Korean Social Enterprises Go Global
Monday, March 16, 2015
Social enterprises — businesses that prioritize human and environmental benefits equally to profits — are effective vehicles to achieve development goals as their market-based approaches bring sustainability and scalability that are essential to create long-term impact.
South Korea’s social enterprise ecosystem has grown rapidly in recent years. Following the country’s new Social Enterprise Promotion Act of 2007, we now see many Korean social ventures creating impact in various ways, with many aiming to achieve development goals while conducting business activities in developing countries.
Koreans’ interest in bottom-up approaches to development is closely linked to our country’s own unique development experience via the New Village Movement of the 1970s. This was a pan-national movement focused on rural development. The central government provided equal amounts of cement to each community, encouraging them to initiate development projects of their choice. Those that successfully accomplished projects through their own residents’ efforts and investment were rewarded with more resources for cooperative work.
The program is widely considered to have contributed to the development and modernization of Korean society as a whole. Many Koreans feel proud of the development they achieved in such a short timeframe and are willing to spread this spirit and experience to neighboring countries.
This bottom-up approach can tie in with the growing interest in social enterprises from both the public and private sectors. If both sectors want to engage with each other, can there be a mutually beneficial mechanism that reflects the nature of each sector? This is the beauty of social enterprises and social ventures, which act as vehicles for public-private partnerships. In this context, both Korea’s public and private sectors are increasingly seeking opportunities to support social enterprises to accomplish their respective goals.
Inclusive development partnerships are a core principle of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation launched at the 2011 High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea. This way of cooperating poses interesting challenges to traditional development players such as governments and civil society organizations in cooperating with other development actors, including the private sector. How can the private sector be engaged in development activities? And how can the quality of public-private partnerships be measured?