finds. The study examines the number of people displaced within their home countries by climate-fueled disasters between 2008 and 2018. While the study looks at the impact of ‘climate chaos’ globally, it offers timely insight into displacement finding that 80% of all people forced from their homes by weather disasters over the last decade were in Asia. The report also finds that people are three times more likely to be displaced by environmental disasters (such as cyclones, floods, or fires) than by conflicts. Large populations in some Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka, live in areas threatened by cyclones or flooding. For example, this past May, Cyclone Fani alone led to the displacement of 3.5 million people in Bangladesh and India.

THE NONPROFITS

Piramal Foundation and Gates Foundation join hands in tribal health collaborative. The partnership leverages support from the Gates Foundation and other stakeholders including the Indian government to achieve SDG 3, “ensure healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.” India’s tribal communities are home to more than 150 million people and have poorer health standards than the national average. For instance, the average maternal mortality rate in India is 130 per 100,000 births while it can be as high as 230 deaths per 100,000 in tribal communities. The goal of the partnership is to build a high-performing and sustainable health ecosystem to address the needs of these marginalized populations. Speaking at the occasion, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “Given the complexity and magnitude of the problem, we believe that partnerships with like-minded, values-based organizations such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that seek to complement the Government’s efforts, will provide the much needed impetus.”

THE INNOVATORS

Hong Kong millennials are investing family wealth sustainably, but the learning curve can be steep. Young heirs of family wealth want their money to do more than just generate returns—they want to make a difference. But doing so has not been straightforward. According to Michael Au, the managing director of District Capital, “One of the hurdles is the lack of advisers who understand the contemporary impact investing dialogue from an Asia perspective.” On the other hand, Ronnie Mak, the managing director of RS Group, states that they have been able to build and manage a fully sustainable portfolio and achieve a net annual return of 5 percent over the last 10 years. The old-guard is viewing these experiences with caution, according to Au, since they continue to believe that generating returns and doing good are mutually exclusive. CAPS’ newest report, “Business for Good: Maximizing the Value of Social Enterprises in Asia” challenges this perception. Viewing social enterprises as a critical vehicle for doing good, it offers actionable strategies to investors and philanthropists to maximize their impact.

World Bank’s catastrophe bonds provide US$225 million cover to the Philippines for dealing with natural disasters. Two tranches of the catastrophe-linked bond (CAT bond), the first of its kind, were released last week. The bond will provide immediate liquidity and insurance cover to the Philippines for three years. Issued by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, up to US$150 million will be channeled towards tropical cyclone-related losses while the remaining US$75 million will cover losses from earthquakes. The bond transfers risks related to natural disasters from developing countries to capital markets. According to Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, the CAT bond “demonstrates the Philippines’ capability to develop innovative financial solutions to mitigate impacts of extreme climate and weather-related events as well as major earthquakes.”

UNDP and Government of India launch accelerator to champion innovative approaches to development challenges. The India chapter of “Accelerator Labs,” a new UNDP initiative, will be part of a global network of 60 labs where innovative and homegrown solutions to global challenges such as climate change and inequality will be tested and scaled. The labs will employ real-time data and experimentation to quicken progress towards meeting the SDGs by 2030. The Government of India’s Atal Innovation Mission, part of a national effort to harness the potential of entrepreneurship, serves as the lab’s key partner in the country. At the launch, Mr. R. Ramanan, Mission Director of the Atal Innovation Mission said, “We remain committed to finding local solutions that can be scaled up not only in India, but also across the Accelerator Lab network.” The launch also featured #DateForDevelopment, a matchmaking activity aimed at fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. Policymakers, impact investors, experts from civil society, scientists, and members of the private sector interacted in the activity to iterate over proposed innovations.

Social stock exchange in the works in India. A 15-member working group, constituted under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), is likely to present a blueprint for a stock exchange for the social sector this month. According to Vineet Rai, co-founder of Avishkaar, a pioneering social enterprise, the social stock exchange will help potential donors find and fund credible organizations that are doing good. As these efforts proceed apace some concerns have also arisen. Former Sebi chairman, UK Sinha, opines that robust impact measurement will be a critical ingredient in the exchange’s success, and yet there are few metrics that combine social impact and financial success and can serve as an effective basis for qualification on the exchange. Despite these hurdles, however, Sinha agrees that the social stock exchange is a step in the right direction.

IN OTHER NEWS…

China’s star healthcare crowdfunding portal, Waterdrop, mired in scandal. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that an undercover media report has shed light on a series of lapses and wrongdoings on the part of Waterdrop and its staff. SCMP reports that Waterdrop staff asked hospital patients to initiate crowdfunding projects and exaggerate their stories to garner sympathy. Waterdrop’s model incentivizes project creations according to one staff member who said he would lose his job if he did not meet the target of 35 projects initiated per month. The report also states that the financial situations of targeted families was not being verified and patients were not required to submit proof of how they were using the donated money. According to SCMP, verification and supervision are the most frequently raised issues about crowdfunding platforms in China. Shen Peng, 32, founder of Waterdrop, has vowed to transfer ownership of the platform to an NGO if he cannot manage it better in the future. Waterdrop had raised CNY1 billion (approximately US$145 million) in June this year.

Environment for NGOs likely to become grim under Sri Lanka’s new president. In an interview for the The Diplomat, Taylor Dibbert, an adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum, opines: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see NGOs throughout the country–particularly in the heavily militarized north and east–getting visits from security personnel. Offices may be raided.” Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in as the island nation’s eighth president earlier this month.

How Can Asia Boost Philanthropy?

AsiaGlobal Online

Wealth in Asia is growing rapidly, but philanthropy has not kept pace. Governments should improve regulation and change tax and fiscal policies to make it easier for Asians and corporations to give in a systematic way. They should also ensure donations can efficiently reach organizations working to meet society’s needs.

This article looks at how the Doing Good Index can help governments improve regulations and policies relevant to the philanthropic and charitable sectors by identifying the levers that best enhance local philanthropy across 15 Asian economies.

This article was first published in AsiaGlobal Online.

Philanthropy in Asia needs a push from good government policies

South China Morning Post

Ruth A. Shapiro says that governments in the region must send strong signals that they value philanthropy through tax incentives and other policies. This could encourage a more systematic approach to giving and spark innovation in the social sector.

The Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society has just released its inaugural Doing Good Index, which looks at the factors that both enable and hinder philanthropy and other kinds of private social investment in Asia. We found that Asia has enormous potential to do good. If Asia were to donate the equivalent of 2 percent of its GDP, the same as the United States, it would unleash US$507 billion (HK$3.9 trillion) annually. This is more than 11 times the foreign aid flowing into the region every year and one-third of the annual amount needed globally to meet the sustainable development goals by 2030.

We did this study after understanding several important dichotomies affecting Asia and its social sector. First, there is enormous wealth being created in Asia but still incredible and at times tragic need. Second, while there is a long history of charity in Asia, philanthropy, or the systematic approach to doing good, is relatively new. Third, while many on the ground are carrying out extraordinary efforts to help relieve suffering and need, there is often a debilitating lack of trust towards the sector. Last, many Asian governments realize that philanthropy is growing and are reacting by crafting new policies and regulations that both encourage and control its flow.

The Doing Good Index is an ambitious initiative. Supported by donors in Asia, the team worked with 34 partners from 15 economies to survey 1,516 social delivery organizations and 80 experts. They answered questions about a range of factors that influence philanthropic capital. The questions fell into four categories – regulations, tax and fiscal policies, procurement and ecosystem. The first three are government-driven, while ecosystem looks at the role that people, communities, companies and universities are playing in addressing social challenges and nurturing the social sector.

We find that people are ahead of government: on average, Asian economies perform better in the ecosystem category than in the other three. Society is rewarding philanthropists and organizations in the social sector. Public recognition and awards are becoming more prevalent in most economies we studied. Many are volunteering both through their companies and on their own, people are serving on boards, and universities are offering classes in philanthropy and non-profit management.

Our study also shows that the right policies and incentives do matter. Tax subsidies contribute a great deal towards the propensity to give across income levels and have an important signaling effect. Asian philanthropists are pragmatic. People want to help their communities but also want to do this in ways that are aligned with their own government’s goals. When a government signals that philanthropy is appreciated, it has a positive influence on giving.

The right policies can address the trust deficit and mitigate the deleterious effect on philanthropy. Many social delivery organizations in Asia are endeavoring to become more transparent and accountable. In our study, 75 percent of those surveyed have a website and 86 percent have a board of trustees with nearly all reporting regular board meetings. Organisations in 13 of 15 economies are required to submit an annual report. The right regulations create a culture of accountability and facilitate the ability of organizations to report.

However, regulations need to be calibrated to reduce friction in the social sector and facilitate its growth. In some economies, organizations need to work with many government agencies, with one country having 15 different ministries all with different reporting requirements. This puts a burden on non-profit organizations and encourages underreporting.

Last, the social sector is vastly understudied. There is very little reliable data. For the Doing Good Index, we had to create the data from scratch. More information about philanthropy can help address the trust deficit and showcase which practices, models and policies are best in class. There is no dearth of humanity, creativity and commitment in Asia.

The key is to put systems and practices in place that allow us to learn from each other, contribute to our communities and help Asia become a global philanthropic leader and a center for social innovation.

Ruth A. Shapiro is the founder and chief executive of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Right policies can boost Asian philanthropy.

This article ran originally in the South China Morning Post.

Doing Good Index 2018

Maximizing Asia's Potential

The inaugural Doing Good Index examines the enabling environment for philanthropy and private social investment across 15 Asian economies. Composed of four areas–tax and fiscal policy, regulatory regimes, socio-cultural ecosystem, and government procurement–the Index reveals how Asian economies are catalyzing philanthropic giving.

If the right regulatory and tax policies were in place, Asian philanthropists could give over US$500 billion, contributing to the US$1.4 trillion annual price tag needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Index serves as a unique and useful body of data for Asian governments, as well as for nonprofits, foundations and charities in Asia, to learn from each other. At a time when the policy is evolving, the social sector is growing, and interest in philanthropy is rapidly developing, the DGI shows the potential for Asia to leapfrog and become a leader in social innovation.*

*The latest version as of 19 January 2018 is available for download now.

*Please note that for Korea the 10% rate of the tax deduction for corporate donations refers to the limit on corporate income eligible for deduction. The rate of tax deductions for corporate donations in Korea is 100%, with a 10% limit. This change has no effect on the results of the index. For further information, please contact us.

Civil Society Briefs

Asian Development Bank

Introduction: Civil society is a very important stakeholder in the operations of the Asian Development Bank and its borrowers and clients. It is distinct from the government and private sector and consists of a diverse range of individuals, groups, and nonprofit organizations. They operate around shared interests, purposes, and values with a varying degree of formality and encompass a diverse range—from informal unorganized community groups to large international labor union organizations. These Briefs provide an overview of civil society organizations (CSOs), with a particular focus on nongovernment organizations (NGOs). These Briefs were first published by the Asian Development Bank (www.adb.org).

Click here to read the Briefs.