Who’s Doing Good?

19 August 2019 - 1 September 2019

THE GIVERS

Bangladesh set to receive US$22.7 million from UNHCR Refugee Zakat Fund. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched its Refugee Zakat Fund as a new structure of its zakat program that was founded in 2016. The fund has already surpassed its US$26 million target for 2019, raising just over US$38 million in the first half of the year. Most of this came from donors in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and Egypt. The fund has already disbursed over half a million dollars to benefit 670,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which is set to receive a total of US$22.7 million. The UNHCR Director of the Regional Bureau of Asia Pacific noted that Islamic philanthropy has yet to realize its full potential within the global humanitarian sector and underscored the important role zakat can play.

Simon and Eleanor Kwok donate HK$5.2 million to injured jockey Tye Angland. According to Hong Kong Tatler, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent horse racing aficionados, the Kwok family, recently announced a HK$5.2 million (approximately US$700,000) donation to jockey Tye Angland. After a jockeying accident in Hong Kong last November, the Australian suffered career-ending spinal injuries which left him a quadriplegic. In an interview with Sky Sports Radio, Angland responded to the donation with gratitude, noting that it will be going into three different trusts for his children’s education and life expenses. The former jockey has been overwhelmed with support from the racing community and hopes to be a role model for others living with disabilities.

THE THINKERS

Levelling up: shattering myths about philanthropy in Asia. Asia is home to more billionaires now than any other region, and this article explores the intricacies of giving among Asia’s fastest-growing economies. CAPS’ Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro weighs in, noting the difficulties of gathering data in this space as most giving is done through companies and often without proclamation. The article discusses the findings of CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2018, including the trust deficit in the social sector and the important role governments can play. As the region witnesses growing inequality, governments are increasingly looking to private players for support. With more wealth than ever before, Shapiro concludes that Asia has enormous potential to be a world leader in philanthropy.

THE BUSINESSES

The Philippines’ Aboitiz Group supports young robotics enthusiasts. The Aboitiz Group has long supported STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in the Philippines, and it recently reinforced its commitment through the launch of the ‘Kabataan Inyovator: An Aboitiz Robotics Competition.’ The competition aims to encourage innovation in solving community problems through robotics. Together with Davao Light and Power Company, the Aboitiz Foundation led the competition launch on August 12 in Davao City. Pinoy Robot Games offered training sessions on robot programming, and project ideation and evaluation, for 20 Davao City public elementary and high school teams. The winning team will have its prototype deployed in its host community, and represent the Philippines in the World Robot Olympiad in Canada.  

Macronix donates NT$420 million to National Cheng Kung University to build Macronix Innovation Center. Macronix International, a global manufacturer of integrated non-volatile memory components headquartered in Taiwan, has made a generous donation to Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University (NCKU). The NT$420 million donation (approximately US$13.5 million) will be used to build the Macronix Innovation Center, a historic new space on campus that will leverage the talent of Macronix and NCKU collaboratively. Miin Wu, the founder and chief executive officer of Macronix is an alumnus of the university, where he studied electrical engineering. Macronix hopes the new creative space will foster new talent as well as demonstrate the company’s dedication to corporate social responsibility. The Macronix Innovation Center adds to NUCK’s nine existing schools by housing the School of Computing, modeled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) College of Computing.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Volunteer-based emergency response system offers solution to road traffic accidents in Bangladesh. Featured in Stanford Social Innovation Review, TraumaLink’s pragmatic model shines a spotlight on volunteer-based emergency response systems. In Bangladesh, road traffic injuries (RTIs) are the leading cause of death and disability, with nearly 25,000 road traffic deaths in 2016 according to the World Health Organization. In 2013, TraumaLink co-founders Jon Moussally, an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Mridul Chowdhury, CEO of mPower Social Enterprises, introduced a volunteer-based solution. TraumaLink enlists local volunteers, who live or work along the highway, to provide more immediate first aid to RTI victims. As of mid-2019, almost 2,000 patients have been treated by nearly 500 TraumaLink volunteers.

THE INNOVATORS

Thailand’s Bank of Ayudhya to issue first private-sector gender bonds in Asia-Pacific. The IFC (International Finance Corporation) and DEG (Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft) have agreed to subscribe to the first private-sector gender bonds in Asia, set to be issued in the amount of up to US$220 million by Thailand’s Bank of Ayudhya. These gender bonds are supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility, a join initiative of the IFC and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative. Together they aim to increase access to finance for as many as 100,000 women in emerging markets. This inaugural gender bond issuance will help expand credit lines to women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises in Thailand, as well as promote the transparency and integrity of Asia’s nascent social bond market. The Bank of Ayudhya is expected to issue the bonds this October. 

Japan’s MUFG Bank joins ESG wave with new unit. Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) will set up a department specializing in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) funding to develop financial products for companies focused on responsible investing. This sustainable business office will encourage customers to work on ESG issues and provide financing to companies based on ESG ratings and benchmarks. With an aim to improve its ESG performance groupwide, MUFG Bank has already taken concrete steps itself, such as sourcing all power for its Tokyo headquarters from hydroelectric sources. Further, by signing on to the Principle for Responsible Banking which will be launched by the United Nations this month, MUFG Bank will also set publicly disclosed environmental and social impact goals.

Who’s Doing Good?

5 August 2019 - 18 August 2019

THE GIVERS

Li Ka-shing donates HK$500 million (approximately US$64 million) to The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Hong Kong’s richest man and notable philanthropist Li Ka-shing is helping establish the city’s first synthetic biology institute through his most recent donation. Synthetic biology is a cross-disciplinary area of research in which genomes are designed and modified to help resolve challenges in life sciences. Advances in the field can impact key areas of human development such as manufacturing, medicine development, and food production. The need for innovations in such areas is urgent: current and future increases in global population are straining resources and necessitate the development of alternatives. Speaking on the occasion, Li underscored the vision behind his gift, “Just as synthetic chemistry and petroleum was central to the 20th Century, synthetic biology and DNA are the technology engines of this century, bringing disruption to traditional manufacturing and new opportunities in the industrialization of biology.”

Mano Amiga Philippines and She Talks Asia co-founder, Lynn Pinugu, discusses why she gives back to society. Lynn Pinugu traces the roots of her philanthropy to a financial crisis her family went through when she was in university. Her writing skills helped her win a journalism competition, which awarded her with a scholarship that supported her studies. She realized that children who lacked basic education would struggle to access such opportunities. After graduating, Pinugu volunteered in Mexico where she came across Mano Amiga, a network of low-cost schools transforming the lives of underprivileged students. She replicated their model in the Philippines in 2008, impacting over seven hundred lives since. Pinugu further expanded her work and founded She Talks Asia to support women in her country who are confined by traditional gender roles. Through She Talks Asia, Pinugu is offering them a safe space to discuss these issues. She concludes that humility and an eagerness to learn have kept her motivated in this journey.

THE THINKERS

Singapore falls quite behind Malaysia in responsible investing, according to Blooomberg. Singapore edges its regional competitor in several metrics such as efficiency and quality of life. In fact, CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2018 found that Singapore is one of Asia’s three economies doing the most to catalyze private social investment—Malaysia ranked a tier below. But a new Bloomberg report finds that fewer asset managers in Singapore have incorporated environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into their investment decisions relative to their Malaysian counterparts. In fact, nearly twice as many asset managers in Malaysia have developed their own ESG scoring models as compared to Singapore. These discrepancies, according to Ben McCarron, founder of sustainable finance analysis firm Asia Research & Engagement, are attributable to Malaysia’s clear regulatory push towards responsible investing. As a global center for Islamic finance, Malaysian investors are also more familiar with the use of social factors to guide their investments. Overall, however, Asia still lags behind financial centers in Europe and the United States when it comes to responsible investing.

The Economist Intelligence Unit profiles the impact investing landscape in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa in new report. Commissioned by Standard Chartered Private Bank, the report aims to create knowledge for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) on sustainable finance and its intersection with philanthropy. The goal of the study is to help HNWIs decide how to allocate their portfolios to achieve the best return against their requirements. The report—based on desk research and in-depth interviews of eight experts—focuses on Asia, the Middle East, and Africa as these regions are witnessing the highest growth in either receiving or propelling sustainable finance, impact investing, and philanthropy. One of the report’s five main observations concerns definitions: there are often very subtle differences between terms such as impact investing and sustainable investing. The report recommends HNWIs to set clear parameters and objectives to navigate gray areas in the definitions.  

The path to scale is broken for nonprofits. In an opinion piece published by India Development Review, Dhananjay Rohini argues that the support ecosystem surrounding nonprofits may be failing them in their pursuit of scale. Nonprofits often find themselves solving “inherently harder” problems such as those arising out of market failures or weak institutions. Amid these challenges, nonprofits must also bear the high transactional costs of seeking funding for one project at a time. The successful delivery of projects may improve the chances of future funding, but “donor fatigue” could still be an impediment. This situation is quite contrary to the private sector where multiple mechanisms exist for raising funding and where unremarkable but stable companies often succeed in attracting funding. Among the strategies Rohini lays down to alleviate some of these failings are: donors paying the entire costs of programs, and funding large-scale initiatives instead of individual projects. Non-pecuniary support in payroll management, reporting, and HR can also help nonprofits focus on the core problems they seek to solve.   

THE NONPROFITS

Founder of nonprofit helping trafficking victims named among 2019 Class of Asia 21 Young Leaders by Asia Society. Ta Ngoc Van is the chief lawyer at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit based in Hanoi which rescues Vietnamese women and girls who fall victim to human trafficking. Van is credited with helping 800 trafficking victims and has provided legal representation to nearly a hundred. Human trafficking affects over 40 million women, children, and men and according to the International Labour Organization, citizens of the Asia Pacific region are twice as likely to be at risk as those of a developed country. The Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam reports that about 80% of human trafficking victims end up in China. According to the article, this is in part due to the country’s gender imbalance, which is seen to exacerbate the issue. Van’s fellow honorees are playing their part in alleviating the region’s challenges through journalism, policy advocacy, and technology among others.  

THE BUSINESSES

KKR’s Global Impact Fund exceeds US$1 billion fundraising goal. The global investment firm, which manages assets worth US$148 billion, announced the Global Impact Fund as its first impact-focused fund in 2018. This new fund employs UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide investment decisions. The actual “investment playbook,” concerning the type, duration, and commitment to value-add, however, remains the same. The Global Impact Fund joins the likes of TPG’s US$2 billion Rise Fund, the world’s largest impact investing pool, and similar funds from Bain Capital and Partners Group. Co-head of KKR Global Impact, Ken Mehlman, states that the fund will allow KKR to access investment opportunities that previously had to be let go due to their size; the new fund will prioritize deals worth US$100 million or below. The fund has already deployed two investments: US$32.4 million in Singapore-based energy-saving company Barghest Building Performance, and about US$510 million in Indian environmental management company, Ramky Enviro Engineers. The latter investment is understood to have been funded in part from the Global Impact Fund and KKR’s 2017 Asian Fund III worth US$9.3 billion.

THE INNOVATORS

Korea’s SK Group developing blockchain donation platform. The donation platform will enable direct, low-cost, and peer-to-peer foreign currency donations that will be settled immediately without requiring any input from external or intermediary institutions. Cross-border money transfers are subject to various fees if sent through traditional intermediaries, and blockchain technology has emerged as a promising solution to the problem. This application of the technology, however, is yet to achieve mainstream approval despite its merits. While no firm deadline has been quoted for the project, SK Group has committed that the platform will be open sourced. Interested developers will be able to replicate the platform and alter parameters such as transaction terms. Donations on the platform will be settled in Korean won through the Social Value Coin (SVC), which will be pegged to the won in a 1:1 ratio. Another token, Social Value Power (SVP), will be distributed as reward to donors at the ratio 1:1000 SVCs (or Korean won).

Who’s Doing Good?

8 July 2019 - 21 July 2019

THE GIVERS

Philanthropist Merle Hinrich helps develop the next generation of Asian leaders in trade. In conversation with CAPS’ Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro for Hong Kong Tatler, Merle Hinrich discusses the importance of scholarships to his philanthropy. The founder and executive chairman of Global Sources established his eponymous foundation in 2012 to promote and build leadership in sustainable trade. Hinrich explains how the Foundation collaborates with scholars, employers, and university faculty to nurture the next generation of global trade leaders. The Foundation involves other companies in designing its scholarship program as well as university faculty in developing education for careers in trade. In the interview, Hinrich ultimately reflects on the importance of company involvement in the education of future employees–a value his foundation embodies through its initiatives.

Blue book on Chinese charity in 2018 released. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released the China Blue Book (2019) on July 13. The report is devoted to the history and development of China’s charitable sector. It provides new perspectives, methods, and materials that have been previously leveraged for national reforms related to the sector. The 2018 iteration highlights that the total amount of donations in China is estimated to be ¥112.8 billion (approximately US$16 billion). However, this is a decrease of about 26% in the total amount of social donations since 2017. On the other hand, the report highlights an increase of more than 50% in contribution value of volunteer services from 2017. In documenting the evolving characteristics and trends over the past ten years, this report offers insights into China’s modern philanthropy. 

THE THINKERS

Bill Drayton underscores social entrepreneurship as key to India’s success. Known as the pioneer of social entrepreneurship, Bill Drayton sheds light on social responsibility and “change-makers” in conversation with Forbes India. The founder and CEO of Ashoka comments on how the business and social sectors are experiencing a structural revolution as they grow more interconnected. On the topic of social entrepreneurship in India, Drayton states that “Leading social entrepreneurs are central to India (or any country) succeeding,” and adds, “India has a huge opportunity to be a world leader by adapting an ‘everyone a change-maker’ culture.” According to the article, Drayton underscores that if India can harness the potential of social entrepreneurship, the country will be poised to lead the world in areas like climate change, technology, and health.

THE NONPROFITS

Singapore’s smaller charities to benefit from governance and fundraising training curriculum. Smaller charities in Singapore will soon have access to training opportunities that can help them meet national standards on governance and fundraising. Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities has signed an agreement with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to jointly develop a training curriculum that will equip charities with skills like fundraising, leadership, and volunteer management. This course costs SG$100 (approximately US$75), and 30 participants will join the inaugural program set to start on August 17. The Commissioner of Charities has also issued an annual report template to further assist smaller charities in writing their own annual report. Grace Fu, Singapore’s Minister of Culture, Community, and Youth, highlighted the importance of these initiatives in raising the standard of the charity sector. According to The Straits Times, she noted, “This partnership with SUSS is a step toward raising the capabilities in the sector so that it can serve more beneficiaries and continue to gain public trust.”

THE BUSINESSES

Students in the Philippines gather for the Aboitiz High School Scholars General Assembly and Career Clinic. The Manila Bulletin highlights how the Aboitiz Foundation, the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group, has evolved its CSR initiatives “from one-time donations to carefully designed programs that empower its beneficiaries to pursue their aspirations.” Earlier this month, the Aboitiz Foundation held its annual Aboitiz High School Scholars General Assembly and Career Clinic, which convened hundreds of secondary students. This event aims to support high school students by providing lessons related to their post-secondary academic careers. This program, which equips scholars with practical career-related knowledge and coaching, also includes plenary sessions facilitated by guest speakers on topics such as digital citizenship. In addition to programs like this, the Aboitiz Foundation is currently developing and implementing CSR 2.0 projects that are aligned with the Group’s core competencies.

Companies are driving teacher development in India through innovative interventions. Companies have been leveraging digital technology to improve teacher quality and learning outcomes in rural India. Korea-based tech company TagHive designed and piloted a comprehensive off-line digital solution–Class Saathi. The app gives administrators real time access to statistics on teacher performance and analysis of student learning outcomes. Companies outside of the education sector, including Tata Steel, Dell, and Feedback Infra, are also supporting these efforts through their CSR initiatives. For example, Tata Steel developed a Bridge Language Inventory (BLI) app for Odia and Hindi speaking teachers to improve communication with children in Ho and Santhal communities. Tata Steel’s CSR Division has also installed computers in education resource centers and residential bridge courses and has distributed 250 tablets for 125 projects.

Korea’s top steelmaker POSCO raises US$500 million through ESG bonds. Korea’s POSCO announced that it has raised US$500 million by selling ESG (environment, social, governance) bonds. This type of sustainability debt instrument aims to finance corporate activities that improve and advance corporate performance in environmental, social responsibility, and governance areas. Through this bond issuance, POSCO’s CEO Choi Jeong-woo intends to “beef up our renewable energy business and material business for electric vehicle batteries.” It was also stated that the funds will be used to support the growth of the steel industry and other environmental projects. According to the article, “the five-year debt carries an interest rate of 2.874 percent and will be listed on the Singapore Exchange.”

Citibank Taiwan awarded “Best Corporate Social Responsibility Award.” Citibank Taiwan has earned the “Best Corporate Social Responsibility Award,” from Excellence Magazine, for the third year running. In this year alone, Citibank Taiwan has initiated several public welfare initiatives, the most noteworthy being its assistance to the International Paralympics Committee. One of its environmental initiatives involved helping the St. Camillus Long-Term Care Center in Yilan County to install a solar energy system and apply for a Taiwan Renewable Energy Certificate. This system allows the Center to sell produced energy on an energy certificate exchange platform, while reducing carbon emissions by 10 tonnes per year. Citibank also started the “Pathways to Progress” program in 2016, and it has supported skills development for around 800 youths. Over 650 of these young learners have gone on to access education or employment opportunities. According to the Taipei Times, Citibank has been deeply invested in Taiwan for more than 50 years.

THE INNOVATORS

Can venture philanthropy turn on Southeast Asia to clean energy? Philanthropist Eileen Rockefeller Growald is using her family’s money to help the world transition to clean energy. At the AVPN Conference 2019 in Singapore, she shared about the importance of leveraging venture philanthropy to aid the clean energy movement in Southeast Asia. She established the Growald Family Fund with her husband to fund and scale innovative ventures in clean energy. In Southeast Asia, where coal is gaining share in the energy mix, the Fund has also been informing policymakers of the pressing need to switch to clean energy. The Fund’s climate finance director for Southeast Asia, Athena Ronquillo-Ballesteros, stated, “If we are serious about stopping carbon-intensive infrastructure, the finance side of the conversation has to shift significantly.” She added, “We see a big opportunity in working with Asian philanthropists and high-net-worth individuals to create change together.”

Who’s Doing Good?

27 May 2019 - 9 June 2019

THE GIVERS

Donations by Chinese philanthropists up by 50 percent in 2018. According to the China Philanthropy List, released annually by the China Philanthropy Times, the volume of donations by Chinese philanthropists and enterprises hit a record high of ¥27.63 billion (approximately US$4 billion) in 2018. China Daily reported that this is a 50 percent increase from the previous year. Donations were made by 744 philanthropic enterprises and 274 philanthropists, with donations from individual philanthropists totaling ¥9.53 billion (approximately US$1.4 billion). Although the majority of charitable giving in China comes from private corporations, the country’s philanthropy boom has encouraged more wealthy donors to participate. The recent increase in charitable giving by individual philanthropists has also been highlighted in the Hurun Report’s Hurun China Philanthropy List 2019.

Disney in India makes donation to aid Cyclone Fani relief efforts. Disney in India has donated ₹20 million (approximately US$300,000) to aid Cyclone Fani relief efforts. The money will be donated to Save the Children in India to support disaster response and provide resources for affected communities in the Indian state of Odisha. A Disney India representative said this donation will support families affected by Cyclone Fani by providing them with critical shelter. The country manager of Disney and Star India Sanjay Gupta stated, “Our hearts go out to those affected by this severe cyclonic storm Fani. The families and communities impacted by this devastating calamity need our support as they begin to rebuild.” Disney and Star India had also supported disaster response efforts in August 2018, aiding those affected by the Kerala floods.

THE THINKERS

Philanthropy in Singapore goes mainstream. Singapore is one of the top givers among its regional counterparts, and The Business Times article highlights the transformation of the country’s philanthropy landscape over the past few years. Citing CAPS’ Doing Good Index 2018, the article underscores Singapore’s position in the “Doing Well” cluster, leading in the index alongside Japan and Taiwan. Singapore’s favorable tax deduction policies and relatively simple registration process are among several factors which have helped boost the country’s performance in the index. But in the face of persistent social and environmental challenges, philanthropy needs to take a more solutions-focused approach to giving. While the upward trend is promising, philanthropy in Singapore still has room to improve.

Harvard course helps next-generation philanthropists do good. A course titled, “Impact Investing for the Next Generation,” convenes heirs to some of the world’s greatest family fortunes. The course, run jointly by Harvard and the University of Zurich in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, has been equipping next-generation philanthropists to be more impactful since 2015. For some of Asia’s wealthiest millennials, inculcating a culture of impact investing is a formidable challenge. Despite holding one-third of global wealth, Asia only contributes a small portion of its total wealth to impact investing. However, notable alumni, such as Hyundai heir Kyungsun Chung who co-founded Root Impact, have worked to promote a culture of impact investing in Asia since taking the course.

THE NONPROFITS

Myanmar nonprofit to give 10,000 bikes to students in need. Following the collapse of bike-sharing companies ofo and oBike in Singapore and Malaysia, many bikes have been left unused in scrapyards or warehouses. Lesswalk, a Myanmar nonprofit, bought 10,000 bikes from the failed bike-sharing companies to give to students in need. The total cost of buying, shipping, and refurbishing the bikes is between US$350,000 and US$400,000, but half is expected to be paid by sponsors. More than 3,000 bikes have already been shipped to Myanmar to be given to students, and the rest is expected to arrive by the end of June. Lesswalk founder Mike Than Tun Win stated, “This movement is not about buying a new bicycle, which is actually a very straightforward process. It solves a waste problem and gets new bikes for needy children at a cheaper price.”

THE BUSINESSES

Singapore’s Temasek sets up Asia-focused private equity fund for impact investing. Temasek Holdings, a Singaporean investment company, has established ABC World Asia under its philanthropic arm Temasek Trust. Headquartered in Singapore, ABC World Asia is a private equity fund dedicated to impact investing, primarily in South Asia, South-east Asia, and China. Chief executive officer of ABC World Asia David Heng highlighted the opportunities for impact investing in Asia, where the industry is still nascent. Heng stated, “The complex social and environmental challenges in our region present the potential for investors to achieve substantial impact.” The new impact investment fund will allow Temasek Trust to move beyond traditional grant-making to fulfill its mission of “ensuring sustainable funding for the long-term well-being and security of communities.”

Korea’s Hyundai Oilbank promotes culture of philanthropy. Korean petroleum and refinery company Hyundai Oilbank is aiming to promote a philanthropic culture among its staff. Through its 1% Nanum Foundation, more than 95 percent of the firm’s employees donate a portion or one percent of their monthly salary to charitable work. The foundation had raised about ₩11.2 billion (approximately US$9.5 million) in the last seven years to support its expanding number of charitable projects. One of the noteworthy projects, the “1% Nanum Lunch Room,” equips senior welfare centers across Korea with an annual meal plan of ₩50 million (approximately US$45,000). Other initiatives include providing heating oil for low-income families during the winter season and building schools and libraries in Vietnam and Nepal.

The Ritz-Carlton staff and guests raise funds for children with cleft conditions. International hotel chain The Ritz-Carlton raised close to US$450,000 for charities under the Smile Asia alliance. In May, over 10,000 staff and guests of The Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts across Asia Pacific participated in the sales of over 14,600 cakes. The money raised will go to Smile Asia–a global alliance of independent charities working across Asia–which deploys medical volunteers to provide corrective and reconstructive surgeries for children living in remote areas. This annual fundraising initiative is part of the Smile Asia Week started by The Ritz-Carlton in 2014, and it has garnered great support over the years. In addition to this initiative, staff from the hotel chain can volunteer in medical missions across Asia Pacific.

THE INNOVATORS

China’s new model of blockchain-driven philanthropy. Stanford Social Innovation Review covers the rise of blockchain-driven philanthropy in China, and its role in ensuring transparency and accountability in the social sector. Blockchain enables donors to monitor the entire movement of their money and the platform, monitored by the public, ensures a trustworthy framework. Pioneers in blockchain-driven philanthropy in China include the charity platform of Alibaba’s fintech arm, Ant Love. Since adopting blockchain technology in March 2017, Ant Love has enabled 190 million Chinese individuals to donate US$50.5 million to 799 blockchain-supported projects. The decentralized, autonomous platform is breaking ground in the philanthropic sector as it encourages collaboration and employs community resources to address social challenges. While more oversight is still needed to monitor the people involved and the data that are recorded to the platform, China’s blockchain-driven philanthropy has significantly helped expand the sector’s role in Chinese society.

Indonesia leads by mainstreaming the SDGs in country’s development agenda. Indonesia’s integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into national policies offers lessons for the rest of Asia. The Indonesian government has showcased its commitment to the SDGs by linking them to midterm national plans, aligning national budgets and tax policies with crucial SDGs. Indonesia recently implemented two financial programs in efforts to bridge the gap in financing the SDGs: SDG Indonesia One and Islamic Finance. Employing these two finance programs will help diversify funding sources by tapping into an array of investors. Additionally, the Indonesian government also recognizes the importance of decentralizing the implementation of SDGs across all levels of government and collaborating with key stakeholders to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Who’s Doing Good?

13 May 2019 - 26 May 2019

THE GIVERS

Lu Weiding named the most generous Chinese philanthropist. Hurun Report released its “Hurun China Philanthropy List 2019,” ranking the most generous philanthropists from Greater China. Lu Weiding, chief executive of Wanxiang Group, tops the list with a single donation of shares worth US$720 million. The donation was made to a charitable trust in memory of his father, Lu Guanqiu, who founded Wanxiang in 1969 and grew it into a multinational conglomerate that is China’s largest auto components company today. Ranked second this year, Chen Yidan, co-founder of Tencent, made a US$500 million gift comprised mainly of Tencent shares. He is followed by Xu Jiayin, chairman of Evergrande Group, who made a US$230 million donation. This year’s list also sees a notable increase in female philanthropists–up to 21 from 13–with Wu Yajun, chairwoman of Longfor Properties, leading with US$20 million in donations.

THE THINKERS

Challenges in measuring China’s nonprofit sector. A pioneering study, Research on the Calculation of NPO-GDP in China, conducted by Professor Ma Qingyu and his team from Beijing Wanzhong Social Innovation Institute (BWSII), aims to measure the burgeoning social sector’s contribution to China’s economy. The findings were presented at an international symposium hosted by BWSII and The Asia Foundation. Lester M. Salamon, a leading global expert on the empirical study of the nonprofit sector, hailed the study as an important step in measuring the economic footprint of the third sector. However, he noted that the definition of the “third or social economy” sector used by Ma, who follows the convention laid by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, is limiting. It excludes volunteer work, as well as organizations such as social enterprises, cooperatives, schools, and hospitals that earn significant market incomes but do not distribute their profits. Salamon believes that a broader definition of the third sector, detailed in a UN handbook of which he is the lead author, is more commonly used internationally and would make it easier for China to share the story of its sizeable third sector with the world.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Sustainability Conference explores global trends of circular economy and sustainable finance. The conference, which is organized by CUHK’s MBA students, convened thought leaders and practitioners from both the public and private sectors to discuss growing global trends and recent developments in sustainability. The conference has traditionally focused on corporate philanthropy and company-initiated social services under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility. This year’s iteration also underscored the importance of advancing sustainability efforts and supporting innovative approaches towards creating positive social and environmental impact. Emerging trends in sustainability were discussed, including circular economy, ESG, and green finance, with an aim of nurturing the next generation of sustainability-minded business leaders.

THE BUSINESSES

Alibaba releases inaugural philanthropy report detailing the company’s social impact. Alibaba Group has released its inaugural philanthropy report, which details the company’s philanthropic initiatives and highlights its three platforms: Alibaba Philanthropy, Alipay Philanthropy, and “Each Person Three Hours.” According to the report 440 million individuals across China have used these platforms in the past 12 months, raising over US$184 million in charitable donations. Over 15 million people registered on the “Each Person Three Hours” platform, which lists over 3.05 million volunteer opportunities. In addition to showcasing Alibaba’s integration of philanthropy into each part of its business ecosystem and the company’s encouragement of personal philanthropy by employees, the report also lists several examples of Alibaba’s philanthropic initiatives outside of China. Sun Lijun, head of the Alibaba Foundation, underscored the Group’s commitment to philanthropy, “Here at Alibaba, philanthropy is the core of our business model. Our foremost priority is providing effective and sustainable solutions to problems faced by society.” Since 2011, when Jack Ma founded the Alibaba Foundation and announced a commitment of 0.3% of the group’s annual revenues to social responsibility initiatives, the e-commerce giant has grown to be a leader in corporate social responsibility in China.

Thai company partners with nonprofit Alliance for Smiles to provide surgery for 100 Myanmar children. In celebration of 30 years of their business in Myanmar, Thai oil and gas company PTTEP Myanmar Asset is funding surgeries for children suffering from cleft lip or palate. The initiative is in partnership with Alliance for Smiles, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that offers free comprehensive treatment for children suffering from these conditions in under-served communities. Thanks to PTTEP’s donation of US$100,000, Alliance for Smiles will be able to offer surgery to 100 children in Myanmar. During the signing of the agreement, PTTEP Myanmar Asset’s general manager stated, “We are very pleased with the results of this cooperation with Alliance for Smiles. This benefits not only the individuals but the entire community in the long run.”

Tata Group helps restore damaged power network in wake of Cyclone Fani. While the Odisha government’s speedy evacuation saved the lives of millions, countless homes and power lines were destroyed by Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to hit India in decades. To aid recovery efforts Tata Power sent a team of 25 engineers and technicians from its regular operations to resurrect the power network. Tata Trusts and Tata Projects Community Development Trust are also providing drinking water supplies to affected areas, while Tata Power Solar has distributed over 4,000 solar lanterns to villagers. Praveer Sinha, chief executive officer and managing director of Tata Power, said, “As an integral part of the Tata Group, we always endeavor to stand by the fellow Indians in need. After the global recognition to the country for successfully managing the cyclone, let us all join hands in resurrecting Odisha with our concentrated efforts.”

THE INNOVATORS

Kitkit School and onebillion announced as co-winners of Elon Musk’s US$15 million Global Learning XPRIZE. Launched in 2014, the Global Learning XPRIZE is a competition backed by Elon Musk that challenges teams across the globe to help end global illiteracy. Teams work to design and develop scalable, open-source software solutions that enable self-teaching of basic reading, writing, and arithmetic within 15 months on Pixel C tablets donated by Google. Kitkit school, created by Enuma, a leader in digital early learning based in Seoul and Berkeley, draws on technology and gamification to boost children’s confidence and empower them to be independent learners. onebillion, an educational nonprofit based in London, developed onetab, a learning device that offers onecourse, a comprehensive and modular adaptive learning software that responds to children’s different learning needs. The two winning teams will split the US$10 million Grand Prize sponsored by Elon Musk.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Employees and executives of POSCO gear up for “POSCO Global Volunteer Week.” As part of Korean steelmaker POSCO’s corporate social responsibility, 63,000 employees and executives working in 55 countries will participate in the company’s annual week-long volunteer event serving their respective communities. The volunteer week includes a panoply of community service opportunities such as enhancing energy efficiency, offering free English classes, and building an infirmary. Choi Jeong-woo emphasized the importance of the global volunteer week to the company, “POSCO employees will have the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills to help other members of society prosper.” POSCO announced that this year’s event slogan will be “Share the Talent, Change My Town.”

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Prosecutors and witnesses describe flow of state funds into Najib’s accounts. The Straits Times reports on developments in the first of five criminal trials against former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who faces seven charges related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhdan (1MDB) scandal. The scandal centers on an alleged US$4.5 billion said to have been embezzled from 1MDB, a state investment fund set up under the Najib administration in 2009. Last week, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur heard witness testimonies recounting how fund transfers designated for CSR programs were made under the orders of chief executive of Yayasan Rakyat 1 Malaysia, a charitable foundation that had deployed CSR funding to Ihsan Perdana in the past. Instead, the funds allegedly ended up in Najib’s accounts and may have been used to pay off personal and political expenses. The trial is expected to continue until August.

Who’s Doing Good?

8 April 2019 - 14 April 2019

THE GIVERS

GS Group makes US$400,000 donation to help victims of recent Gangwon wildfire. In line with the GS Group chairman’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, GS Group affiliates have been engaging in various partnerships to address social needs. Last year, GS Retail signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of the Interior and Safety to annually donate relief supplies worth ₩50 million (approximately US$40,000) and to transform GS25 convenience stores into emergency shelters during natural disasters. GS Retail quickly responded to the Gangwon wildfire that broke out earlier this month, teaming up with other relief organizations to provide emergency supplies to those who suffered from the wildfire. GS Group made an additional contribution to relief efforts with a ₩500 million (US$400,000) donation to Community Chest of Korea, the country’s largest welfare institution, to support the victims.

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun to give nearly US$1 billion to charity. The founder and CEO of Xiaomi, Lei Jun, is receiving a bonus of more than 636.6 million shares for his eight years of contributions to the company. The Chinese smartphone maker went public in Hong Kong in 2018, and based on the stock’s current price, Lei Jun’s shares amount to approximately US$961 million. Last Wednesday, Xiaomi stated in a regulatory filing that Lei Jun promised to donate all the shares to charitable purposes. This comes weeks after another fresh bequest of shares, worth around US$7.5 billion, was made by Wipro’s chairman, Azim Premji, to his philanthropic initiatives.

THE THINKERS

Indian philanthropy still faces limitations, but leaders in the field can pioneer change. Education programs continue to receive the majority of philanthropic funding in India, and some analysts have suggested that too much philanthropic funding has been going to the education sector to the exclusion of other important social issues, such as violence against women. However, the growing philanthropic infrastructure augurs well for enhanced information about and transparency of the nonprofit sector, allowing for underrepresented nonprofits to access more partnerships and opportunities. Leaders in the field, including academic centers such as The Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University and prominent foundations such as the Azim Premji Foundation, are positioned to drive the discourse on more inclusive and impactful philanthropy.

THE NONPROFITS

Social impact app, TangoTab, launches at Singapore’s first food bank community event.  Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Andre Angel, TangoTab is an app designed to serve the food-insecure, and it has donated over three million meals to partners in the United States. TangoTab has partnered with The Food Bank Singapore (FBSG), a registered charity that coordinates food donations with its network of over 300 nonprofits. The app was launched last week at Singapore’s first food bank community event, which fed 1,000 people. Every time a diner checks in to a partner establishment on the app TangoTab will make a donation to FBSG to feed a person in need. As studies show that seven in ten Singaporeans dine out for dinner and one in ten go to bed hungry every night, TangoTab will help the city take a step forward in assisting the food-insecure through its meal-for-a-meal platform.

THE BUSINESSES

Hilton Hotels Malaysia gives back to society. In a recent interview, the regional general manager of Hilton Hotels Malaysia, Jamie Mead, shared details of the group’s CSR initiatives that focus on education, youth development, and going green. Mead also highlighted the focus on functional CSR such as the hygienic recycling system implemented to avoid wasting the thousands of soaps that are thrown away every day. Of the ongoing CSR initiatives, Mead highlights the partnership with SK La Salle 2, Jinjang, to be especially meaningful to him as the close-knit relationships between the children studying at the school and the Hilton Hotels Malaysia volunteers greatly inspired him to continue giving back.

Tata Power trains farmers on sustainable agriculture. Exhibiting its commitment to the social development of local communities, Tata Power, India’s largest power generation company, recently trained over 950 farmers in 42 villages on sustainable farm practices. Under the Sustainable Agriculture Programme, landholding farmers were taught the best agricultural practices for staple crops, vegetables, and cash crops. The program also trained landless farmers to cultivate vegetables in their courtyards through a vertical farming program, helping tribal farmers in remote areas both raise their income and lead a healthier lifestyle with increased access to fresh vegetables.

Tata Trusts and Microsoft partner to empower handloom weaving communities. In an effort to rejuvenate handloom communities in the eastern and north-eastern parts of India, Tata Trusts and Microsoft will leverage each other’s strengths to provide business and communication skills, design education, and digital literacy to handloom weavers. The training will be delivered through Microsoft’s Project Sangam, a cloud solution for large-scale training programs with adaptive streaming and offline-mode learning, which empower communities to learn anytime and anywhere. In partnership with Tata Trusts, Microsoft aims to expand the program to the grassroots level and help weaving communities build a sustainable future. The chief program director of Tata Trusts stated, “Through this initiative, we want to empower artisans and bring them up to par making them competitive in the industry.”

THE INNOVATORS

BPI Foundation searches for promising social enterprises in the Philippines. The social innovation arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, BPI Foundation, has announced the launch of BPI Sinag Year 5. To widen the scope of its competition this year, BPI Sinag will hold roadshows in Davao, Iloilo, Pampanga, and Laguna. At each stop, social entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to present a seven-minute business pitch, and the top 40 most promising social enterprises will win an opportunity to participate in a boot camp that will include training on business strategy, marketing, operations, finance, organization, and human resources development. Ten social enterprises with the most promising business viability and social impact will be named as awardees of BPI Sinag, with the top one to five receiving PHP 500,000 (approximately US$10,000) and the top six to ten receiving PHP 100,000 (approximately US$2,000) in grants.

Asia Pacific region found to be the most optimistic on the future of ESG investing. A global survey by BNP Paribas of 347 institutional investors who have US$23 trillion in assets under management found that despite lagging behind other regions on sustainable investing, the Asia Pacific region is the most optimistic on the future of ESG investing. While the survey showed that Asia Pacific institutional investors only allocated 15% of funds to ESG investment, falling short of the 18% global level, over half of Asia Pacific investors stated that they would allocate up to 75% of their funds towards ESG by 2021. As green investment gains traction, the region is also set to see new job opportunities emerge as around 50% of Asia Pacific institutional investors plan to hire external ESG specialists, while only 34% of global counterparts expect to do the same.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Youth volunteers in Bangladesh lead the way on climate action. Bangladeshi State Minister of Youth and Sports, Zahid Ahsan Russel, recently participated in an interactive roundtable, “Youth 2030: Working with and for Young People,” organized by the United Nations in New York. At the event last Tuesday, the state minister commended the nation’s young volunteers, stating, “The youth, especially the volunteers, have been instrumental in Bangladesh’s efforts on disaster risk reduction in early warning of the cyclone and emergency evacuation, effectively reducing deaths and injuries from natural disasters.” The state minister also highlighted the leading role of youth in not only volunteering efforts, but also in taking charge of on-the-ground climate action and social media campaigns against climate change.

未来的回报:高等教育奖学金(摘录)

教育事业十分重要——纵观亚州公益捐助的资源投放取向,这则讯息清晰而明确。

此份摘录的内容取自首份探索亚洲民间设立奖学金的效用研究。这类研究是亞洲公益事業研究中心(CAPS)的专长,研究能够提供即时、有用的资讯给奖学金的捐款者和管理者。

我们的研究证实,奖学金对其获奖者、其社区和国家产生重要的回报。CAPS的研究者发现,一份奖学金平均能改善26人的生活。 获得奖学金的学生不仅能为自己和家人创造更美好的將来,同时也能透过发挥自身领导才能、参与义务工作、或透过公民参与等方式帮助他人、回馈社会。

我们的研究显示,提高高等教育奖学金的影响力并不一定需要改变整个项目。简单的项目微调和增补已可有效地提高项目影响力。透過附录的项目设计工具包,我們希望可以帮助亚洲慈善家、基金会、政府將其奖学金这项投资回报最大化,協助奖学金项目管理者扩大奖学金的正面影响。

Who’s Doing Good?

1 April 2019 - 7 April 2019

THE GIVERS

Korean celebrities give generously to Gangwon wildfire victims. On Friday, President Moon Jae-in declared a state of national disaster over the wildfire that affected the counties of Goseong, Inje, and Sokcho and the cities of Gangneung and Donghae. In the following days, the President designated these areas as a special disaster zone, which funneled in state money to help victims and support recovery, and a number of public figures made donations to support the affected communities. The largest donor was singer IU with a ₩100 million (approximately US$90,000) donation to ChildFund Korea, an international welfare service organization’s Korean arm. Coming from a range of celebrities, including K-pop idols and athletes, donations to victims in Gangwon Province have totaled US$330,000 as of Saturday and have complemented government efforts to respond to the disaster.

Tata Trusts awards 361 scholarships to students of Jammu and Kashmir. A new scholarship program, launched this year by the Tata Trusts, has selected 350 applicants for a two-year scholarship to pursue degree and diploma courses in education. A spokesperson for the Tata Trusts stated, “The Trusts had conducted an exercise to find out which states would benefit the most through support in promoting teaching as a career. Jammu and Kashmir emerged as one of the top choices.” In addition, 11 fine arts students of the University of Kashmir have been selected for the Tata Trusts Students’ Biennale National Award. The Tata Trusts has been supporting higher education since 1892 with the founding of the J.N. Tata Endowment for the Higher Education of Indians, which was featured in CAPS’ report, “Giving Back to the Future: Scholarships for Higher Education.” This new annual scholarship underscores the Tata Trusts’ continued commitment to supporting higher education.

Azim Premji Foundation highlights the Wipro founder’s unwavering support and patience. With a strong belief that education is the fundamental non-violent way to bring about lasting social change, Azim Premji chose education to be a primary beneficiary of his philanthropic initiatives. Out of Premji’s initial dream of starting a liberal arts school in 1997 grew a philanthropic effort of around 2,000 people working in 50 districts across six Indian states and a university dedicated to education and development domains. CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation, Dileep Ranjekar, lauds the Wipro founder’s continued support for the foundation’s work, stating that Azim Premji’s ability to appreciate and accept the inordinately long cycle time for social and educational change has enabled the foundation to work towards its long-term vision of social and educational change across the nation.

THE THINKERS

China’s philanthropy to unlock great potential. China’s philanthropy sector has quadrupled over the last decade, and private wealth has been a critical contributor to this growth. Donations from private companies and corporate foundations have dominated philanthropic giving, followed by affluent individuals and other types of organizations such as government agencies and public institutions. A recent report, published by AVPN and the Rockefeller Foundation, pointed out that the overwhelming share of corporate giving and individual donations in China has been largely stimulated by a rising awareness of social responsibility, favorable corporate tax incentives, and the country’s Charity Law passed in March 2016. While the report cautioned some barriers in China’s philanthropy ecosystem, such as a limited number of intermediaries able to help in sophisticated areas of philanthropy and a lack of data transparency, it expressed optimism as Chinese philanthropy burgeons alongside cutting-edge technology and a thriving digital sector, both of which are sparking a greater public interest in charity.

THE NONPROFITS

Pakistani nonprofit’s CEO named on Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list of social entrepreneurs. The 28-year-old CEO of Seed Out, Zain Ashraf Mughal, secured a spot on the prestigious list of Asia’s top social entrepreneurs. Seed Out, a nonprofit crowdfunding platform that works to eradicate poverty through interest-free micro-financing, has raised over 600 entrepreneurs in four Pakistani cities and put at least 1,600 children into schools. According to the World Bank in Pakistan, 90% of the workforce is highly entrepreneurial but it is estimated that 80% of them cannot apply for a traditional loan. Through Seed Out, donors can support social entrepreneurs through donating or lending to projects listed on the nonprofit’s website, ultimately providing social entrepreneurs the tools, training, and support to bring about innovative solutions to social and environmental issues.

THE BUSINESSES

Citi Foundation and United Nations Development Programme host second Asia Pacific Youth Co:Lab Summit. On April 4th, the United Nations Development Programme and Citi Foundation collaborated with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Viet Nam Volunteer Center to host the second Asia Pacific Youth Co:Lab Summit in Hanoi. The project is the largest youth-led social entrepreneurship movement driving the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The event brings together over 500 delegates, including hundreds of youth, partners, and government officials from 20 countries, to exchange ideas and experiences and to influence policy initiatives on youth entrepreneurship and social innovation. The initiative has benefitted over 2,500 young social entrepreneurs and has helped launch or improve nearly 500 social enterprises.

THE INNOVATORS

Fourteen young Indian social entrepreneurs make the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list of social entrepreneurs. While the Forbes Billionaire List 2019 featured Indian business leaders including Mukesh Ambani and Azim Premji, a new cohort of young Indian leaders are being featured for their social-driven initiatives. Forbes Asia has released its annual Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, highlighting 300 outstanding individuals from 23 countries and territories in the Asia Pacific region. Fourteen young Indian social entrepreneurs were featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list of social entrepreneurs for their work, which ranges from collecting unused clothes to making sustainable construction bricks out of plastic waste. These young social entrepreneurs are tackling pressing social and environmental issues facing their communities and are a growing cohort of leaders in the burgeoning social entrepreneurship space.

Global impact investment market rises to US$502 billion. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) conducted a comprehensive study analyzing the size and make-up of the impact investing market and launched their landmark report, “Sizing the Impact Investment Market.” GIIN reports that the global impact investment market is sized to be currently worth at least US$502 billion, which is more than double the US$228 billion reported by GIIN last year in its “2018 Annual Impact Investor Survey.” According to the report, the majority of impact investors are based in developed markets such as the US, Canada, and Europe, and a smaller fraction of investors are based in Asia with 2% of investors in East Asia, 2% in Southeast Asia, and 3% in South Asia. While the impact investment market has grown rapidly over the past decade, there is still a need for trillions of dollars to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving significant room for the nascent impact investment sector to grow.

Villgro leads the way in supporting social enterprises through public-private partnerships. As India’s oldest and one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators, Villgro has impacted over 19 million lives through its support for early-stage and innovation-based social enterprises. Since its founding in 2001, Villgro has been an exemplar of social enterprise incubation with its focus on deep sectoral expertise, high-touch mentoring, and public-private partnerships. Villgro has collaborated with the private sector, including Accenture and Rabobank, as well as with local and international governments to expand INVEST, one of the world’s largest social innovation programs. The incubator’s diverse partnerships serve as models for other intermediaries looking to bolster the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in their communities.

A New Look at Second Chances

Institutional Care for Children in India

The data tells us that there are fewer children in India who would be classified as “vulnerable” under the 2015 Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJ Act). The enshrinement of child rights into law shows that the protection of children has been formally recognized as a critical issue by the government of India. Specifically, the act contains provisions for children in need of care and protection, including the homeless and those residing with unfit or incapacitated parents or guardians. In short, the JJ Act holds the promise of a safe home for all children.

But these developments say little about the experience of the most vulnerable children once they have been taken under the care of institutions, nor their transition out of care into young adulthood. The nuances of this journey can only be appreciated at the individual level, as the Centre of Asian Philanthropy and Society found when we spent 10 weeks visiting orphanages and  children’s homes in the states of Goa and Indore to observe the work of organizations focused on providing shelter for children with no other resort. Between June and August 2017, we collected the stories of children in institutional care in rural and urban Mumbai, Goa, and Madhya Pradesh to provide a glimpse into their lives.

We found that even when at-risk children have been removed from immediate harm, the impact of their traumatic experiences persists. Mental health is not prioritized in most types of institutions these children are taken to. With staff stretched to capacity, children do not always receive the specialized care they need to mitigate the lifelong health risks of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). While resource-strapped institutions are hard-pressed to provide this sort of specialized care, our time in the field showed that an emphasis on providing emotional support and efforts to create a family-like environment for children can reap gains for their well-being.

Who’s Doing Good?

4 March 2019 - 10 March 2019

THE GIVERS

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.”

THE THINKERS

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.

THE NONPROFITS

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.

THE BUSINESSES

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.

THE INNOVATORS

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.

THE VOLUNTEERS

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.