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March 20, 2020
Yap Mun Ching, AirAsia Foundation Executive Director and Founder, answers eight questions on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the AirAsia Group’s philanthropic arm.
We speak to her about lessons she has learned, what makes a good social enterprise, and some insights from the exciting eight-year-old journey of empowering social entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, that is just getting started.
How would you describe what AirAsia Foundation does in one sentence?
Make social enterprises accessible to all.
How has your definition of social entrepreneurship evolved from when AirAsia Foundation started to now?
We have definitely become stricter by not just accepting at face value when an organisation calls itself a social enterprise. We ask hard questions to distinguish between genuine organisations and those that mainly use ‘social enterprise’ as a convenient label to apply for grants.
How do you define a good social enterprise?
A good social enterprise remains social in its purpose but does not neglect to build financial sustainability.
What’s your advice for social entrepreneurs just starting out?
Always assume you know less than your community partners. If they are doing something in a particular way, there are probably several good reasons for it. Build your business after you have investigated all their structural constraints.
What’s one thing you would’ve done differently with AirAsia Foundation?
Communicate better and more widely on what makes a good social enterprise. It would have helped us attract strong applicants and build public awareness on how to discern between a real social enterprise and one merely claiming to be one.
What would you consider as the most rewarding part of the job?
Discovering the great diversity of innovation in the region and being a part of the ecosystem that celebrates and elevates them.
What lesson have you learned that you think other companies can learn from for their social responsibility initiatives?
Social responsibility initiatives must resonate with your core business and brand values i.e. your cause must mean something to the business and not just to the person championing it. Otherwise, the next person who takes over will have no reason to continue supporting it.
What’s next for AirAsia Foundation?
What we do must be relevant to AirAsia’s core business. So, naturally, a travel platform for ASEAN social enterprises and Destination: GOOD travel guides.