Saturday February 25, 2012
SEA says some local enterprises are ready for investors
By WONG WEI-SHEN
It is not an easy job, trying hard to think of thoughtful, inspiring and different ways to educate the public about the growing social enterprise sector in Malaysia but someone has to do it.
Malaysia's Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) was formed to do just that, and more. SEA is an organisation for social enterprises and social entrepreneurs. Its goal is to create conducive conditions for a vibrant social enterprise sector in Malaysia.
Kal Joffres, one of the four SEA key committee members spoke to StarBizWeek about some of the programmes it would be launching this year.
A training programme designed for up-and-coming social enterprises, Joffres and the team at SEA aim to create more operational-ready social enterprises through Change Weekend.
The programme is focused around certain activity-filled weekends, using design thinking to solve real business problems.
He says that one of the issues for social enterprises in Malaysia is that there are not enough of them that have reached a level where they are ready for investments.
He adds that a certain level of maturity is needed for that. Change Weekend has been set up to help social enterprises make products that meet the market's needs.
However, it is worth mentioning that some things such as cultural norms cannot be changed. Change weekend is free, but only for the a few select social enterprises that will be handpicked by SEA.
TEDx - which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and x means independently organised event, is a programme in which people from various backgrounds and interest come together to connect and share ideas to facilitate local communities to get involved in assisting the disadvantaged.
One of the speakers at last year's TEDxMerdekaSquare event, then nine-year-old James Goh delivered a tear-jerking inspiring speech showcasing children that are making a difference throughout the world.
Goh himself is passionate about solving problems such as pollution and bullying. He aspires to be a video game designer when he grows up and aims to solve bullying by designing an anti-bullying computer game. Joffres says that TEDxMerdekaSquare plays a big part in raising public awareness about social enterprises.
“We do talks regularly at universities also. One of the things we are still figuring out is how we can educate people in the Government about social enterprises,” he adds.
It is worth noting that the SEA is currently pushing for special policy recognition for the social enterprise sector.
“For example, we need to create a way for foundations to be able to give to social enterprises,” Joffres says.
As yet, foundations are not able to contribute to private companies in monetary terms, as the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) would view it suspiciously.
Joffres says:“We are working on modifications to the tax policy to enable foundations to work with social enterprises. We are working on that with the Finance Ministry. We're looking at how to create a special status for social enterprises without making any major modifications to enterprise structure.”
Little is known about social enterprises that exist in Malaysia. SEA is working on the National Social Enterprise census to find out how and where Malaysian social enterprises stand in the country.
It is unknown how many social enterprises exist in the country now. Joffres says; “The census the team is working on getting out a preliminary census in a month or so.”
“What you find in this sector is a lack of entrepreneurs. We're still looking for more. A lot of people say they are interested but, how many will actually take the dive and pursue it to the end?”