Reflections on ASEAN + 3 Youth Social Business Summit

Imagine a massive music festival. Now, swap the artists for speakers, the daytime entertainment for hustling social entrepreneurs. With close to 100 participants and speakers,  ASEAN + 3 Youth Social Business Summit (AYSBS) is a gathering of youth turning out in force to create social change, organised by myHarapan and the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia.

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ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020

The first person to take the stage and open the event was Datuk Hatipah Binti Haji Ibrahim, the Director General of Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia. She was invited to shine some light on how the 60 participants comprising of representatives from 7 ASEAN countries and Japan, Korea, and China can learn and grow together to solve the challenges ASEAN is facing via the summit.  She pointed out that the summit is hosted by the Ministry and myHarapan as a way to fulfil priority area of ASEAN Work Plans on Youth. The five priority focus of the Work Plan includes youth entrepreneurship, youth employment, youth awareness, youth volunteerism and leadership, and youth resilience.

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Capacity Building for Social Entrepreneur in ASEAN countries

There were 2-panel discussions at AYSBS. One that stood out was the panel who spoke about how different enablers can play their role in capacity building for the social entrepreneurs. ‘Social businesses need all type of expertise to scale and often face challenges in the shortage of talent. Therefore, they should tap on business sector expertise as every stage often requires different skills and tools to scale,’ said the Founder and Executive Director of Empact Pte Ltd Singapore, Peter Yang.  Meanwhile, Sangyeob Han, the Founder of social venture accelerator in Korea called Sapoong, believed that social businesses will not be able to achieve its social impact if it is not able to achieve its profitable stage. Hence, capacity building is always the key to equip and empower youth to build a better ASEAN.

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Expansion of Social Businesses in ASEAN region

Besides the discussion on capacity building, the second panel focuses on a different angle when demonstrating how youth can grow their social business in ASEAN. Ika, the founder of  Du’Anyam from Indonesia,  expands her market to Japan by having an intern market their product there. Phinix, a social enterprise based in the Philippines were able to expand their market to Malaysia through the connection the founder earned from MaGIC Global Accelerator Program. Another social enterprise based in Thailand which helps senior citizens to maintain a healthy lifestyle, Young Happy, mentioned that the key to expanding is through forming a partnership with the locals who shares similar passion to build the community together. There were a few different approaches that these social entrepreneurs took while expanding their market beyond where it started.

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Social Business Challenge Pitching

Another highlight of the summit was the pitching competition. Out of 80 applications that submitted the social business idea in the first stage, 8 teams went into 3 months of validation activity and 3 managed to go into the finals! Among the winners are Kerjya, who emerged as the first prize winner, providing short-term job employment to restore the confidence and self-esteem of the homeless people. The second place goes to J-spot, a job platform connecting homeless community and job provider, while third place goes to Tiffin Unni who hires people in need to sell food surplus, in this case, surplus actually means almost expired food/goods and making them to edible items and selling it. All these 3 teams have their idea incubated and developed with the guidance provided by myHarapan and partners involved.

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We all recognise that in order for ASEAN to accelerate our economic growth, social progress and cultural development, the spirit of partnership and social entrepreneurship are crucial. As the saying goes, the power of youth is the commonwealth for the entire world.

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