“Invest in Good People Doing Good Things.” –Jeff Skoll (founder of Skoll Foundation)
Making money doesn’t always have to mean harming the environment or your neighbor, and not all things we might venture to do will make us money. In my quest to ponder conscious capitalism and see what social entrepreneurs are doing in Asia, I managed to land, thanks to Christian P. whom I met at Burning Man,in Thailand, just in time to be one of the participants for the inaugural Nexus Thailand youth summit. Nexus is a a network of folks under 40 working on making a better world. The third annual Nexus Global Youth Summit on Innovative Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship convened at the United Nations in New York City, 24-27 July, 2013. It brought together young philanthropists, investors, social entrepreneurs and allies from over 60 countries. This fueled a desire to create more branches of the Nexus Network worldwide, including south Asia.
The theme of the first annual Nexus Thailand Youth Summit (NTYS) was “Catalysing Philanthropy and Social Investment”. Abbie Jung, Nexus Asia Regional advisor, along with Ms Ada Chirapaisarnkul, and Nophol “Ton” Techaphangam, of the Thai Nexus Network team, started off the event with numerous speakers that talked about the various projects their organizations were doing in Thailand and all around Asia. I learned about how people can shift from charity to giving resources and tools to empower people, and ways that people could benefit from some of the things I have learned working around social entrepreneurs with a tech disposition.
“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”—Author unknown
The root of many of the discussions were around education and changing the mindset of ourselves and others. In the end we as a human collective had to learn to teach more and give less, so that the impact is sustainable beyond our ‘giving’. The idea of providing access to better education and promoting science and higher amounts of discourse seemed to resonate with many attendees. Numerous speakers also talked about their desires to work to create more transparency in their companies and find solutions to deal with corruption in a Thailand.
The key topics of discussion were around:
- Empowering Women:
Both, Luc Stephens, director for UNDP Thailand, and Kim McQuay of Asia Foundation Thailand, mentioned programs that were done around Asia to help women gain footing in education. The impact of women gaining education showed also a rise in economic potential of various villages that were supported by these organizations. Speaker, Joe Horn talked about how women gaining education and access to resources to building more skills have been valuable in the villages in north west China where his company he co-founded with strategy 613.
- Effective Philanthropy:
As Philanthropy and social entrepreneurship were the main topics of this network, many participants discussed how they wished to learn to either be better at giving their own wealth or tap into the philanthropic options in Thailand in other parts of Asia. The rise of the giving/social investing circle was discussed by Pang who talked about Thailand social investment circle which uses the circle giving model and allows networks such as Nexus to leverage shared resources, expertise, and infrastructure to have a part on social venture partners.
Arch “Boom” Wongchindawest, is the founder and CEO of MYSOCIALMOTION. He spoke to the group about his past project of ideacubes, and his current project, SOCIALGIVER, which is an online fundraising platform that offers ‘givers’ a new shopping experience by rewarding people who fund innovative social projects with new experiences, such as a weekend in a luxury resort or spa. Not shocking, his site is doing well amongst the English speaking community, as it would be great to think one could do things to help the world and gain time in one of Thailand’s beautiful spas. While, Chulayuth, or as we called him, “Tan”, spoke about being the founder and conductor of Bangkok Charity Orchestra (BCO), an orchestra where volunteers play to not just raise money for charities, but also promote interest in classical music and promote classical music culture.
- Education issues in Thailand and Beyond:
The speakers through out the two days discussed the issues faced in regards to education in Thailand and the lack of better teachers as well as curriculum that gives people the opportunity to think and use logic in their learning methods. Pichayut “Petch” Jiraphinyo, Head of Talent Acquisition, of Teach for Thailand talked about the “teach for” 2-year leadership program, and how after leaving his management consultant career in Singapore, he became part of the founding team of Teach for Thailand. The “teach for” is a public/private partnership, and a model program that was started initially in the United States and has recently launched around the world.
Not everyone talked about education within the classroom, Francis Ngai, CEO of Social Ventures Hong Kong, spoke about his portfolio which includes, Dialog in the Dark, is an awareness raising franchise and exhibition that has blind guides lead guests through the exhibition to raise awareness of the difficulties of people with disabilities and also change people’s mindsets on the strengths of others.
The importance of partnerships to get work done in Thailand was highlighted. The idea of not just giving or getting funds, but creating valuable and beneficial partnerships caused many people to brainstorm on ways their companies could collaborate. The opportunity to help with something social good related was inspiring for many attendees, especially those who had not known what social entrepreneurship was prior to coming to the event. I managed to make a couple contacts myself, including meeting Poesy Liang, who started an interesting and empowering group on Facebook called Helping Angels, which I will write about soon.
- Motivation and Defining Social Entrepreneurship
Problems that were faced by many social entrepreneurs were also ones that any founder or risk taker faces when venturing to find ways of revamping any old sector or solving problems. Also much like any fresh startup, organizations such as Teach for Thailand, dealt with trying to find more effective marketing methods and ways to gain trust of crucial partners to get their organization to gain momentum.
The chats were valuable also to do shifts in those who least expected shifts. One attendee, whose company, Pictet, was one of the sponsors, realized how much of her life is spent around finance, and reflected that she would like to spend her weekend try to learn how to give back a bit more to other things. I think my jet lag got to me, because I felt fairly moved by the end of the weekend and couldn’t help but think, “it is all about the people” when creating a great company. Having so many bright, but empathetic people around me for a weekend was truly inspiring.
- Transparency/ Tackle Corruption
There were numerous slides by various speakers about ways that the work they were doing was not just around educating the public, but evolving the communication in their own organizations. Corruption is something that still plagued numerous sectors in parts of Asia, and a sustainable future required more dialog about the matter along with better transparency within major organizations. Giving rather than collaboration in ending the problems, needed to be evaluated by companies who were major donors to charities that at times did not have effective dispersal or transparency around the social capital.
Overall, I learned about young people working to do “good” in Thailand who come from wealthy families, as well as those who strive to make social entrepreneurship ideas a part of their life beyond the buzz words. Francis Ngai resonated with my own sentiments, it’s not about the words you use, but the mental shift you can make to think about how to make an impact that will be positive beyond yourself and help make life on Earth (and beyond) more possible for humans in a way that it does not lead to the destruction of everything else.
What are some steps you wish to take to see life through the lens of others or be more sustainable in your life choices at home?
Here is a list of links to the people who presented at Nexus Thailand Youth Summit:
- Mr. Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Thailand
- Mr. Kim McQuay, Country Director, The Asia Foundation, Thailand
- Ms. Watan Petersik, Director, Lien Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University
- Ms Ada Chirapaisarnkul, Founder, Thai Young Philanthropist Network (TYPN)
- Mr. Vichien Phongsathorn, CEO and President of Premier Group of Companies and Chairman of Yuvabhadhana and For Thai People Foundations
- M.L. Dispanadda”Duke” Diskul, Chief Development Officer of Doi Tung Development Project, Mae Fah Luang Foundation
- Mr. Joe Horn, Founder and CEO, Strategy613 Co., Ltd
- Mr. Francis Ngai, Founder & CEO, Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVHK)
- Mr. Sunit Shrestha, Founder and Managing Director, ChangeFusion Institute
- Mr. Chulayuth “Tan” Lochotinan, Founder and Conductor, Bangkok Charity Orchestra (BCO)
- Mr. Arch “Boom” Wongchindawest, Founder, MySocialMotion
- Ms. Sharinee “Shannon” Kalayanamitr, Founder, moxyst.com
- Mr. Poomsit “Earth” Sirasupparoekchai, Co-Founder, A-Chieve
- Mr. Pichayut “Petch” Jirapinyo, Head of Talent Acquisition, Teach for Thailand
- Ms. Pranaiya “Pang” Oulapathorn, Organiser, Nexus Thailand Youth Summit
- Nophol “Ton” Techaphangam, Organiser/Host, Nexus Thailand Youth Summit, Director, Thai Youth Philanthropist Network (TYPN)