Roughly 300 people gathered in Seoul on Monday to discuss how social entrepreneurship – which looks to alleviate social problems while turning a profit – can reduce poverty in Asia.
Already, social entrepreneurs have made inroads on the world's most populous continent. Microfinance outfits like Grameen Bank are profitably lending small sums to people in South Asia – and other enterprises, like the nonprofit Sustainable Innovations, are improving both living and economic conditions for some of the poorest people on earth.
At this week's Asian Social Entrepreneurs Summit – hosted by the nonprofit, Seoul-based Work Together Foundation – entrepreneurs discussed best practices and shared their experiences starting companies in the developing world. There was a widespread acknowledgment that governments alone cannot eliminate poverty, in Asia or elsewhere.
The real solution, foundation director Lee Kwang-taek noted, is collaboration. "Social entrepreneurs in Asia have to solve the problems in cooperation with government, businesses, the private sector and civil society," the Korea Times quoted him as saying.
Indeed, addressing the social ills of the 21st century is likely to require contributions from a range of groups, from companies and governments to nonprofits and consumers.