What is meant by 'Social Innovation'?

Social Innovation can be exemplified by advances in knowledge, products and services, including applications of existing business models, processes and methods to meet social need.

What is social entrepreneurship?

There is no broad definition of what social entrepreneurship is. According to the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship of the Oxford University, social entrepreneurship is the product of individuals, organisations, and networks that challenge conventional structures causing inadequate provision or unequal distribution of social and environmental goods by addressing these failures and identifying new opportunities for better alternatives.

What are the differences between ‘entrepreneurs’ and ‘social entrepreneurs’?

Social entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs with a social mission. For entrepreneurs, financial return is the key measure of success. In the case of social entrepreneurs, financial return is an incentive or a means through which the end of introducing social change can be achieved. Social entrepreneurs seek out social needs that are not being met effectively by current businesses or public programmes and try to develop new business models that create viable new businesses that address these needs, particularly through empowering people in need.

What is the current state of social innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong?

The development of social enterprises (SEs) in Hong Kong so far has been led predominantly by NGOs supported by public funding. In recent years, the ecosystem of socially directed business has started to evolve, and some social entrepreneurs and successful pioneer projects on social innovation have emerged. Some platforms, collaborative bodies, awards and competitions, and education initiatives, have been set up to bring entrepreneurial and innovative ideas to address social issues including poverty alleviation and empowerment of the underprivileged.

The social objectives of the SE projects have also been broadened from providing employment and training opportunities to the underprivileged to promoting social inclusion and meeting unmet social needs.

How do you see the development of our social innovation landscape in the years to come?

Poverty remains an important issue of concern to our community. While traditional government assistance and services can continue to provide a safety net that helps alleviate hardship of the disadvantaged, there is a need to find new ways to create renewed opportunity. One of the root causes of poverty is that disadvantaged groups, particularly those who are young, lack means to grasp opportunities. Training and education are part of the formula for poverty alleviation, but access to networks of advice and support and an opening up of new areas of economic activity are also essential ingredients. The development of SEs is opening up new areas of economic activity and laying a foundation for greater social innovation. In the years to come we expect to see more active and mature entrepreneurs, investors, philanthropists, academics, NGOs creating an environment that gives much greater depth of encouragement, support and inspiration to young social entrepreneurs, building businesses that strengthen local communities and provide more opportunity across the city. The objective of the SIE Fund is to foster that development through its ventures.

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