Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hope for Thailand : Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak

Social Entrepreneurship: New hope for Thailand’s economic and social progress

An article I recently found about social entrepreneurship written by Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, Senior Fellow at Harvard University, which I think he has introduced a new concept which gives new hope to Thailand. I would like to share with you a summary of what Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak has portrayed a new hope for our society.

Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak started with rationale that currently, both developed and developing societies continue to confront complex and varied economic and social problems. These problems exist not only at the individual level but also at the regional, national and international level. Widespread poverty, absence of basic educational and health systems, human trafficking, racial and prejudicial conflict, unemployment, indebtedness, child abuse, child labour, drug abuse and local crime – all of these problems make us lose hope to the future of our society. We are even hope less when considering the current political conflict between different colours in Thailand/

Although many attempts have been made to address these problems, by governments, commercial sectors, communities and social organisations, Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak comments that such attempts have often been hope less by limitations imposed by the strict and rigid laws and regulations of the governments, laws which are difficult to change. They may also been ineffective because of conflicts of interest in the commercial sector where the goal of business is usually focused on making as much profit as possible.

You may have a question “Can we have hope in these institutions?” Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak observes that for many years, the governments, business sectors, communities and social organisations have failed to tackle these problems. Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak has proposed that, by drawing on the combined strengths of these groups, a coalescence of these could compensate for the weaknesses of the individual sectors and provide possible solutions to this problem. I think what Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak introduces “the concept of social enterprises and social entrepreneurs”, currently becoming main-stream in the international arena, could be encouraged to expand and to be utilised in taking part in solving such economic and social problems, underpinned by their strength in creativity and with appropriate governmental support. Promoting social entrepreneurs to take a critical role in solving economic and social problems will introduce new hope to our society. It could become a strategic path towards the resolution of economic and social problems in this century.

I fully agree that Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak that social entrepreneurship is expanding and becoming influential in resolving economic and social problems. There is a huge increase, worldwide, in the number of citizen organisations evolving, Social Entrepreneurship programmes in universities of high repute are rapidly expanding, and many countries are affecting changes in their laws and regulations to encourage and support social entrepreneurialism. I trust we have hope in this concept.

Based on the statistics that Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak quotes, the increase in citizen organisations, and the attention afforded them by their governments, implies that those organisations and governments recognise that the successful approach to addressing the economic social problems of the world demands the participation of the citizen sector. In developing countries there has been a massive increase in the number of such organisations: Indonesia’s have gone from a solitary one to 2,000 over the last twenty years; India has more than 1,000,000; in Bangladesh, the majority of the country’s development work is handled by 20,000 citizen organisations; in the 1990s, Brazil’s number of registered citizen organisations jumped from 250,000 to 400,000, an increase of 60 percent. In developed countries the increases reflect a similar pattern. Canada’s number of citizen organisation registered has increased by 50 percent since 1987 to the current 200,000. In the 1990s, France had an average annual increase of 70,000 groups established. During the past ten years, the number of public service groups registered with the Internal Revenue Service in the United States rose from 464,000 to 734,000. As one scholar put it, ‘More people give, than vote, in this country’. The number of international citizen organisations registered rose from 6,000 in the 1990s to 26,000 today. Numerous international non-governmental development organisations (INGOs) such as Oxfam, Care, Plan International, Ashoka, Youth Venture and many others, were instigated as small non-profit groups in developed countries and are now very evident and well recognised across the world. Globally, there are thousands of citizen organisations and millions of people engaged in economic and social development work. Based on this information, I think now we could put our hope to this idea.

Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak further gives more convincing trend that social Entrepreneur programmes are now firmly embedded in the curriculum of many internationally renowned universities such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins and Oxford. Harvard has established the Social Entrepreneurship Collaboratory (SE Lab) where, in class, all students are taught to hope for change, dream, think and create projects to resolve real economic and social problems. Real problem solving, rather than addressing theoretical problems, is regarded as an intrinsic aspect of these projects. Stanford University has more than 300 students enrolled for its Social Entrepreneur course, the number growing each year and having more than doubled over the last four years – 59 students in 2000 and 153 in 2003. The Course Series motivates students to create real change through these projects, one having raised eighty-thousand US dollars to fight HIV/AIDS. All these universities have put high stake to this concept. Unfortunately I lose my hope to Thai universities as I found no one has turned attention to this new hope ful concept.

In contrast to Thailand, some developed countries have been very active in encouraging their people to participate in this work as they hope for new change to be happened in their countries. Some examples given by Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak were that in the early years of his administration, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a speech to emphasise the significance of social entrepreneurialism. He furthered this by appointing a Minister to oversee and support volunteer work and to encourage British citizens to become involved with the work of non-governmental organisations. Many approved social development projects received governmental funding.

The concept of social entrepreneurship has been advanced in diverse working units and organisations across many nations, especially within developed countries. In the latter, the trend has been for the people to encourage and expect the citizen organisations to resolve economic and social problems, to become volunteers and to make financial contributions, donations, to these organisations. Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak concludes that the results are networks of strong social structures, foundations to support the social work within these countries.

Concluding, it is evident that social entrepreneurship is rapidly becoming the main effective method of addressing economic and social problems internationally, nationally and within local communities. I strongly hope that Thailand needs to consider this concept, this way of resolving our Society’s problems. The Government needs to be encouraged to support social entrepreneurialism. Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak proposes that we all should encourage and support those who want to participate as social entrepreneurs by creating educational facilities for studying this methodology, by building educational Centres of Social Entrepreneurship. This is a way forward to effectively influence the many social problems that Thai society faces today.

To further this agenda, Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak proposes that political leaders have a specific role to play in promoting social change. They are the persons who control political decisions and public policy-making. They hold power to enact laws that will have influence over people’s lives. Once decisions are made and policy is implemented, a significant impact, either positive or negative, is made upon society at large and people in general. In a democratic society, political leaders maintain legitimate power to use and allocate both financial and non-financial public resources, channeling them to areas that support social change. In addition, Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak comments that political leaders maintain linkages not only with their constituencies, but also through their networks with other groups, such as politicians, civil servants, businesses, or local non-governmental agencies. Once political leaders mobilize support from their associations to support social enterprises, these initiatives will become a powerful force that will mobilize social support for the proliferation of social enterprises in their countries. For this reason, the active involvement of political leaders is that we should aim and hope for. Their participation shall be a significant mechanism that can drive the expansion of social enterprises within society, mainstream social enterprises in social development, and delimit many constraints faced by existing social enterprises.

Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak gives some examples. The Rt. Hon. Ed Miliband, former Minister of the Office of the Third Sector (OTS), who has strong hope for this agenda, uses his political influence to support social change through his involvement in the social enterprise sector. He oversaw the OTS, which was created in 2006 to recognize the increasingly important role that the Third Sector plays in both society and the economy. The main aim of OTS is to promote coordination between government departments and the Third Sector, ensuring that the Third Sector voice is recognised. OTS also acts as a distribution centre for expertise, bringing good practices together by which the government can relate with the Third Sector. The same year, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, joined Cabinet Office Minister Hilary Armstrong and Ed Miliband to launch a program entitled ‘New hope for UK: Government Social Enterprise Action Plan.’ This plan initiated charity law reform, resulting in the Charities Act 2006. This act became the legal framework that would help charities develop their activities and services, enabling them to play a more prominent role in benefiting society. This act also increased public confidence in the integrity of charities. In addition, the OTS worked with the Social Enterprise Coalition to launch Enterprising Solutions Awards, which mobilized the business sector to support social enterprise development. As part of the Social Enterprise Action Plan, OTS announced it would provide £5.9 million to Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to broker business support for social enterprises. Miliband’s role is that of champion of the Third Sector, and he talks at length of the inspirational quality of the sector and the people within it.

Another example given by Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak is from Taiwan. One crucial factor behind the early emergence of social enterprises was government views that concrete social needs were being left unaddressed in the market. The Taiwanese government turned to the social enterprise approach and implemented this concept to unravel social problems. By doing this, the government relied on the hybrid nature of social enterprise ventures to facilitate the integration and/or empowerment of groups that had been disadvantaged or traditionally excluded from the market. Over the past few years, the government has adapted program incentives in many areas to encourage the non-governmental sector to use entrepreneurial methods to assist in implementing policies and providing welfare-oriented services. Examples include newly created opportunities for non-profit organizations to obtain business contracts that were traditionally reserved for regular enterprises. Now government subsidies and incentives encourage these organizations to implement business models in their work. In addition, many new agencies have been established to take a role in managing social problems. For instance, the establishment of sheltered workshops in the past few years has encouraged the growth of these businesses. The “Rules of Establishment of Sheltered Factories and Rewards for the Handicapped” initiative was promulgated by the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training of the Council of Labor Affairs of the Executive Yuan in December 2002.

Another example is from Al Gore, former American Vice-President. He recently became a global icon for global warming and climate change. In fact, he has pursued this issue since serving as Vice-President in Clinton’s government, although the issue was not mainstream at that time. His long endeavor to push the issue of global warming and climate change to the top of the political agenda reached the height of public attention when his powerful documentary was released in 2006. Gore and David Blood established Generation Investment Management1 to research the long-term economic, environmental, social, and governance impacts on companies with a pro-environmental stance on their ability to sustain profitability and deliver returns. Their effort was recognized, and twelve agencies joined the project.

Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak proposes if one political leader works on one social issue alone, the process of realizing the vision will likely be prolonged. I would think of a proposal that a national collaborative network of committed political leaders who will join hands in promoting social enterprise and push it into mainstream policy status in our country could a hope ful dream.

Hope Siamaraya reveals dr.Kriengsak Chareonwongsak's verdict

Kriengsak Chareonwongsak,Harvard

Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, article

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