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Leveraging Power of Social Innovation

It’s a great honour and my pleasure to have the opportunity to join “Prarambh — Startup India International Summit 2021” panel discussion on “Leveraging Power of Social Innovation” last Friday.

Joining me on the panel were representatives from both public and private sectors from many countries in South and Southeast Asia — from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, to Myanmar. It was interesting and refreshing for me to get to listen to insights and wisdom as they shared their experiences on the topic.

I’d like to share 2 of the questions I was asked by the moderator which was spotted on the heart of the topics.

Q) According to you how can we build sustainable business models in social innovation that can evolve beyond donor funding?

I’d say that we should consider ourselves fortunate to be in this era where a line between social innovation and charity is clearly drawn and majority of people are familiar with companies doing business which benefit the society!

For the past decade most corporations also actively engage and ramp up their CSR activities. This certainly help communicating the inseparable roles of businesses and social improvement that goes beyond just donor funding. In fact, the concepts of “social good” and “environmental friendly” has become de facto standard for consumer choices. So it wouldn’t be as difficult as before for companies to have a social innovation business model that goes beyond donor funding.

Drawing from my own experiences, to have a social friendly business model, one must look beyond just simple transactional relationship to involve other key stakeholders in that industry. We can start by asking questions like “who else can benefit from this social activities?”, “what economic values can we derive from our mission?”, “how can we measure our social impact in terms of numbers?”, “by addressing this social issue, who would be the one receiving positive benefit?”. Once you have those answers and find out others involved, you can approach and get them engaged as a part of your business model.

To drive social enterprise out of “just another charity” stigma — Inclusion, Entrepreneurial mindset, and Win-Win business models are the key.

Q) How do you balance wealth creation with social impact?

By branding yourself or being branded as “Social Enterprise” will likely put you on the crossroads between profit and social good. While on one hand, public and even your customers expect and measure the result of your work through social impact, on the other hand, your team and investors also expect return on their investments and hard work. So how can we balance both profit and social impact together?

My respond to this question was that I would raise a question whether if we have to actually try to balance these at all. Why can’t we have both? Why can’t a social enterprise be profitable and grow while making social impact?

IMHO, they keyword is not balance, but what we need is “Alignments”.

For social entrepreneur, it’s our job to constantly create alignments — company’s business model vs. social improvement, profit vs. social impact, sustainable growth vs. efforts for social activity, and intellectual property development vs. social innovation — under the same goal with vision.

Once we establish these alignments and make it transparent, all actions and progress will send clear messages of intentions to all stakeholders.

With the right alignments in place when the company makes more profit, it also means we can invest more on innovation and quickly bring them to the society. If our traction grows double in size, it means we can also double down on creating social impact. If we can afford more workforce and better employment, it means we’re taking better care of the people in the society we live in. We need to have these alignments and communicates them through our every actions.

With the right alignments, we don’t have to find balance between profit and social impact, we can have both.

Lastly I’d like to express my thanks to the Embassy of India, NSTDA, and TTSA for the opportunity to be a part of this great event. And I can’t give enough gratitude for my team at Arincare for joining me on this journey and make all the good things we’ve done possible.



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