Take-Aways of the Fourth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit
Following the approvement of the “Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN” in 2020, the stakeholders held the fourth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit on September 22, 2021. It was hosted by Brunei Darussalam, the ASEAN Chair 2021, and co-organised by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), United Nations ESCAP, iBAN, OECD, as well as the ASEAN Secretariat. The event was attended by government and private sector representatives from ASEAN and beyond, investors, and development organisations.
The meeting focused on the application of Inclusive Business (IB) in national contexts. It analysed the establishment of an inclusive business accreditation and registration system and the provision of business coaching services for firms as ways to foster the development of IB models. These measures would help identify, incentivise, and support businesses, including social enterprises, whereas developing IB models will strengthen the social impact of such companies.
Diverse inclusive business models operating in the region were highlighted, pointing out the essential elements that make a business model both inclusive and commercially viable. The summit demonstrated how inclusive businesses and social enterprises are helping low-income and marginalised populations to recover from the economic crisis. Addressing the challenges of Covid-19 and the ways to overcome those, such as digital solutions, investment models and partnerships, were among other essential points covered within the frames of the conference.
Coaching inclusive businesses
Under the moderation of Markus Dietrich from iBAN, Session 3a discussed the key insights on building a facility for coaching inclusive businesses. Four different perspectives on business coaching were represented.
Ms. Honorable Dayang Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii, Member of the Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam and Chairperson of Yayasan Committee on Social Enterprise, gave an insight into the development of the social enterprise environment in her country.
Mr. Nam Soon Liew, ASEAN Regional Managing Partner for EY, spoke about “EY Ripples”: a global corporate responsibility programme, which has an ambition to change the life of a billion people by 2030. He touched upon the Inclusive Business Playbook, developed in cooperation with Acumen to assist businesses in transition towards an IB model.
Ms. Britt de Lange works as the Myanmar Country Director for Bopinc. For over ten years this non-profit consultancy has been helping different organisations – from startups to multinationals – to design and deliver inclusive, commercially viable business models. Ms. de Lange elaborated on her learnings from business coaching activities.
Mr. Callum Yap is the Manufacturing and Marketing Lead of Okra Solar, a company providing affordable electricity to rural households across Southeast Asia using artificial intelligence and IoT-powered solutions. He shared the company‘s experiences of receiving IB business coaching services.
In the aftermath of the discussion, a number of conclusions were drawn.
What makes inclusive business coaching efficient?
There is a window of opportunity for business coaching in the ASEAN region. The participants noticed the rising interest on the topic of social responsibility and sustainability of companies, especially in the light of the post-pandemic developments. An increasing number of clients is willing to pay for coaching services. Meanwhile, a rising amount of multi-stakeholder programmes are supporting the provision of business coaching for small and medium enterprises and micro-businesses.
It is particularly important to assist companies in understanding what IB is and how it can be made applicable towards their own company, its structure and operations. The needs and aspirations of consumers at the base of the pyramid (BoP) are the focal point of such coaching activities. Companies require assistance in entering local markets. That involves understanding the stakeholders and the way the value chain works in the communities, as well as the peculiarities of the local business culture. To make a business case work one needs to make sure that the product works on a small scale before scaling it up.
Another essential role of the coaches is acting as intermediaries between the private and public sectors. Linking IB to bigger governmental goals can generate additional support for the development of the sector.
Working out different coaching set-ups can be beneficiary. For example, group online trainings can help to better understand the basic concepts of IB and entrepreneurship, followed by individual sessions and additional work on the ground. The creation of online platforms, which foster networks and peer-to-peer learning, is particularly important. According to the panellists, real-life success stories and case studies are the best way to demonstrate how to transition to an IB model. Digital content like videos and social media posts should be extensively incorporated into coaching activities. They can also be used to reach out to a bigger target audience.
To achieve the biggest impact possible, coaching materials should be made available in local languages.
Promoting Inclusive Business can be a valuable contribution of the ASEAN Member States towards achieving the mutual goas of ASEAN Vision 2025. As the next chair of ASEAN, Cambodia announced that the Fifth ASEAN IB Summit would be organised in 2022.