How to jumpstart social enterprise in Malaysia

By Patricia Hului
[email protected]


A few months ago, The Borneo Post SEEDS caught up with Abby Hosanna from The Backyard Tour Guide which aimed to empower youths with jobs in eco-tourism in the Padawan area.

Abby from The Backyard Tourguide, a social enterprise aimed to help unemployed youths in the rural area.

Abby from The Backyard Tourguide, a social enterprise aimed to help unemployed youths in the rural area.

Last year at the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) craft bazaar, we caught up with Kiew Boon Siew founder of Heart Treasures Sdn Bhd selling artwork by her ‘angels’; youths diagnosed with autism, development delay (slow learners), cerebral palsy, physical disabilities as well as orphans and single mothers.


Kiew at last year’s RWMF selling artworks by her ‘angels’; youths diagnosed with autism, development delay (slow learner), cerebral palsy, physical disability as well as orphans and single mothers.


So what do they both have in common? Both Kiew and Abby were invited to speak at SEHATI 2013 by Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre Social Entrepreneurship (MaGIC SE) in their capacities as social entrepreneurs last Saturday at Kompleks Islam Sarawak.

The  programme was aimed to create awareness and interest in social entrepreneurship in East Malaysia.

Kuching was the second location after SEHATI 2015’s inaugural launch in Johor last month.

Challenges of Social Enterprise in Malaysia


Executive director of MaGIC SE Ehon Chan


During a press conference, executive director of MaGIC SE Ehon Chan talked about the current status of social entrepreneurship in Malaysia.

He first explained that social entrepreneurship was the practice of running a social enterprise; an enterprise which exists to solve social problems but has a business model in order to realise that social mission.

“We found in Malaysia, social enterprises are still very new so that lack of understanding and awareness about social entrepreneurship caused a big challenge for those who want to be involved in social entrepreneurship.”

Subsequently, according to Chan, a lot of people found social entrepreneurship too risky to venture into.

“So people don’t get involved, they don’t fund it and don’t become social entrepreneurs themselves.”

Even if the people wanted to venture into social entrepreneurship, there are no existing government agencies where they can access training and people do not offer courses in social entrepreneurship.

“Lastly, because it is new and high risk, the funding for social enterprises is very limited. Generally speaking, banks would not provide grants or loans to social enterprises,” he highlighted.

“We need to create a critical mass of social entrepreneurs. Right now in Malaysia there is only about 130 to 150 social enterprises that we are aware of that we need to grow that to 1000 by 2018,” Chan said.

He added that the MaGIC SE set up to build a larger ecosystem. “We can’t be the only player in the ecosystem to support social enterprises.”

Chan also highlighted the fact that Malaysian policy is designed either for profit businesses or charities and that there is no room for hybrids such as social enterprises.

“We have done survey and the preliminary result shows that about one third of social enterprises are generally led by people under the age of 35.”

According to Chan, MaGIC SE launched the National Social Enterprise Blueprint last May to empower the Malaysian social enterprise sector to be self-sustaining, equitable and people-centric in its journey to creating more impact-driven entrepreneurs by the year 2018.

The blueprint outlines a three year-strategic thrusts identifying three main building blocks; social enterprises and social entrepreneurs, the ecosystem itself and institutions including public and private players.

Uplifting rural communities through social enterprises


Liew (left) listening to Hairol talk about his work in the rural areas educating them on social entrepreneurship.


MaGIC SE’s community project manager Hairol Ahmad shared his work in enlightening the rural areas on social entrepreneurship.

“We have an outreach programme so what we did was we introduce this term social entrepreneurship which they really get excited about,” he said.

Besides raising awareness about social enterprises, MaGIC SE also provided training for the rural folk.

They recently collaborated with local NGO Barefoot Mercy during a visit to Ba Kelalan.

Hairol commented, “Based on our experience, one thing is lacking in rural areas is, they can produce products and services but access to market is their number one challenge.”

Giving back to the community


Founder of iCube and, Dato Patrick Liew


Also present during the press conference was one of MaGIC SE’s local partners iCUBE Innovation Sdn Bhd founder cum chairman Dato Patrick Liew.

“We found that MaGIC SE is very enthusiastic and dynamic coming to Sarawak trying to help our community as a whole,” he said. “We decided to add on as part of our CSR to generate bigger interest and to carry out long term activities with MaGIC SE for mutual benefit.”

For any young entrepreneurs, besides making money you must also have commitment and responsibility to give back to our societies.

He believed that this effort would benefit young businesses in the long run.


The two-day programme offered information and basic understanding of what social entrepreneurship was through knowledge sharing sessions with local social entrepreneurs as well as hands-on workshops providing useful basic skills sets needed to venture into social entrepreneurship.

The programme will move on to Kota Kinabalu (Oct 10 and 11),  Kuala Terengganu (Oct 16 and 17), Alor Setar (Oct 23 and 24) and finally in Kuala Lumpur (Oct 31 and Nov 1).

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