The Growth of Social Entrepreneurship in Hong Kong
6 May 2015 at 10:03 am
Australia’s Not for Profit sector can take a lesson from Hong Kong’s social enterprise industry by incorporating new ideas into existing programs, writes multicultural workplace expert, Wesa Chau.
Hong Kong is renowned around the world for its favourable business environment. With corporate taxes as low as 16.5 percent, locals and foreign nationals have chosen to start their own businesses with many becoming very successful entrepreneurs in their own right.
With the income gap increasing and youth employment on the rise, usually between 2-5 times higher than the rest of the population, many have turned to social entrepreneurship.
Research has shown that in 2014, 15 percent of young people have started their own business or planning to start one in the next three years. The same research also noted that social responsibility by the younger generation is also a triggering factor in entrepreneurship, with many using their business skills to solve social problems.
According to research conducted by Google and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 43 percent of potential entrepreneurs in Hong Kong considered including social and cultural factors in their new businesses.
In many ways, Hong Kong is also the perfect environment to foster a social entrepreneurship culture: being a financial hub with a highly educated and creative workforce in addition with support from businesses and government departments, social entrepreneurs are ready to innovate and contribute to society.
In addition to Governments, corporations and large businesses are getting more proactive in becoming more socially responsible. For example, the HSBC’s Social Enterprise Business Centre has opened themselves up to provide infrastructure and technical support for Hong Kong entrepreneurs working in the social enterprise space.
I myself have just visited Hong Kong and left with inspiration all thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of social entrepreneurs trying to make a difference.
Clive Lee, Chief Operating Officer of Chen Yidan Foundation (established by the founder of Tencent – one of China’s leading technology companies) said, “the development of social enterprise is in the best state ever and we can observe the ecosystem is connecting, and there are now much support for such development.
“There are challenges however, because the understanding of social entrepreneurship is still under-developing, with over 95 percent of people believing that social entrepreneurship should not be making great profits.
“Government and academics in recent years have introduced many programs to inspire more social entrepreneurs to help solve social issues. This includes the annual Hong Kong Social Enterprise Summit, social enterprise challenges at various universities, Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) funding and co-workers space, active working partnerships with Mainland China counterparts and many more,” he said.
Some of these support programs and networks are also available for foreigners wanting to set up social enterprises in Hong Kong. The opportunities are endless.
Wincy Wong is the founder of START on Stage, a social enterprise that provides Special Therapeutic Arts Rehabilitation Training (START) services for children with special educational needs (SEN). For its creativity and commitment to social change, the business won the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge Award last month.
“I was a physiotherapist and singer and have wanted to combine my skills for the betterment of people with disability.
“Often we want to help people with disabilities, but many actually have talents that can be nurtured. Through activities such as art, dance, speech, drama, music and lyrics, many are empowered to actualise their own dreams, able to maximise their potential talents and literally shine on stage”, Wong said.
Sometimes when Australians think of Asia, we think of exporting our ideas to them. Having worked in the disability and community sectors for a number of years, I believe Australia’s Not for Profit sector can take a lesson from Hong Kong’s social enterprise industry by incorporating new ideas into existing programs.
In my experience, Australia’s community and Not for Profit sector tends to focus and rely too much on Government funding. In today’s day and age, our Not for Profit sector has the opportunity and ability to collaborate with businesses and corporations to deliver programs to tackle social issues. The Not for Profit sector itself needs to change its perspectives of businesses and open themselves up for change and development.
The challenge I see for social enterprise and the Not for Profit sector in Australia is convincing private businesses and corporations the merits of their causes. Rather than these companies starting from scratch, the Not for Profit sector should get on the front foot and encourage them to support their causes.
From what I’ve seen, Hong Kong has a growing social entrepreneurship culture that allows social enterprises and entrepreneurs to shine. We in Australia can learn a thing or two from them.
About the Author: Wesa Chau is the Director of Cultural Intelligence. Cultural Intelligence provides businesses and Governments with specific training programs on cultural awareness, cultural competency, marketing to multicultural communities and managing diverse teams in the workplace. @wesachau