Social entrepreneurship to address poverty in South Asia

The World Bank and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation announced last week a new partnership to address the two-pronged issue of poverty and inclusive development by boosting social entrepreneurship in the region.

social enterpriseThe Social Enterprise Development Program, administered through the SAARC Development Fund, aims to support and fund notable social enterprises in South Asia. It is an “attempt to address [the] objectives of regional integration and poverty reduction,” Karma, SDF’s chief executive, told Devex.

“The [SEDP] is expected to provide technical capacity to the social entrepreneurs of South Asia and also encourage them to invest [in] each other and across the regional geographies,” he said, adding that the focus on social entrepreneurship is a natural progression after prioritizing more than $63 million of various social projects in the region.

An “ongoing program,” SEDP does not yet have a set budget but according to Karma the goal is to provide finance, global knowledge and capacity development for about 100 social enterprises, each of which could receive between $10,000 and $250,000 in grant funding.

The partnership will run for three years, and under the terms of agreement, SDF will provide the majority of funding and will have “full fiduciary and program implementation responsibility and accountability.” The World Bank meanwhile will provide the knowledge aspect of the partnership. The program, Karma said, will be based loosely on the bank’s Development Marketplace competitive grant program, which was designed to support and scale social innovations.

The SDF chief said the grants will support capacity building, particularly to help the social enterprises improve their organizational skills, scale up their operations, enter new markets and transition to gain access to “formal finance.”

“[SEDP] aims to gradually provide returnable grants to help in scaling the operations and ultimately concessional loans to these enterprises,” Karma explained.

Interested social enterprises need to meet eligibility criteria, but the fund chief did not give specifics. The program will be launched soon in all eight SAARC member countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Have you come across noteworthy social enterprises that we should know about? Share what makes them so notable by leaving a comment below.

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 By Lean Alfred Santos, a Devex staff writer focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.