Hong Kong is one of the world’s most unequal societies, a region with pressing social issues and a place with Europe in its history and China in its future. This makes it a stimulating backdrop to this year’s AVPN conference. From EVPA’s point of view, Asia is a very interesting market for Venture Philanthropy and Social Investment. While on some levels it follows the European story, showing strong growth in the resources and money invested and growing interest from new players, it is also staying its own course, with family foundations and corporates in the lead.
Learning Curves and Ecosystem Building
Asia (inasfar as we can talk of Asia, given the various different cultures and markets) is a market of fast movers, early adopters and steep learning curves. Thus, the models that are emerging in Europe now may just be built and improved on in Asia. At the same time, Asia may prove the breeding ground for new financial instruments or models that can be rolled out in Europe. The AVPN conference will surely showcase some of these new models that can be replicated in Europe’s more developed markets like the UK or France. Similarly, the challenges and lessons learned in Asia’s newest markets, Myanmar for instance, should allow us to draw paralells with newer European markets in for example Eastern Europe.
As a member network, EVPA is increasingly focused on ecosystem building; identifying the barriers to building the ecosystem; whether policy related or pertaining to lack of talent or finding funding beyond the start-up phase and engaging with partners to build out our sector. The topic has been on the agenda but remains important as we’re attracting new capital and as projects are increasingly looking for scale.
In Europe, foundations have also realised the importance of ecosystem building, for instance, recognising that social entrepreneurs have a better chance of succeeding when they operate in a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. With large family foundations in developed Asian countries also focusing more on building a philanthropic infrastructure, interesting insights should emerge as to how and what different players can contribute to the ecosystem, what role intermediairies can play, and how EVPA and AVPN may be able to enable that change.
At EVPA’s last conference, Millenials were identified as showing a strong desire to channel their financial investments in socially and environmentally-innovative causes and being actively involved in support. However, much of the research is focused on Western Europe and the US. Where is Asia in that discussion? How can we engage its millennials? AVPN 2016 should offer some answers there.
European governments and policy makers are increasingly seeing the upside of working with venture philanthropists and social investors; as identifiers and developers of cost effective solutions to tenacious societal problems, as partners and sometimes even as co-investors. Government officials and policy makers have also been more present at our events in recent years, and engaged with how they can scale solutions and work more collaboratively with civil society. How are Asian governments going about this? Is the Indian CSR law that was adopted a few years ago, for example, giving the impetus to our sector that was anticipated? The conference, and the session on governments, should provide key insights on what policy could work for Europe.
Success and failure
At EVPA’s conferences we invariably talk about successful social enterpreneurs, social solutions and scaling. We try to find the holy grail for what works. But an interesting discussion that has gained momentum is that of failures, its value for organisational learning, and its importance in driving transparency and collective learning. While not explicitly on the agenda for this conference, we also look forward to those nuggets of insight, those frank moments that will move us to collective learning.
As we head to Hong Kong…
As we confront big issues such as climate change or rising inequality, clearly visible in the city of Hong Kong, some may question whether our time and money are well spent on conferences. At EVPA we find that conferences can be directly impactful as they spark new collaboration and organisational change. And without a place and time to meet, these connections just wouldn’t happen. Love it or not, we very much look forward to this one.
Many thanks to Linde Wolters for her piece.