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The two might not have been formally introduced to each other yet- but when they do, it shall be love at first sight.

The idea of social entrepreneurship naturally complements ASEAN’s economic landscape. As a bustling platform, the newly formed ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) promises immense benefits for the entire region.

Through the gradual formation of ASEAN into a single market and production base, ASEAN houses the potential to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030. That alone is insane.

Furthermore, one of the primary aims of AEC is to bring about a more equitable economic development across the region. With that in mind, ASEAN can then march forward together to greet investors and foreign interest worldwide. This aligns with the core of social entrepreneurship — firms seek to be financially sustainable while impacting the community for good.

Having said that, there are still several challenges to be mitigated beforehand. Regional collaboration has its own fair share of criticism. National interests and boundaries have been slowing the pace and quality of integration. Feelings of distrust and protectionism prevent member states from fully opening up markets.

These missing gaps underline the necessity of a pragmatic, bottom-up approach for the top-down political framework. This is where social entrepreneurship flows in as a gap-filler.

The traditional lens of isolating the profit, nonprofit and government sector has to be merged and changed to embrace necessary grey areas as a dynamic whole. This is a shared space where business has to be done with a heart, for uneven growth to be reduced and trust to be fostered from the bottom up.

In this group, Singapore has always been an avid cheerleader who is also, in relative comparison, the most developed member state. If anything, we are poised with the capability to initiate change and spearhead closer collaborations. What a better business model than one that embeds social goals into its vision, mission and daily grind?

Several recommendations can be considered. For example, social enterprises venturing to other ASEAN states should consider collaborating with local NGOs or other existing social organisations so as to better comprehend and empathise with local needs and contexts. What you think they need might not be what they actually need, and it is always wise to employ a human-centric approach for this.

With such a match made in Heaven, shall we not step in as matchmakers and welcome the union for sustainable social good?

 

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