Cambodia’s second conference on social enterprise is set to take place tomorrow with the aim of tackling poverty, social exclusion and health and environmental problems, organisers say.
The all-day conference, at the Cambodia-Japan Conference Centre at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, will facilitate discussions among participants about social enterprises such as challenges and opportunities, business models, marketing strategies and financing.
Cambodia has at least 300 social enterprises, but there are likely many more, according to Isaac Lyne, the social enterprise program co-ordinator in Cambodia for Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DELPHE).
“A recent PhD data collection identified more than 300 NGOs with commercial activities. This would be only a fraction of the entities that we might call soc-ial enterprises if we account for business registered social enterprises, co-operatives, associations etc,” he said.
The most visible social enterprises are often those that provide jobs in the handicraft and hospitality sectors, although Cambodia has a range of business sectors they can be found operating in, including IT, water, sanitation, health and family planning, rural development, agricult-ure and solar energy.
For many in the donor community, social enterprises were commonly seen as the answer to providing “participatory” or “empowering” approaches to development. But that was not always the case, and the conference would seek to discuss these matters, Lyne said.
“There are a lot of assumptions about social enterprises in literature, and policy-makers are acting on these assumptions. Increasingly, the same assumptions are in the donor community, they are assuming that social enterprise is ‘empowering’, ‘participatory’ etc.
“They assume entrepreneurial individuals who start social enterprises are ‘innovative’, and ‘not afraid to take risks’. But these things have different meanings in Cambodia. So there is a lot of work to do to get policies right, which would encourage social enterprise.”
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