AM Rainforum: Social Entrepreneurship: Balancing Social and Economic Interests

In its first session, Austral Media Rainforum’s Social Entrepreneurship: Balancing Social and Economic Interests explored opportunities and challenges within the social enterprise (SE) ecosystem in Sarawak and what it means for the community at large moving forward.

Present during the virtual discussion were panelists, Tuan Haji Abdul Hadi Datuk Haji Abdul Kadir, SEDC General Manager, Wan Dazriq Wan Zulkiflee, Managing Partner and Group MD Neo Uprise, Jacqueline Fong, Founder of Tanoti Crafts along with moderator, Kamarul Bahrin Haron, journalist and editor in chief of Astro Awani.

“It’s all about economics. There is a population of net customers and net producers out there and at the same time, there is a population so marginalised and due to their circumstances, they are not able to contribute to the economy. This is where SEs come in and help them participate in a system that transforms them into economic drivers as well,” Fong says, speaking on the role of social enterprises.

Fong says the social enterprise ecosystem helps to harness their skills and brings it to a market that pays for the skills.

“I think we are very rich in our culture and somewhere during the industrial stage, the country had placed it on a backburner. Sarawak has 40 over sub-ethnic groups. But now, we are looking at a generation of people who may not know their culture.

However, on a positive note, there are a group of people who are working to revive their own culture and own it, particularly the youth in this day and age,” she added.

Adding on, SEDC’s Abdul Hadi says practices in Java of turning a billion-dollar lumber industry into a form of social enterprise could also be practiced in Sarawak, in return benefitting hundreds of households in the state.

“Sarawak Songket for instance, has achieved some form of stardom, I believe we can do the same for the industry and get more communities in the state to take it up,” he says.

He believes that a similar model can be utilised to bring in other industries into the social enterprise ecosystem and use e-commerce platforms to promote them. This will also further increase the quality of the products that are coming out of the state.

How do we mainstream social enterprise?

Fong says an all-rounded awareness level can play a role. She urges for companies to support local businesses during procurement exercises for new projects. “By procuring from locals, they are able to support local talents and this is an encouragement that should be practiced by everybody,” she stresses.

In terms of encouraging more Malaysia to join the ecosystem, she says its important to remind potential Social Entrepreneurs that there is an entire market out there with communities that can be trained to become economic drivers.

Wan Dazriq on the other hand says, the social enterprise movement among the youth has been on the rise, particularly a large interest from the age group of 35 and below.

“Give it a bit of time to become mainstream. The industry is a problem solver and we are seeing that now. SEs are able to solve issues or help solve them for governments across the world and this same is being done here in Malaysia,” he shares.

He is also urging for private sector players to look into the ecosystem and government bodies to consider working on a blueprint and roadmap that could act as a guidance for both existing and potentially new SEs.

In terms of nation building, SEs, he says can play a proactive role and at the same time create awareness on issues that need to be highlighted.

In 2019, Malaysia launched its first social enterprise strategy, its National Entrepreneurship Policy 2030, setting the direction to boost the country’s social enterprise sector.

The strategy aims to develop its Social Entrepreneurship Blueprint 2021-2025 with the aim of its social enterprise sector to be “fully self-sustaining, equitable, and people-centric” by 2025.

Abdul Hadi further says a private-public venture is also very much needed to elevate the ecosystem even further. The SEDC also hopes to continue existing initiatives to culture the spirit of entrepreneurship among young students in Sarawak.

The SEDC is also offering funding and financial aids to entrepreneurs in the state. These include the Skim Niaga Fest, Skim Niaga Jaya, Skim Niaga Perdana and Skim Pinjaman Industri Kecial and Sederhana.

The corporation is also offering entrepreneurial training and promotional activities. For more information, visit: