May 23

Allison Hollowell

Bridging the Chasm Within Southeast Asia’s Social Enterprise Ecosystem

AVPN will convene the largest gathering of philanthropists and social investors in Asia from June 7-9 in Bangkok, Thailand, for the annual AVPN Conference. This event brings together a diverse range of funders and resource providers – from foundations to impact investors, corporates and governments – and will cover an array of topics, from education to health care, livelihoods and the environment. This year’s theme, “Collaborating for Impact,” will feature multi-sector partnerships amongst AVPN members across Asia that not only adopt a blend of funding vehicles but also blur the boundaries between commonly defined spaces like philanthropy, venture philanthropy and impact investing.


Blurred lines are important

While impact investing continues to grow in popularity globally, there is a shortage of social enterprises in Asia ready to take on the amount of capital and return assumptions needed to balance impact with the market-rate returns desired by many impact investors. However, AVPN members are at the forefront of this challenge, funding across a spectrum using tools such as grants, debt and equity with a range of risk and return requirements.

In the plenary session “The Continuum of Social Investing,” speakers from across this funding spectrum will discuss the different tools they deploy to support the social economy. Toniic looks to influence HNIs (high net-worth individuals) to move toward portfolios that are 100 percent sustainable and social impact-focused. RS Group is a family office that has embraced this model successfully in Asia, calling it a total portfolio approach. GIIN will discuss the rise of impact investment in Asia and Social Alpha will talk about how they are using an accelerator program and various forms of “soft capital” to build a stronger pipeline for impact investors.

Keynote speaker Roopa Kudva from Omidyar Network will share insights around Omidyar’s portfolio approach – aptly named a “returns continuum” that balances both market-level impact and market-rate returns and makes tradeoffs when systemic impact is possible.

Also featured at the conference will be early findings from AVPN’s current research project with ASEAN CSR Network and Oxfam, analysing the vast financing chasm within Southeast Asia’s social enterprise ecosystem. This is known as the “missing middle” phenomenon, in which social enterprises are facing significant hurdles in accessing investment because of the relatively undeveloped impact investing landscape. In order to achieve effective social incubation, collaborating across silos is key to securing follow-on funding and eventual success.


More conference highlights include:

  • Education is the most popular cause for AVPN members and will be a common theme throughout the three days. Sessions like “Quality Education for All” will explore collaboration between public, private and social sectors for achieving meaningful improvements for all students.
  • Innovations in Healthcare” will focus on foundations and their role as market facilitators that bridge policy and action across the full health value chain.
  • Held in Bangkok for the first time, it is only fitting that the AVPN Conference opening plenary will explore Thai practitioners who are driving impact through various social innovations.
  • Inclusive business models ensure that opportunities are given to people living at the base of the economic pyramid, who face the greatest barriers to advancing their well-being. The interactive closing plenary, “Collaborations and Markets for More Inclusive Economies,” will provide insights by FSG Advisory, the Rockefeller Foundation and more. The dialogue will bring attendees through various business models, with special focus on sectors, such as gender, housing and health care.

AVPN’s convening platform is a key piece in unlocking the collaboration and knowledge sharing needed to overcome the many hurdles Asia faces as we work toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While the AVPN Conference is invitation only, interested delegates can contact the organizers here.


Allison Hollowell is director of marketing and communications at AVPN.

Photos of the 2016 AVPN Conference, courtesy of AVPN




impact investing, philanthropy