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Developing a Better Policy Context for Social Enterprises in Asia and Europe

Project Period: Contact: Department: Programme: Theme:
15 Jul 2013 - 16 Jul 2013 Governance & Economy Department ASEF Public Health Network Public Health

Berlin, Germany


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.

Project Updates

  • This article from Singapore’s leading business daily, The Business Times, highlights some of the discussions and talking points from the Policy Dialogue organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the British Council organised in Berlin this July. The event was an opportunity to discuss the role of social enterprises in developing a sustainable global economy. Nearly 90 people from Asian and European social enterprises and promotional agencies, particularly those closely working as policy influencers in the field, participated in the public event.

    To read the full story from The Business Times, please click here

  • Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and British Council organised a policy dialogue bringing together policy-makers and social enterprise experts from 25 countries across Asia and Europe in Berlin, Germany. The dialogue explored ideas to create a better policy environment for social enterprises in the two regions.

    Through the discussions participants agreed on the need for sustainable models of investment, access to finance and to contracts. They also highlighted that the lack of a definition of a social enterprise has left the sector open to non-social operators and might deter social investors.

    Participants found plenty of ways in which experience could flow from east to west, as well as from west to east. As Ms Kristin SCHREIBER, Deputy Chef de Cabinet to Michel BARNIER, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, suggested: "Social entrepreneurial experiences in Korea, Japan and even China can be extremely interesting for decision-makers in Europe. Similarly, the way some countries in Europe developed local ecosystems for social enterprises can serve as a good toolkit for many stakeholders in Asia."

    The Berlin policy dialogue underlined the importance of inter-regional dialogue on social entrepreneurship. Although the context is different in Asia and Europe, and specific policies and programmes may not be transplanted, the constant dialogue can serve as a unique space that allows cross-border exchange and learning.

    Read the discussion highglights here

    See the video highlights here

  • On 15-16 July in Berlin, Germany, a joint initiative of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the British Council on Developing a Better Policy Context for Social Enterprises in Asia and Europe brought together over 40 Asian and European high-level policy influencers on social enterprise.

    The event started off with the visit to local social enterprise sites in Berlin on the first day. The participants visited Social Impact Lab, which offers a physical space for working, interaction and exchange, as well as consulting and training, shared services and events. Other local social enterprises were also introduced, such as Ruby Cup Fairnopoly. Participants discussed how local social entrepreneurs face specific policy challenges.

    On the same day evening, a public event was organised, where entrepreneurs Penny NEWMAN from the UK and Muhammad A. ALI from Bangladesh spoke on The Role of Social Enterprise in Developing a Sustainable Global Economy. Following their presentations, speakers and members of the audience discussed similarities and differences in the development of Asian and European social enterprise arena.

    The second day was dedicated to a policy dialogue on four topics: 1) Social Enterprise and public service delivery; 2) Growing the Social Investment market; 3) Regulatory and tax frameworks to support the work of Social Enterprise; and 4) Evidencing Social Impact. Each topic session began with introductory presentations from Asia and Europe, followed by group discussions to come up with specific recommendations. Mr Peter HOLBROOK, Chair of Social Enterprise World Forum, facilitated the entire policy dialogue.

    A short policy report summing up the outcome of the policy dialogue was put together and will be disseminated to relevant audiences in all ASEM members.

    For highlights from the project, click here

  • Social enterprises are receiving renewed attention and interest. With political, economic as well as demographic challenges, governments and public bodies in both Asia and Europe are looking at social enterprises, because of their potential to deliver sustainable services and bring positive impact on local economies. However, to maximise the potential of the social enterprises, social enterprises need better policy reforms.

    Seizing this momentum from the policy front, the Asia-Europe Foundation’s (ASEF) Public Health Network  together with the British Council will organise a policy dialogue on 15-16 July, in Berlin, Germany. Asia-Europe senior policy influencers will participate in this policy dialogue ‘Developing a Better Policy Context for Social Enterprises in Asia and Europe’.

    This event will be an opportunity to share Asian and European expertise for developing support structures that allow social enterprises to flourish. The discussions will focus on achieving specific recommendations in supporting policies at national and regional levels in the following four areas: public service delivery, social investment innovation, regulatory and tax frameworks, and social impact evidencing.


  • British Council, East Asia


  • Government of Japan
This project is sponsored by the Government of Japan.
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