TrustLaw launches guide for social enterprises in Asia

by Maeve Halpin
Friday, 23 March 2018 15:01 GMT

Prin Laomanutsak, President of the Asian Law Students Association asks a question at the ASEAN Social Enterprise Structuring Guide

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TrustLaw, in partnership with law firm Tilleke & Gibbins, the British Council and United Nations ESCAP launched the ASEAN Social Enterprise Structuring Guide in Bangkok last week.

This guide fills a much needed gap in the Southeast Asian social enterprise sector for practical corporate structuring advice. As always, TrustLaw identified a very real need and a very practical solution for resolving it, and we were immensely proud to work with them to help achieve that resolution”, said Eric M. Meyer, Dispute Resolution Consultantat Tilleke & Gibbins in Bangkok.

The launch of the guide, which took place on 7 March, featured a panel discussion between Sher Hann Chua, consultant at Tilleke & Gibbins Myanmar, Patsian Low, Director at Asia Policy Forum, and Dr. Mechai Viravaidya, Founder of Mechai Viravaidya Foundation. Dr. Viravaidya, considered one of fathers of social enterprise in Thailand, has started 43 social enterprises in the country, including the much celebrated restaurant Cabbage and Condoms. He also served as a Senator and member of cabinet in Thailand on four occasions and contributed to the drafting of the recent social enterprise laws in Thailand.

The conversation covered the opportunities and challenges faced by social entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, including an overview of the social enterprise ecosystems, recent legal changes and work being done to encourage legal reform.

 “Social entrepreneurs across ASEAN struggle to afford high quality professional services, which are vital to their ability to succeed. Pro bono support, such as that provided by Thomson Reuters Foundation is important, because it allows social enterprises to focus on their core business, which is to enhance the lives of people right across the region”, said Tristan Ace, Global Social Enterprise Development Lead at the British Council.

 “Moving the social enterprise agenda forward requires a mix of stakeholders, skills and expertise. TrustLaw has been a valuable partner in our efforts to build the social enterprise movement in the Asia-Pacific region, supporting governments and social entrepreneurs alike, to better understand the legal landscape in the sector”, added Jonathan Tsuen Yip Wong, Chief of Technology and Innovation UN ESCAP.

Social entrepreneurship is thriving in developing economies, according to a poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2016. This is particularly true in the ASEAN region, where more and more businesses are working to address poverty, access to health and education through business models that balance social impact with the need for financial sustainability.

Navigating the legal structures available to them is one of the greatest challenges faced by aspiring social entrepreneurs. That’s why TrustLaw and the British Council initially went to work on developing a practical guide for social enterprises that answers key questions they may have. TrustLaw then connected the British Council with Tilleke & Gibbins in Bangkok to advise social entrepreneurs on legal structures across eight countries in the ASEAN Region:  Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

To read the ASEAN Social Enterprise Structuring Guide click here.