Bootcamp Building Impactful Social Enterprises In Malaysia

[This is a sponsored article with MaGIC.]

Social entrepreneurship is a constantly growing sector and the role it plays in economic and social terms should not be underestimated.

With Malaysia’s Vision 2030 of shared prosperity for building a sustainable nation, social entrepreneurs are one of the keys to unlocking a prosperous nation.

Although many of them have brilliant ideas that will shape Malaysia, they lack the knowledge to start a self-sustaining social enterprise. Enter Social entrepreneurs – Transformation, innovation and acceleration (SEtia), a 6-month program with a tailor-made curriculum to help social entrepreneurs develop a better understanding of the operations of a social enterprise.

The program was created through a partnership between the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center (MaGIC) and Standard Chartered Bank, which contributed RM200,000 to cover the costs of the 50 social entrepreneurs joining the program.

Now that the program is over, we have met 4 of the social enterprises on the nature of their work and the impact they have had on their beneficiaries.

Create a steady stream of income for small farmers

Phytopia is one of the social enterprises (SE) of the program. Its mission is to empower small farmers, planters and marginalized communities through urban agriculture.

Modern agriculture can be complex as farmers have to deal with climate change, soil erosion, food trends, etc. In a nutshell, Phytopia provides farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary for a sustainable farm through their modular hydroponic system. This system allows farmers to grow clean, sustainable and healthy products without the need for pesticides.

Once the produce is ready for harvest, Phytopia buys it from farmers at a fair price. The produce is then cooked and packaged into affordable meals and sold to the local community via Salad Bar, Phytopia’s own cafe, located at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK).

The sales made from the coffee will then be used to purchase products from farmers, creating a sustainable cycle.

The phytopia affected 4 main beneficiaries: farmers, the campus community, B40 students and more recently OKU groups.

Farmers and OKU groups get a steady source of income, the campus student and teacher community can get an affordable but healthy meal – and they hire B40 students as a part-time team.

Give a helping hand to fishermen in difficulty

Like Phytopia, #DemiLaut, one of Brique Engineering’s solutions, also addresses the issue of poverty and food security, but for small artisanal fishermen.

Haaziq Ibrahim, the managing director of DemiLaut said that there were roughly 130,000 fishermen in Malaysia who are on the brink of poverty, as they are strongly affected by climate change and lack of demand due to overfishing by industrial fishermen.

Haji Idin, one of their beneficiaries, struggles with the long hours and grueling workload. He sets out at 4 a.m. and does not return until midnight or later. Much of his livelihood depends on luck; will his fishing gear stay intact to last the day? Will the weather be fine? It only takes one thing wrong, and he is left with no income for the day.

Fishermen like Haji Idin struggle, but even the quality of their catch suffers compared to commercial vessels. Traditionally, fishermen use blocks of ice filled with plastic to keep fish cold, which can take up to 38% of their monthly income.

DemiLaut responds to fishermen’s problems even starting with simple, low-tech solutions: reusable ice packs and a freezer that is less expensive and more durable than simple ice cubes.

These solutions also go to technology-based methods, such as providing fishermen with a low cost transponder that can facilitate their fishing process while ensuring their safety at sea.

It is about equipping these fishermen with knowledge, microcredits and improvements on the fishing operation keeping in mind sustainability and selective fishing practices. By innovating in the traditional fishing value chain, they hope that fishermen will eventually be able to lift themselves out of poverty.

Solve real world problems, one code at a time

And speaking of technology, Telebort is a platform that provides kids and teens with coding skills and building apps to solve real-world problems.

The Telebort team understands that accessibility to high quality computer education (CSEdu) must be addressed. To solve the problem, Telebort provides B40 children and underrepresented minorities in tech with learning materials to nurture, educate and educate about computing.

The fruits of their labor can be seen through creative solutions by the students. For example, Ezekiel Raja Purba, a 17-year-old from Jakarta, has developed an app called “Keep Fit From Home”. It guides users on how to stay healthy while calculating calories burned.

However, like most schools, the pandemic forced them to switch to online classes. But the team managed to pivot and even managed to create a new source of income through monthly subscriptions.

They now have over 250 students enrolled for their courses delivered online or offline in the Penang Digital Library. The team hopes to reach more than 100,000 children and adolescents (with 40,000 beneficiaries) on the basics of computer science education by 2025.

Cultivating future sustainable farmers

Urban Farm Tech (UFT) is another graduate of the SEtia program that tackles agricultural issues at the local level. But, their target beneficiaries are students with special needs from marginalized schools.

UFT provides staff and students with urban agriculture materials as well as knowledge on how to care for, cultivate and sell farm products as a form of self-sufficiency and employment.

Like Phytopia, UFT uses a pesticide-free system for clean products. Once the crops are ready to be harvested, UFT will link buyers to schools, so that the income can go directly to the school and their students.

And in January 2020, the UFT team helped over 2,500 students and 100 professors marginalized communities. As part of the revenue stream, UFT works with businesses and local communities, sowing the benefits of urban agriculture.

Urban Farm Tech urban farming facility at one of the schools / Image credit: Urban Farm Tech

The pandemic has also forced UFT to seek an alternative form of income through e-commerce. They are now offering hobbyists their urban farming solution for those who want to be self-reliant and more aware of the greens they consume.

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These are just 4 of SEtia’s 25 social enterprises, and although most of these SEs have been affected by the pandemic, they plan to further expand their reach on the ground to more affected communities in Malaysia and neighboring countries. .

So are you looking for proof?

Talk to a B40 student who now knows how to build a sustainable farm, a fisherman who has improved their fishing through the implementation of technology, or kids who have learned to code and a new career option is now find all the evidence you need.

Featured Image Credit: DemiLaut

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Jothi Venkat

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