Social entrepreneurship is an ever-growing sector, and the role it plays economically and socially is not to be understated.
With Malaysia’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 of building a sustainable nation, social entrepreneurs are one of the keys to unlocking a prosperous nation.
While many of them have brilliant ideas that’ll shape Malaysia, they lack the knowledge in building a self-sustaining social enterprise. Enter Social Entrepreneurs – Transformation, Innovation & Acceleration (SEtia), a 6-month long programme with a tailored syllabus to help social entrepreneurs develop a better understanding of the operations of a social enterprise.
The programme was brought to life by the partnership between Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center (MaGIC) and Standard Chartered Bank, who contributed RM200,000 to cover the costs of the 50 social entrepreneurs joining the programme.
Now that the programme has ended, we caught up with 4 of the social enterprises on the nature of their work and the impact they’ve had on their beneficiaries.
Phytopia is one of the social enterprises (SE) from the programme. Its mission is to empower small farmers, planters and marginalised communities through urban farming.
Modern agriculture can be complex as the farmers have to deal with climate change, soil erosion, food trends, and more. In a nutshell, Phytopia provides farmers with the knowledge and capabilities for a sustainable farm through their modular hydroponic system. This system allows the farmers to grow clean, sustainable and healthy produce without the need for pesticides.
Once the produce is ready for harvest, Phytopia buys them from the farmers at a fair price. The produce is then cooked and packaged into affordable meals and sold to the local community through Salad Bar, Phytopia’s own cafe, located in Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK).
The sales made from the cafe will then be used to purchase products from the farmers, creating a sustainable cycle.
Phytopia reaches 4 main beneficiaries: the farmers, the campus community, B40 students, and most recently OKU groups.
The farmers and OKU groups get a steady source of income, the campus community of students and teachers can get an affordable yet healthy meal—and they hire B40 students as their part-time crew.
Like Phytopia, #DemiLaut, one of the solutions under Brique Engineering, also tackles the issue of poverty and food security, but for small, artisan fishers.
Haaziq Ibrahim, the Managing Director of DemiLaut said that there are roughly 130,000 fishers in Malaysia who are at the brink of poverty, as they’re heavily affected by climate change and lack of demand due to overfishing by industrial fishers.
Haji Idin, one of their beneficiaries, struggles with the long hours and backbreaking workload. He goes out to sea as early as 4AM and he only gets back by midnight or later. A lot of his livelihood depends on luck; will his fishing equipment stay intact to last the day? Will the weather stay fine? It takes only 1 thing going wrong, and he’s left without an income for the day.
Fishers like Haji Idin toil away, but even the quality of their catches suffer compared to commercial vessels. Traditionally, fishers use plastic-filled ice packs to keep fish cold, which can take up to 38% of their monthly income.
DemiLaut addresses fishers’ pain points starting even with simple, low-tech solutions: reusable ice packs and a freezer which is less costly and more sustainable than just regular ice cubes.
And speaking of tech, Telebort is a platform that provides kids and teens with coding and app building skills to solve real-world issues.
The Telebort team understands that the accessibility to high-quality computer science education (CSEdu) needs to be addressed. To solve the issue, Telebort provides B40 kids and the under-represented minorities in the tech field, with learning materials to nurture, educate and build awareness on computer science.
The fruits of their labour can be seen through creative solutions by the students. For example, Ezekiel Raja Purba, a 17-year-old from Jakarta developed an app called ‘Keep Fit From Home’. It guides the users on how to stay healthy while calculating calories burnt.
However, like most schools, the pandemic forced them to transition into online classes. But the team managed to pivot and even successfully built a new revenue stream through monthly subscriptions.
Urban Farm Tech (UFT) is another graduate from the SEtia program who is tackling agricultural issues locally. But, their target beneficiaries are the students with special needs from marginalised schools.
UFT provides the staff and the students with urban farming equipment along with the knowledge on how to maintain, grow and sell the produce of the farm as a form of self-sustainability and employment.
Like Phytopia, UFT utilises a pesticide-free system for clean produce. Once the crops are ready to harvest, UFT will link buyers to the schools, so the income can go straight to the school and their students.
And as of January 2020, the UFT team has assisted more than 2,500 students and 100 teachers from the marginalised communities. As part of the revenue stream, UFT works with corporates and the local communities, seeding the benefits of urban farming.