The inaugural Social Innovation in Action brought together a regional audience of over 130 at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok for insightful discussion and debate around the future of social innovation in Asia.
The summit discussed whether Asia can lead the way in providing data-driven and technology-based solutions to long-standing social challenges. The panels were moderated by The Economist's emerging markets editor Simon Cox and Charles Ross, Editorial director, thought leadership Asia of The Economist Intelligence Unit.
The summit kicked off with a panel on creating a social innovation ecosystem with Pun-Arj Chairatana, Executive director, National Innovation Agency, Thailand setting the tone for the discussion, saying "the Thailand government is looking for ways to supercharge social innovation as few angel investors or impact investors in Thailand are actively funding social innovation projects."
Alison Eskene, vice-president, Asia-Pacific, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth shared her challenges with social innovation stating that "the digital economy needs to work for everyone everywhere, but inequality impedes that".
Pierre Legrand, chief technologist of PwC finds that 9 times out of 10 the biggest challenge to digital transformation and social responsibility thinking is leadership.
"Corporates are in this game whether we want to be or not, there is no opt-out for corporations being socially involved." said Lale Kesebi, founder and chief executive, Human at Work
The full-day discussions were concluded with a summary by The Economist editors who took questions from the audience. Key topics addressed at the summit were:
- What needs to be in place for social innovations to generate economic growth?
- How is social innovation changing traditional businesses?
- How can collaboration between the private sector, social entrepreneurs, the public sector and civil society be achieved?
- Who needs to be involved to make initiatives successful, socially and financially?
- Can the social innovation sector shed its association with motherhood statements and corporate window dressing in favour of robust processes, dedicated financing and meaningful measurement? If yes, how?
- What will social innovation look like by 2030?
The event featured speakers, including:
- Pun-Arj Chairatana, executive director, National Innovation Agency of Thailand
- Alison Eskesen, vice-president, Asia-Pacific, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth
- Jonathan Wong, chief of technology and innovation, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
- Pierre Legrand, chief technologist, PwC
- Lale Kesebi, founder and chief executive, Human at Work
- Tommy Leong, zone president for East Asia and Japan, Schneider Electric
- Saibal Das Chowdhury, co-founder and chief executive, Urbanetic
- James Soukamneuth, Impact investing director, Investing in Women
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