Last week, the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network hosted their second annual conference in Singapore. The excitement was palpable, and those of us in attendance relished the diverse perspectives of funders, social entrepreneurs, public officials, and sector professionals passionate about philanthropy in Asia. One of the key conference themes introduced by AVPN Board Chairman Doug Miller was “systems change.” Recognizing the inter-relatedness of philanthropy with government and private sectors is essential. And to achieve sustainability, individual projects must be supported by the social, financial, and political systems around them. Some of the highlights from the opening session and first panel on what’s worked in social investing that were memorable for me were:
- “A rising tide cannot lift boats that are submerged,” said Dr. Tan Chi Chiu, Chairman of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University. Noting the amazing financial gains in Asia over the recent past, he cautioned that Asian countries have much work to do on mending social safety nets and combatting inequality.
- Kavita Ramdas from the Ford Foundation astutely observed that philanthropy’s development in Asia is less about the region but more about timing. Philanthropy’s development, whether in the West or the East, goes through stages: religious tithing to secular strategic giving, to giving with an investment mindset, and then to systems-change.
- Annie Chen described a “total portfolio” approach to giving espoused by the RS Group that stands ready for unexpected opportunities in a world of continual, non-linear change. If one invests her time in an area, and persists, she will be more likely to seize the moment and bring others along.
These thought leaders and pioneers in Asian philanthropy have helped advance the conversation forward. Last year’s themes were “networking,” “knowledge sharing,” and “inspiration.” This year’s themes of “can’t”, “urgent,” and “systems change” were simultaneously down-to-earth yet still big picture.
There is more to come as we bring additional highlights from the AVPN conference in Singapore. Look forward to additional blog posts right here at Asian Philanthropy Forum!