Encouraging Growth of Social Enterprises in Thailand
Social enterprises in Thailand are on a new trajectory of growth and expansion, with crucial support from the government as well as large social organizations such as Ashoka. The largest number of social enterprises in Thailand exists in the forestry and agricultural sectors. Other key areas where social entrepreneurs are making a difference include tourism, alternative energy, recycling, and healthcare.
Social enterprises in Thailand are typically modeled after U.K. social enterprises. However, unlike in the U.K., a number of social enterprises here have been formed and wholly owned by the government itself. Some private sector organizations have also set up social enterprises as separate entities. A broad range of new social investments in Thailand are underway at present.
Tommy Hutchinson, founder of i-genius, a global network of social entrepreneurs, says: “Perhaps outside China and India, Thailand has the most sophisticated structural support for social enterprise. There are lots of people building the sector.” The government of Thailand, along with several civil society organizations, has constituted the National Social Enterprise Committee to provide easier access to finance and improve general awareness about the sector.
Last year, the government formed the Thai Social Enterprise Office (TSEO) with a funding of $3.2 million. Hutchinson says: “There have been two or three years of good government support now, and the King is also a huge backer of social enterprise.” Hutchinson is also very upbeat about the younger generation pushing forward the social enterprise movement in the country.
He says: “We have one of our biggest networks in Thailand, and the members are, on average, younger than in the other countries. They are quite international in their outlook and are very sophisticated users of social media.” Another important social enterprise foundation and investment organization in the country at present is Change Fusion. Change Fusion is working hard to keep the youth momentum in the social sector going. Change Fusion’s director, Sunil Shrestha, has developed a community of youth-led social enterprises, and helps them connect with professional financiers and mentors.