The Asia-Europe Foundations (ASEF) Public Health Network and British Council’s Skills for Social Entrepreneurs programme brought in Asia-Europe senior policy influencers in Berlin for a two day policy dialogue. This was an occasion to share and learn from experiences in the Social Enterprise sector in the two regions. The project built on the social enterprise practitioner workshops that took place in Bangkok, Yangon and Hanoi in 2012. It responded to an evidenced need for 1) increased opportunities for sharing expertise between Asian and European Social Entrepreneurs and 2) a need to develop the support structures that allow social enterprises to flourish.
In the past decade, interest in social enterprise has grown steadily. With political, economic as well as demographic challenges, governments and public bodies in Asia and Europe have come to recognise the important and growing contribution of social enterprise to the future of many sectors including health and social care and education. They are looking to social enterprises, because of their potential to deliver sustainable services and bring positive impact on local economies. The social enterprise approach is increasingly seen as a way in which innovative solutions can be found for unmet needs, and market is ‘created’ or ‘stimulated’ to address these.
Most importantly, both in Asia and Europe, we find countries where this renewed attention on social enterprises has been accompanied by strong and specific policy support, aiming at providing better business environment for social enterprises. Existing government initiatives include policy support in terms of taxation, public procurement, financial market rules and regulations, and entrepreneurship supporting schemes.
Now that the movement is shared in the two regions, the time is ripe for consolidating existing policies and analysing their outcomes, to strengthen policy support for social enterprises and to promote implementation of such support in the countries with no existing policy frameworks. ASEF and British Council, with their experiences in working with various stakeholders across both regions, embark on an Asia-Europe project on social enterprise, specifically focusing on strengthening the policy support for the sector.
The main objective of this project was to enhance the capacity of ASEM states’ policymakers to provide policy support for social enterprises. The project targeted senior policy influencers from selected ASEM states, but also gathered private sector enterprise specialists and high impact social entrepreneurs. The project comprised on Optional Social Enterprise Field Visit and Public Event on the first day and Policy Dialogue on the second day.