Malaysia's social entrepreneurship scene still has a long way to go before finally taking off, but Ehon Chan of MaGIC thinks we're off to a good start.

Published 2016-08-09 10:52:40

With the MaGIC Accelerator Programme Demo Days for Cohort 2 successfully coming to an end recently, Ehon Chan, the Executive Director of Social Entrepreneurship at MaGIC, is still hungry for more in Malaysia.

He shared on three things he and his team have highlighted as important for the continued development of social entrepreneurship in Malaysia.

1. Build A Movement

Image Credit: Ehon Chan Facebook
Image Credit: Ehon Chan Facebook

According to Ehon, “One of the three important strategic thrusts we highlighted to develop this larger ecosystem is to build a movement towards social entrepreneurship. Get more young people excited, get more people excited about social entrepreneurship, and also build a critical mass of social enterprises.”

MaGIC also introduced the accelerator programme not to just raise up more social entrepreneurs but to enable these entrepreneurs to be successful, so that they will in turn inspire others. The programme seems to be doing its part.

“A lot of the participants came in with only ideas on paper initially, with no structure, no legal entity and no bank account. However, now, upon graduation, all of them are legally registered entities with bank account, and a few of them are in talks with investors that we’ve brought in.”

In response to how MaGIC’s accelerator programme for the SE track has evolved from Cohort 1 to Cohort 2, Ehon said that there was no structural support for social entrepreneurship back then, so they did not have much data to help guide the design of the programme.

“We were a lot more chaotic last cohort, a lot of reacting to changes and reacting to their pace as well. So if they were struggling with something, we had to get our heads cracking as well,” he shared. However from their struggle and experience, they gathered a lot of data that helped to shape and structure this recent cohort.

This improvement  will also be reflected next year for Cohort 3 as MaGIC plans to place more emphasis on training the participants’ soft skills.

“Even little things like how do you understand your own key strength and leadership style, how to complement your team with your leadership style. All those are soft skills.”

2. Expansion And Involvement

Image Credit: Ehon Chan Facebook
Image Credit: Ehon Chan Facebook

As Ehon said, “The second thing is to build a larger ecosystem. We can’t be the empire for social enterprises. We need more people to get involved.” 

Banks, investors and other players should play a more active part in helping to grow social enterprises by creating products, services and support systems for them. The programme found about 28 mentors to help along the way, and many of the startups credit both MaGIC and their mentors for helping them and giving them the boost they needed for their businesses to take off.

Also, they have been very active in trying to recruit more private investors, particularly those who have never invest in social enterprises before.

Ehon said, “It’s a really good sign, because we’re starting to see a growth of impact investors. It’s something that we used to not talk about much in Malaysia. In fact, last year when we invited investors, only about 30 of them came. This year, we have about 200 RSVPs, people coming in from all across Asia, just to attend this.”

 3. Policy Changes

Image Credit: Ehon Chan Facebook
Image Credit: Ehon Chan Facebook

He compared Malaysia to other Asian countries such as South Korea and Thailand, who have existing social enterprise policies in place or are in the process of setting it up. He said, “In Thailand they have a very cool model. They tax people on alcohol and cigarettes and that tax goes into a foundation which then funds the social enterprise office.” He went on to say that hopefully, Malaysia would set up a legislation for social enterprises by the end of the year.

Before policies can change, Ehon also spoke about how it was important to break mindsets and cultural assumptions about social enterprises. According to him, Malaysians have a very set idea about what is a proper career, starting from getting a degree and then going into having a job.

Quitting your job to start a social enterprise is still seen as very risky, and that is a cultural attitude that the social entrepreneurs must struggle against.

Ehon also spoke about how our local economy can greatly benefit from the growth of social enterprises. The people who are being helped can instead be taught skills to contribute back to the economy.

For example, The Picha Project enables refugees to earn an income by cooking meals, and there are communities that can further benefit just by being taught skills or given the platform to showcase their skills, such as struggling single mothers. Instead of being purely dependents, they can work and then become contributors to economic growth.

Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) aims to build a Sustainable Entrepreneurship Ecosystem by catalysing creativity & innovation for long term nation impact. Meet their startups here, and find out more about their accelerator programmes here. You can also follow MaGIC on Instagram and Twitter for live feeds.

Feature Image Credit: Morven Koh, on http://my.asiatatler.com

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