Growing importance of social entrepreneurship

05 May 2019 / 21:32 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Social entrepreneurship is still nascent in Malaysia and efforts should go towards increasing entrepreneurial education, shaping a medium- to long-term mindset of entrepreneurs and connecting the social enterprise ecosystem, said a UK professor.

Coventry University International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship director Prof Gideon Maas said an area to improve is in terms of how people are orientated towards social enterprises, by creating awareness in the public that social enterprise is playing a significant role here, and that it is neither a charity nor non-profit organisation.

“The centre point of everything is education because you need to align your curriculum design. Entrepreneurial universities are universities that are gearing themselves for this type of future. You can’t be too traditionally oriented with education, research, this and that faculty... they all need to be connected. If Malaysia is getting those things right, you will be much stronger. At the end of the day, entrepreneurship will help you to go through the ‘roller coasters’,” he told SunBiz.

“If you can select good stories from 20,000 social enterprises and start sharing them, the attitude about what social entrepreneurship is will change. People will recognise that for the value it plays in society. Shouldn’t any business be more social orientated in anyway? You’re focusing on the community at large and not just on selling of products and services,” Maas added.

Generally, he said, social entrepreneurs have a short-term mindset and should be medium- to long-term orientated.

“In other words, I create a business today but, tomorrow I want to be a millionaire. Impatience that I’m in this for the long haul. You’re not a sprinter in entrepreneurship. It’s over time. It’s mindset. If solutions are too short-term orientated, nothing is going to happen. In this environment, we want to nudge people (towards) futuristic and unknown things,” said Maas.

He added that there is also a need to get the social entrepreneurship ecosystem connected towards a more integrated and multidisciplinary approach. He opined that the business models of Malaysian social enterprises are in line with the rest in the world, with a need to focus on creativity beyond business model.

Social enterprise Tandemic COO Natasha Hishamudin said the Malaysian social enterprise landscape is conducive but noted that there is work to be done to tighten the structure in the absence of a clear framework to navigate the whole area of entrepreneurship.

“We have the platforms in place but there are gaps within the platform and we’re figuring out how to fit it in. The most significant gap is insustainability. We have a lot of support in terms of entrepreneurship but why do we have start-ups that do not last? It goes back to the basic issues like lack of awareness. It’s ironic because we have the enthusiasm and support (for social enterprises) but we don’t have the narrative language to begin a discussion,” said Natasha.

On funding issues, she said there are funders around but it is not made clearly known how to go about getting the right funds amid strict regulations on obtaining funds.

“We have government support, so there are strict, clear policies but what we don’t have to follow up is corporate governance because we have entrepreneurs who don’t know how to properly manage, including financial management and how to operate in accordance to proper regulations on how a start-up should be one.”

On profit-making social enterprises, she said profit is important for the sustainability aspect but management and corporate governance come into the picture as well.

“The profit that you make, you pump into diversification and how to diversify what you started with. A start-up is where you begin and you’re supposed to take it from there. Profit is to diversify. When you diversify, you amplify the values that you set out to achieve – double employment opportunities, bring a bigger change and bigger impact to the community. That’s what profit is designed to be.”

British Council programme manager of society Eisya Sofia Azman said Malaysia lacks participation from higher education institutions in growing social entrepreneurship.

“We have universities that offer entrepreneurship courses but it’s about business and getting profit... there’s no societal impact linked to the courses that they teach,” she said.

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