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Regional Social Enterprise Knowledge and Partnership Symposium: Social Enterprise for a Sustainable Future in Asia (3 Jan 11)

Recently the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage (MFLF) participated in the Regional Social Enterprise Knowledge and Partnership Symposium: Social Enterprise for a Sustainable Future in Asia. Held at the Landmark Hotel from November 15 - 16, 2010 the symposium was organized through the efforts of the government-affiliated TSEO (The Social Enterprise Office) in conjunction with the British Council of Thailand, Krungthep Thurakij, the ChangeFusion Institute, and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.


The symposium addressed the tremendous potential that social and economic development can carry in increasing benefits to the public, and as well highlighted the significance of collaboration and networking in order to engage in socially responsible activities and enterprises. Furthermore, the general consensus was that regardless of the industry, the sector, or the business framework in which an entity operates, it is necessary to understand the grassroots perspective – the so-called “bottom of the pyramid” – in order to perform and remain competitive and viable. With a focus on Asia, participants came from several countries in the region and included SE practitioners, regional social investors, CSR officers from private sectors, government bodies related to social enterprise development, and universities and educational institutions.



M.L. Dispanadda Diskul, Chief Development Officer of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, was a featured speaker, along with other leading figures in the social enterprise world/spectrum: Mr. Zulfigar Ahmed (Director of Programme & Development, UnLtd., UK); Mr. Riaz Khan (Director, Yunus Center at AIT); and Mr. Vishnu Swaminathan (the Ashoka Hybrid Value Chain Program).

As part of the panel discussion, M.L. Dispanadda had the opportunity to explain that MFLF is engaged in “people development”, further elaborating that “Gaining trust from the communities in which we work is a challenge that cannot be overlooked. It takes time and requires commitment…If we can learn from the community which we are trying to help, we can plan our projects from there”. He went on to suggest that, “There is a fine line between providing assistance for the sake of doing so, and helping people so that they can help themselves, which is a guiding principle behind our development projects.” M.L. Dispanadda also pointed out that there are technical, social, emotional, and psychological aspects to development work that directly affect the people, and that it is important to be mindful of these realities when carrying out planning for development work.

Regarding the topic of “sustainability” and how social enterprise can contribute to bringing about a balance between social, environmental, and economic benefits, M.L. Dispanadda also stated that “Measuring the success of a development effort should be not just quantitative in terms of how much time or how much money has been put into a given project. To measure on just that would undermine the concept of “sustainability”. We need to also look at the qualitative aspects and assess the capacities and capabilities that we can help to build among communities – this is what enables the people to become self-sufficient and sustainable in the longer term, rather than just leaving the people you are trying to help too dependent on aid”.


As well, MFLF and Doi Tung Development Project exhibited information about the Knowledge & Learning Centre’s work and its various programs in knowledge management and sharing. DoiTung products were also featured, soliciting great interest from conference participants.