More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia. The dynamism of Asian economies contributed greatly to the global economic recovery, simultaneously lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty. Societal transformation emerged partly thanks to inspiring initiatives which prove the strength of social innovation in Asia.
Yet, despite these gains, many Asian countries today are confronted with critical challenges that will determine whether they will continue on a sustainable path to prosperity or fall victim to economic stagnation, social unrest and political instability.
Among these challenges are widening income disparities, persistent poverty, widespread corruption and growing ethnic and religious conflicts.
Below are eight remarkable projects relating to social innovation in Asia:
Over one billion people in slums and villages worldwide lack safe, adequate roofing. Corrugated cement and metal sheets are the most widely used roofing materials in these communities all over the world, but they can generate adverse health effects and reduced quality of life. The only other option on the market is a concrete roof, which is simply unaffordable for low-income families.
ModRoof is a modular roofing system for slum and village homes in the developing world. The main component of the roofing system is panels that are custom-manufactured from packaging and agriculture waste.
To address the challenges of operating in the developing world, ReMaterials designed the roofing system to be modular, allowing for easy shipment, installation and the replacement of individual panels. With its fresh and colourful appearance, ModRoof is aesthetically appealing, making it a truly aspirational product.
One in 10 people in the world have no access to clean water. WateROAM’s three founders met as undergraduates on a water initiative programme at the National University of Singapore.
With a common passion to work for the greater good, they came together to build a water filtration system that can help rural communities with no access to clean water.
They called it the Fieldtrate Lite, which is made up of a membrane filter fixed to the base of a lightweight plastic bag. Upon graduation, the trio realised that the Fieldtrate Lite was more than just a water project; it was an innovation with the potential to improve many lives globally. This realisation led to the birth of a professionally run social enterprise that pursues and reaches communities deprived of clean water.
Freedom Cups aims to get reusable menstrual cups to women. They work on a buy-one, give-one scheme where every cup purchased allows them to give a cup to a woman in an underprivileged community.
This provides a win-win situation where women in the developed world decrease their use of non-biodegradable sanitary products, and women in developing communities gain access to proper sanitation during their periods.
Read more about the project here.
Over 4% of the world’s children die before their 5th birthday, and many of those surviving experience long-term health injuries. The vast majority of these deaths and injuries occur in low-resource parts of the world and are preventable (BEMPU. Simply saving lives, n.d.)
At BEMPU, they develop and deliver innovative products and services that save the lives of children in low-resource parts of the world. Their vision is for all children to have the chance to live full and healthy lives. The first product is a novel neonatal bracelet capable of detecting hypothermia and infection early in newborns, thereby preventing death and severe illness.
AESIR, registered under the HKCSS – HSBC Social Enterprise Directory, is among Asia’s Top 12 Social Enterprises and is a Global Top 500 Tech Startup. They deliver aesthetic visual design services and products to enrich learning, social connection and well-being.
They focus on creating games and interactive solutions for diverse groups of people with special needs using augmented reality and virtual reality technologies. AESIR’s games are award-winning learning tools, co-designed with health professionals, to support happy, healthy and productive minds for those with special needs to learn the life skills and positive habits they’ll need and also contribute to their health and personal development professionally and non-invasively.
BlindLink is a not-for-profit social enterprise providing employment, support and training opportunities for Vietnamese people with visual-impairments. They seek to realise the full potential of people with all forms of blindness so that they can be more productive, more self-reliant and gain self-esteem as they manoeuvre through daily life.
Their goals are to expand employment opportunities for the blind and visually-impaired, to broaden their massaging techniques, to help them better understand how to run a business, and to give them the chance to achieve a better life.
In addition to employment opportunities, they also offer outreach programmes to the blind and partially-sighted community at large, beyond their employees. Their programmes extend to students of all ages and offer them the chance to learn skills that will help them later in life to gain independence, self-respect and to feel comfortable interacting with others, and to think beyond their disability. The following programmes form the core of their multi-faceted plan: English Communication, Massage Therapy, Entrepreneurship Education, Living Skills and Free White Cane.
Evoware is a socially responsible enterprise that promotes an environmentally friendly lifestyle and provides innovative value to urban society. Through Evoware’s products, people evolve to be closer to nature and live a more responsible and sustainable life. Evoware is the eco-solution for plastic waste problems.
Their products are eco-friendly, biodegradable or even edible and healthy for the body, using seaweed as the raw material. Their impact is not only on the environment but also on the livelihood of seaweed farmers.
It turns out that with a few technological and process innovations, many high-value coconut products can be efficiently manufactured in a medium-sized factory while maintaining the same product quality as the mega-factories.
CocoAsenso is developing a network of medium-scale factories in remote areas of the Philippines where coconuts can easily be sourced directly from local farmers. This finally gives farmers an alternative to producing copra, but that’s not all.
Their deal with farmers is that if they sell them whole coconuts, they will give them a part-time job at the factory. This will increase the average farmer’s income from coconuts by 85%. Furthermore, the deep relationships they are building with local farmers will enable them to effectively work together to create thriving coconut farming communities where farmers have access to high-quality coconut seedlings, markets for crops planted between their trees, financial services and more.