LOVEQTRA – How a Tibetan Charity Learns to Stand on its Own Feet

disaster-reliefSource: LOVEQTRA Website

Research has shown that more and more charities are in the process of transforming into social enterprises, meaning that they begin to generate income in order to become independent and able to fund themselves. One great example of this development is the Tibetan NGO LOVEQTRA.

The organisation works primarily in the Qinghai Province, which is located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Northwest China. They focus on nomadic Tibetan people, who suffer from harsh living conditions and live in isolation. The NGO applies a two-step approach, the first step being intervention, followed by active support.


What LOVEQTRA does

The organisation’s vision is:

Transforming Generations, Restoring Lives through Transforming Minds, Restoring Hearts. Our mission is to execute justice for the oppressed, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, set free the prisoners, lift up the bowed down, and uphold the fatherless and the widow. LOVEQTRA’s flagship Operation W.O.R.T.H. centers on Women Oppressed by & Redeemed from Traditional Hegemony (W.O.R.T.H.)”

One program they focus on is “Girls at Risk”, where they help girls and women to break free from the vicious cycle of poverty, oppression and desperation. To learn more about “Girls at Risk”, please visit their website >>

A second area of the NGO’s focus is emergency medical relief. They support families and individuals who are unable to pay for emergency medical treatment. This program is co-run by a group of foreign experts who are working in Xining’s Red Cross Hospital and who raised funds and work separately to partner with LOVEQTRA. To learn more about the emergency medical relief program, please visit their website >>

LOVEQTRA’s third focus is on disaster relief.  When disasters strike, speed is the key to be able to rescue those who can still be saved. The organisation provides speedy medical care to the injured as well as food, water and shelter to the survivors. LOVEQTRA tries to support disaster stroke communities alongside the government and the Red Cross, aiding them in their relief work and helping to catch at least some of those who fall through the cracks. To learn more about the disaster relief program, please visit their website >>


How LOVEQTRA is trying to become more self-sufficient

In order to wean off 100% reliance on donors, LOVEQTRA decided to expand into a Social Enterprise. They have looked for ways to make themselves more self-sufficient and decided to initially expand into two main directions: becoming a simple youth hostel/guest house as well as a vegetarian restaurant and Tibetan tea house.

In order to run these operations, LOVEQTRA will train and employ some of the girls from the “Girls at Risk” program to oversee and manage the hostel, take care of facilities and keep the tidy. Those who are currently learning to cook will work in the tea house and prepare vegetarian dishes that appeal to those in the Tibetan community who, due to their beliefs, are vegetarian.

These initiatives will provide safe outlets for the older girls who can then begin to use the skills they gained in the vocational training center. Both the hostel and the tea house are in one building and will showcase some of the art works and handicrafts of the girls.

This program is still just a pilot project and will be rolled out in Dari (Darlag) County Town. If reasonably successful, LOVEQTRA plans to duplicate it in other Tibetan areas such as Yushu.


I believe that this is an interesting example of how pure charities begin to establish more self-sufficient operations in order to become more independent from donors. It will be exciting to see how this trend develops in the future!





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Hong Kong and Taiwan – Asia’s Social Innovation Hubs of the Future?


Hong Kong and Taiwan can be considered to be rather similar both culturally and commercially. In terms of culture, both take pride in inheriting ancient Chinese cultural practices such as practicing martial arts and drinking Oolong tea and both highly respect the elderly. In a commercial sense, there are more than 400 weekly flights between Taiwan and Hong Kong, making that route one of the top 10 busiest commercial airline rouses in the world in 2011. Furthermore, after the 2008 financial crisis, both economies started to look out for a new model of development that integrates innovation with broader social needs.

The World Economic Forum categorises both countries as economies that have reached the third state of economic development, the so called “state of innovation-driven growth”. Even though both economies possess a highly developed social welfare system, there is still room for improvement, especially in addressing issues of economic access and social inclusion. In the past few years, there was an increase in the number of social entrepreneurship conferences and speaker series, creating platform for discussions and knowledge sharing. Social entrepreneurs have realised that a common issue they are facing is the lack of communication between grass-root organisations and governmental agencies, shortages of socially-minded business practitioners and difficulties in aligning social and business visions.

Experts suggest the following three strategies how Hong Kong and Taiwan could increase collaboration and become Asia’s top social innovation hubs.


1)      Co-operate to expand and grow

Both countries have a rather small population (Taiwan – 23.2 million; Hong Kong – 7.4 million) which has been a major barrier for social enterprises in both locations as it makes it highly difficult to successfully achieve scale. According to the law of comparative advantage, social enterprises in both markets could explore opportunities to sell products and services in each other’s markets, effectively increasing the size of their respective markets. Moreover, social enterprises should look into the opportunity to co-operate in production and marketing.


2)      Co-learning for knowledge accumulation

Despite their numerous similarities, Hong Kong and Taiwan are had quite different paths of development during the last century. While Taiwan was colonised by Japan for 50 years before starting its own developmental path, Hong Kong was ruled by the British for over 100 years. Therefore, Hong Kong developed a social innovation model with strong British influence whereas Taiwan’s social innovation model is characterised by Japanese influences. By being willing to learn from each other, Hong Kong and Taiwan could blend best practices from the east and west and accumulate a wealth of knowledge on social innovation. To enable this, both regions should open up their social co-working spaces for example by collaborating on social projects and hosting each other’s social innovators.


3)      Cross-investing to diversify portfolio

Social investing and venture philanthropy are much more developed in Hong Kong than in Taiwan. It is therefore not surprising, that Hong Kong ranks number 1 in the financial market development and possesses one of the most efficient financial services sectors in the world. Even though the Taiwanese society is known as being generous when it comes to charitable donation, the idea of investing in social-purpose businesses is still not widespread. Experts suggest that social investors in Hong Kong should start looking into investment opportunities in Taiwan in order to diversify their investment portfolio and provide Taiwanese social entrepreneurs with a new source of funding.


Overall, the social innovation sectors in both Hong Kong and Taiwan are booming! It is believed that with collaborative efforts from both sides, the two economies can soon become Asia’s leading social innovation hubs.

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Korea Based Steel Conglomerate POSCO Launches Social Enterprise POSCO HUMANS


Source: POSCO Website


Korean steel conglomerate POSCO, the world’s third largest steelmaker, is already quite well known for establishing social enterprises that have created jobs for hundreds of disabled individuals. The company’s eagerness to share growth with those marginalised from the mainstream society has been proven once more in early January 2013, when it launched the social enterprise POSCO HUMANS. The new venture is a merger of POSWITH and POSECOHousing, both established social enterprises launched by the steel group. According to POSCO, “The merger deal came for synergy effect and management efficiency. The newly established social enterprise will focus on offering jobs for socially disadvantaged people, including disabled and multicultural family members”.


The venture POSWITH, POSCO’s first social enterprise, was established in 2007 and enabled disabled individuals to work in cleaning or in the office supporting service areas of POSCO. It has become known for creating a unique work environment for its employees, encouraging them to laugh at least once every minute, be grateful for life three times a day and read more than two books a month. Approximately 52% of the venture’s employees are physically challenged.

The second company, POSECOHousing, was established in 2009 and also aimed to offer jobs for socially disadvantaged groups. It developed an environmentally friendly steel-housing manufacturing business and is POSCO’s largest social enterprise. Approximately 55% of POSECOHousing’s workforce possess from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Businesses Urged to Support Social Enterprises


Mr Chan, Singapore’s acting Minister for Social and Family Development, made an interesting comment at this year’s Social Enterprise Association Conference. He urged businesses to take the lead in the growing social entrepreneurship sector.

According to Mr Chan, the Singaporean Government plans to continue and intensify its work with the Social Enterprise Association in order to raise the capabilities of local social enterprises through initiatives such as internships, mentorship and training programs. While the government initially supported social enterprises in order to boost employment, it now focusses on supporting them in order to enhance social safety nets. Government support currently includes the ComCare Enterprise Fund, the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Programme for Schools and the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award.

However, in order to further increase the social impact, Mr Chang urges businesses to develop blossoming partnerships with social enterprises. An example of a successful partnership is the cooperation between Select Group, a leading food service provider, and Community Kitchen Co-operative, a social enterprise that runs a catering kitchen to help the long-term unemployed. The Select Groups supports the Community Kitchen Co-operative with its business strategy, development and further expansion, skills which the Co-operative would find difficult to acquire on its own.

Hopefully, more businesses will take the lead in supporting Singapore’s growing social entrepreneurship scene!

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P Chidambaram: Banks Need to Lend more to the Poor

Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram addressing a press conference at the annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Tokyo on Thursday. — PHOTO: AP


P Chidambaram, Union Finance Minister, urges banks to lend more to the poor. 41 percent of India’s population is unbanked, in rural areas this number can even be as high as 61 percent, which clearly shows that India can be considered an “under-banked” country. Banks need to change their perception of the poor and support them in lifting themselves out of poverty.

Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?

During the depression of the 1930s in the US, President Franklin Roosevelt argued that the focus should shift to those at the bottom of the pyramid and their buying power. Since then, the idea that there might actually be accessible wealth at the bottom of the pyramid has become a popular and well established economic principle.

Companies need to understand the enormous potential of lending to the underprivileged at the bottom of the pyramid. Refocusing on that customer group can make banking an instrument of economic and social change. A prime example is the well-established Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Its business model proofs that collateral-free loans to the poor can see repayment rates as high as 98 percent. This clearly shows that traditional banks need to move away from their belief that the poor are financially illiterate and therefore bad candidates for loans. Rather, access to credit is a matter of survival for the poor, which makes their motivation to repay loans a lot higher than that of companies or high networth individuals.

Further, a policy of lending to low-income groups widens the economic base of banks and makes them less dependent on the business fortunes of only a few rich debtors. Banks need to see the poor as a rising middle class and understand their own role in supporting the poor to lift themselves out of poverty and get economically involved by having access to credit.

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Entrepreneurs to Support Earthquake Recovery in Japan

Source: ETIC Website

During the last years, the Tōhoku region of Japan has been subject to an earthquake, a tsunami and a reactor meltdown. It will take the region quite some time to recover from all these catastrophes. In order to support the area in its recovery, a Tokyo-based social entrepreneurship group called ETIC launched their extremely successful Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project in 2011.

The project is a fellowship for young business leaders, some of them coming from Japan’s biggest corporations. The fellows are sent to the slowly recovering region in Japan for 3 to 12 months and help put companies there back together, run temporary housing units and rebuild the transportation system.

Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project

ETIC initially responded to the disasters in the region with more traditional methods, ie. sending emergency supplies and short-term volunteers. However, the organisation soon realised that they can do more than that and contribute by rebuilding the economic and social infrastructure.

So far, ETIC’s program brought 74 fellows in the region to work with 30 local social enterprises. Thirty percent of those fellows are Tōhoku natives that decided to return to and rebuild their hometowns. ETIC also announced that it is planning double the size of the program due enormous local demand.

The Future of the Tōhoku Region

ETIC’s Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project is an excellent example of how social entrepreneurship can play an important role in disaster relief. ETIC does not only want to support the region in its recovery but push the society and economy onto a new, sustainable path.

They will have to work fast though. The local economy is not strong enough to reemploy all those individuals that lost their jobs and many residents have been living in temporary housing and on short-term government relief. With their program, ETIC aims to create what they call a “positive spiral of entrepreneurship” by bringing young and bright business leaders to the troubled region to work on an incubation program.

For more information on ETIC and their Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project, please visit their website here >>

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DBS China Supports Social Enterprises

Percival Street

Ten days after announcing a grant to four social enterprises in Singapore, DBS, the Development Bank of Singapore, announced the launch of a new program in China. The program aims to support the development of social enterprises throughout the country. In this context, DBS China announced to provide grants to four promising social enterprises to offer training sessions to over 2 300 underprivileged individuals in Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Shenzhen within the next two years. The goal is to teach them valuable skills that improve their employability. In addition, the bank plans to support and facilitate the development of sustainable business models by social enterprises.

The development programs DBS China decided to support are Baby Nursing Training for Migrant Women, Future Artist Program – Artist Talent Discovery Classes, Graphic Design Training Program for the Hearing Impaired and Dialogue in the Dark – Employable Skills Training for the Visually Impaired.

The four chosen initiatives are also supported by the Fuping Development Institute, a non-profit organisation with the purpose to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development.

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