ASEAN’s ‘Dynamic Digital Citizens’ meet at social entrepreneurs workshop

Social entrepreneurs from the ASEAN region and Queensland gathered in Brisbane March 14-15 for the workshop, ‘Dynamic Digital Citizenship: Young Social Entrepreneurs in ASEAN and Australia’ at Griffith University South Bank campus. Griffith Asia Institute Director, Professor Caitlin Byrne, and Griffith Asia Institute member, Dr Luis Cabrera, hosted the participants who travelled from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines to attend.

Participants travelled from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines to attend the workshop.

Social entrepreneurship involves the creation of self-sustaining businesses and non-governmental organisations with a strong social purpose. It has expanded dramatically in the ASEAN region in recent years, as well as across Australia. The latest wave of young social entrepreneurs has increasingly taken advantage of online technologies to pursue their social aims. The project brought together both highly accomplished, and newer social entrepreneurs, all with a focus on digital technologies.

On the first day, participants presented their projects and fielded questions on them. One of the projects involved using mobile phone technology to help small-scale Indonesian fishermen improve their catch and access to markets, as well as an online micro-loan enterprise helping small businesses in Indonesia gain access to credit for operations and expansion, often with no collateral.

In Vietnam, one participant was helping to provide employment for rural women skilled at making fish sauce – the ‘soul of Vietnamese cooking’ – by traditional methods, while marketing the finished product online. Another was developing a mobile phone application to help young people gain information about sexual and reproductive health issues.

In Myanmar, a participant was developing a large-scale, online recycling business in urban areas where sanitation remains a major challenge. An experienced entrepreneur in Malaysia shared his extensive experience incubating small businesses and organising networks and associations of entrepreneurs in coordination with ASEAN institutions.

A participant from the Philippines was providing higher wages and other support for women in poorer households who weave rugs – training them to turn their skills to producing sustainable footwear marketed online in numerous countries.

Queensland social entrepreneurs shared details on their projects, including one offering school workshops on indigenous cultures, one helping refugees learn to speak English through online message exchanges, one providing web design services to social enterprises, one developing 360-degree videos to help refugees navigate daily life tasks, and one which has delivered thousands of youth presentations.

‘This was a tremendous learning experience for all involved. We gained some really useful insight on just how young entrepreneurs are using some truly cutting-edge technology to try to advance social purposes, as well as the type of challenges they are facing and working to overcome. They are really making ingenious use of new technology to address some important problems,’ said Cabrera.

Queensland social entrepreneurs share their experiences with workshop participants.

On the second day, attendees participated in focus groups run by the organisers as part of a research project on digital social entrepreneurship and connections to regional citizenship in ASEAN. Following this session, five highly accomplished social entrepreneurs from Queensland participated in an Experts Panel, sharing their experiences and taking questions from the participants.

The Griffith Asia Institute will produce a policy paper and research articles from the project.   ‘Dynamic Digital Citizenship: Young Social Entrepreneurs in ASEAN and Australia’ received grant funding from the Australia-ASEAN Council (AAC) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.