The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship

By Nadia Syafiq

We take a look at the growth and evolution of impact-driven enterprises in Malaysia with Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of myHarapan, Nurfarini Daing.

myHarapan or the Youth Trust Foundation was established in August 2010 and has since then engaged over 26,000 Malaysian youths and funded over 140 social initiatives. It is a foundation dedicated to developing independent and wholesome youths by empowering them with both choice and opportunities. We speak to its CEO and co-founder Nurfarini Daing to learn more about the organisation and social entrepreneurship in general.

What is a social enterprise or a social business?
ND: A social enterprise or a social business is a business whose primary purpose is to achieve social objectives in a financially sustainable way. They conduct business in order to fill gaps and go where normal businesses would not in order to reap positive social and environmental impact.

How does a social enterprise make profit?
Like any business, it requires a good business model to generate profit. Therefore, it needs to have goods, products or services that customers value and are willing to pay for. Social enterprises undertake commercial activities to sustain, grow, and ensure positive impact can be achieved in the long term.

For instance, Box and Beyond, a social business that trains and upskills youth-at-risk while providing videography, pre-and post-production services at a price for corporate clients and government agencies. Youth in marginalised communities are selected to become apprentices and are taught the tricks of the trade to ‘graduate’ as professionals in the industry, irrespective of their educational background. They are eventually offered employment or income-generating opportunities with Box and Beyond or with other brands/advertising or production houses. The quality of their work has been recognised as they've received awards, even as they compete in the open market.

#1 Global Social Business Summit 2013 (GSBS2013)
Hosting the ‘Olympics’ of social business and for the first time outside of Europe proved a huge but extremely fulfilling effort. It really was a bid to popularise, educate, and create national awareness of social business. As a result of this event attended by 580 participants from around the world, the Ministry of Finance decided to create a social enterprise unit in MaGIC and gave an allocation of RM20 million for social business enterprises. Suffice to say, we put Malaysia a little more on the world map for social business.

#2 The Social Project Cup
After GSBS2013, we developed different programmes to support the growth of social business in Malaysia. One of them was Social Business Challenge (SBC) and Social Project Challenge (SPC). The difference between these two is that they cater to different age categories. After running it for a few years, the Ministry of Education recognised SPC at national level which meant that students who participated in the competition gained merit points at a national level. The uniqueness of this challenge is that it is not just based on ideas but places a lot of importance on execution. Youths proved that they are capable, have grit, and are serious in creating impactful sustainable change and were acknowledged as they did it. The cherry on the cake was that these students developed financially sustainable solutions that oftentimes overperformed solutions by their more experienced peers in SBC.

#3 Our first venture
Discover Muaythai is the first sports social business in Malaysia driven by three passionate youths that were initially myHarapan employees. What started as an internal programme of myHarapan, thereafter venture built, has grown to be a social business entity. With 100 per cent success rate of the youth-at-risk they take in, they now have in total three gyms running and the number of trainers from underserved communities continue to increase.

As the CEO of a social business, what drives you every day?
Young people and interacting with them are the elixir to my current youthfulness! What’s not to love! It’s cheaper than the best serums in the market! I am constantly reminded that when given the right opportunities and the ability to make their own decisions and choices, even if at times, they make the wrong ones, youths of all backgrounds, are able to be who they are always meant to be – confident, courageous, competent, and caring contributing people. When we give them that chance, the transformation I’ve had the pleasure to witness is nothing money can buy – 100 per cent pure happiness. They can be so much more than we assume them to be. They are my source of inspiration.

Share with us your thoughts on Malaysia’s current social enterprise landscape.
We are happy to see many more intermediaries like ourselves paving the way for the creation and development of more local social entrepreneurs. There are apparently more than 20,000 social enterprises, most of which are based in the Klang Valley founded by mostly urban, overseas educated entrepreneurs. There are many efforts to recognise and add credibility to social enterprises through regulatory frameworks and government policy (Social Business Blueprint, Procurement, taxes), capability support (MEDAC via INSKEN, KBS), and accreditation. GLCs and the private sector such as Khazanah, Petronas, Credit Suisse, Alliance Bank, British Council and TEGAS are also seen undertaking efforts of their own in establishing for example opportunities for social innovation and incubation, or providing small grants and in-kind resources (access to supply chains, business networks, etc) to start up social businesses, which can also potentially add value to their business agendas.

I believe that as more people become aware of this alternative, they will make better choices. We have a larger number of social enterprises these days with good products and services, proving that you can be social-impact driven and still do business at the same time. There’s nothing blasphemous about that! COVID-19 and climate change have accelerated the need for a kinder world. We cannot go back to our old ways and expect things to change for the better, so social enterprises are definitely here to stay.

Check out the latest initiatives myHarapan hosts by clicking here. You can also stay up to date with the latest happenings with myHarapan by following them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!

The future of the nation starts with YOUth!

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