Inspiring highland social ventures

WWF-Malaysia Senior Community Engagement and Education Officer Alicia Ng (seated centre) facilitating a group in Ba’ Kelalan during the brainstorming session on potential SE business in the highlands that can solve problem with high transportation cost.

MIRI: A total of 125 participants from indigenous communities in the highlands of Sarawak attended a series of workshops on social entrepreneurship (SE) held in Long Semadoh, Ba’ Kelalan and Bario earlier this month.

The purpose of the workshops was to raise awareness on SE and its potentials to the communities as well as the benefits that SE can contribute to social development and environmental conservation. The workshops also aimed to seek SE champions among the rural communities of Sarawak. These workshops formed part of MaGIC’s SE Rural Outreach Programme.

As of 2015, there were only about 150 social enterprises in Malaysia, a very low number if compared with our neighbouring countries such as Thailand and the Philippines which had 700,000 and 30,000 respectively.

WWF-Malaysia senior community engagement and education programme officer Alicia Ng shared that SE was a component of long-term environment conservation.

“We believe that developing SE is important because successful enterprise would eventually contribute to our objectives in conserving the forest where local communities themselves manage conservation initiatives independently,” Ng said.

“SE initiatives can encourage local communities to start their businesses with considerations of social and environmental impacts in their business model, as form of alternative livelihoods instead of fully depending on natural resources.”

According to Ehon Chan, an executive director of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre, the programme was designed to be inclusive so that there would be a programme for all social entrepreneurs at every stage.

“There are tremendous amount of opportunities in the highlands and we hope that we’ll see some of these social entrepreneurs start progressing through some of our programmes as they grow their ventures,” Chan said.

“Furthermore, MaGIC SE will develop a more comprehensive module to further develop the skills of these aspiring entrepreneurs in rural and remote area,” he added.

During the workshops, trainers from MaGIC SE raised awareness on SE, business models and opportunity for the local communities in the accelerator programme that supports selected start-ups twice a year.

Another trainer from YIM presented the fundamental of entrepreneurship and marketing tips that was specially designed for the audience. In the last session, participants were asked to think of social and environmental issues that were crucial to solve and brainstormed SE ideas that were relevant and suitable for their areas.

Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi, Sarawak chairman, Penghulu George Sigar Sultan thanked the organising partners for bringing the first social entrepreneurship workshops to the highland communities.

“We hope there are continuous follow-ups on the workshop results that will be able to train and help our people to setup their own SE ventures which can help the local communities as well as the environment.”

The organisers hoped that these workshops would unlock some inspiration for the local communities to work on various projects from preservation of arts, heritage and culture, to conservation of the natural environment threatened by unsustainable use of resources and impacts as the result of assimilation and modernisation.

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