Identifying the ecosystem for social entrepreneurship in Hong Kong: From Azerbaijan to China to New York City, he’s learning what it takes to foster social ventures.
What inspires you?
Learning about systems that support social entrepreneurs in their efforts to effect social change. I want to understand what sort of support systems are needed to allow social entrepreneurs to create social change and how to provide those services.
How did you become interested in the concept of Social Entrepreneurship?
I served in the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan, working in education and community development. I worked with a local NGO, developing a business plan for a social enterprise before I was familiar with the term "social entrepreneurship." From then on, I was fascinated with the area where for-profit and nonprofit ventures meet, and its potential as a vehicle for development.
How has The New School contributed to your interests?
In my coursework at Milano, I worked with the Arab Social Innovators program at Synergos through Michele Kahane's Global Social Entrepreneurship Practicum. During the summer of 2011, I was an intern at Echoing Green. In the 2010-2011 school year, I was named an India China Institute Starr Foundation Fellow, which funded my research of the ecosystem for social enterprise in Hong Kong in the summer of 2011.
What research did you do during this time in Hong Kong?
My research project examined intermediaries that exist in Hong Kong, the financial capital of Asia, that aim to promote social entrepreneurship. This research included creating a map of the actors that exist in Hong Kong and are active in the field. During the month I was in Hong Kong, I conducted interviews with individuals from organizations that support social entrepreneurs, such as Ashoka China, private investment companies who are interested in impact investing, and venture philanthropy organizations.
What are your findings from Hong Kong?
The field of social entrepreneurship is very new to Asia. There are very few developed social enterprises that attract partnership organizations that feel confident enough in their business model to invest through equity or debt. The field of social entrepreneurship in Hong Kong is growing, but given the finance background of the intermediaries and philanthropists in Hong Kong, their aversion to risk leaves many early-stage social ventures on their own without proper support. Until more resources are given to early-stage social entrepreneurs through grants and capacity-building programs, the institutions that provide financial support for expansion-stage social enterprises will be dissatisfied with the current number of organizations that are investment worthy.
Who would you like to take with you on his next international research project?
Larry David, hands down. No one else could catalyze more hilarious social and cultural misunderstandings.