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Social Enterprises Creating Waves of Impact in Malaysia

As Malaysia continues to tackle development challenges while simultaneously fighting the spread of Covid-19, burgeoning social enterprises continue to make headway in transforming lives and communities. The Malaysian government recognised the value and impact of social enterprises and their role in improving the nation’s socio-economic landscape and a RM10 million budget were allocated to this sector in Budget 2020[1]

Let’s take a closer look at the outputs and impacts of credible social enterprises in Malaysia that are building future leaders among marginalised communities through education, addressing climate change issues and providing employment to the underserved in Malaysia.

Ensuring Education For All

Despite the ever-evolving education system of the country, the results of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) indicate otherwise[2]. Social enterprises such as Teach for Malaysia and Arus Academy seek to improve the existing teaching environment, especially in underprivileged schools.

https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/living/2020/09/13/human-writes-malaysia039s-education-system-is-failing-young-dropouts
Source: The Star

Teach for Malaysia

Teach for Malaysia (TFM) was founded in 2010, with a sole mission to end educational inequity by recruiting, training, and supporting Fellows who encompass bright young minds of various qualifications to propel changes in the lives of their students. As of 2019, it was reported that at least 164,200 underserved students have been transformed throughout 175 B40 high-need schools[3]. The organisation continues to grow and in 2021, TFM was prepared to lend a hand to the Malaysian government addressing the recruitment and training of the 18,702 teacher shortage[4].

TFM teachers have changed the students into a new breed of students who are confident, courageous, and have high self-esteem. – YB Dr. Maszlee Malik, Former Minister of Education in Malaysia 

Arus Academy 

In the race to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a group of four Teach for Malaysia alumni sought to redefine the education landscape by providing introductory coding and programming courses in schools and learning centres nationwide. Arus Academy was established to inspire and educate students through experiential learning modules. This profit-making business apportions some of their course proceeds to enable them to host free courses at schools with low-income communities[5]. So far, Arus has impacted more than 2,200 students and 360 teachers trained. Arus is also the recipient of the British Council’s Entrepreneurs for Good Social Enterprise Award in 2015[6].

Combating climate change 

In 2019, it was estimated that our carbon emission and carbon intensity are above the global average of 20% per capita[7]. With the ongoing pandemic, global food security has been at the height of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s concern as at least 811 million global citizens were undernourished in 2020[8]. With these alarming statistics, we are observing more social enterprises in Malaysia focused on addressing the climate crisis.  

Biji-Biji Initiative

Biji-Biji Initiative is no longer a stranger to the social enterprise scene. They are seen as the pioneers in raising awareness and changing Malaysians’ perspectives on waste management and sustainability issues. Since their establishment in 2013,  they have impacted 22,175 people through their Bicycle Juicer initiative and at least 22,717 kgs of plastic waste have been given a new life. On top of that, Biji-Biji provides sustainability consultancy, their known ethical fashion brand, and founded a digital entrepreneur programme called Me.reka[9]

Their good work didn’t stop amidst the pandemic. Biji-Biji took part in Social Textile, a movement that provided 50,000 scrub sets at the start of the pandemic. The move benefitted tailors from the B40 communities by keeping the community at work at the height of a crisis[10].

green, vegetables
Source: Unsplash

Urban Hijau 

Urban Hijau was established by a group of students in 2015 with its starting point in Kampung Penchala. With a love for the environment and a desire to put permaculture into practice, these students envisioned an agricultural approach that utilises sustainable techniques to generate a self-sufficient environment[11]

Since then, they’ve cultivated at least 9 farms in Klang Valley[12]. With the rising demand for organic vegetables, Urban Hijau has trained 460 lay farmers to cultivate their own gardens to produce edibles and hopefully, reduce the expenditure on groceries. They have more than 250 active community and youth volunteers and since their establishment, they have processed over 50 tonnes of waste to be used as compost in urban gardens[13]. The future looks green as Urban Hijau plans to train more vulnerable groups as it may improve their lives by ensuring food security, better nutrition and lower household expenses in land-scarce urban areas[14].

We believe that everyone can help make a difference. We believe in the 10%. If only 10% of us start “producing” there will be abundance and enough for everyone. – Urban Hijau 

Improving the livelihood of the marginalised  

The vulnerable communities in Malaysia are spread out nationwide, ranging from the B40s to the marginalised communities such as the Orang Asli and refugees. The poverty rate in Malaysia shot up to 8.4% in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and economic slump[15]. The efforts to resolve this have been taken up by social enterprises such as Native, Masala Wheels and Earth Heir who pursue to improve the livelihood of the marginalised. 

Source: Business Today

Native 

Native was built on the friendship of the founder, Daniel Teoh and his Temuan friend, Faizul. His visit to the Temuan settlement at Kampung Sungai Lalang opened his eyes to the existing disparity in the society and the housing woes the community have suffered[16]. Together with the community, he formed community-based tourism that allows travellers to navigate through the untainted nature and culture of the Orang Asli. He was awarded with SIF’s Youth Social Entrepreneur Award in 2019,[17] and as of now, 30 members of the community have benefitted from this initiative through the part-time jobs provided[18].

Masala Wheels

The social enterprise entered the scene as the first social enterprise food truck in the country back in 2015[19]. Since then, it has manoeuvered the lives of at-risk youths by equipping them with F&B skills training along with providing actual work experience that involves how to run an F&B business[20]. Masala Wheels co-founded by Kuhan Pathy have won accolades and have stood the test of challenging times as they adapt to technological advancement with the creation of MobileFood.my, a marketplace for B40 communities to profile their economic initiatives. 

Source: Masala Wheels

More than 350 people have been empowered by Masala Wheels’ multi-platform and they have served more than 250,000 meals since their inception. There is more to come as they plan to expand outside of Klang Valley by rolling out a digital cloud kitchen to improve consistency and output[21]

A troubled young woman who joined [Masala Wheels] at 18, speaking barely a word of English, is now the operations manager. She has come so far that she’s even able to make funding pitches – in English. – A youth who benefitted from Masala Wheels’ endeavour[22]

Earth Heir 

Earth Heir, a Fair Trade certified enterprise ethically operates with the sole purpose of weaving a more sustainable livelihood among ethnic artisans. The inspiration behind its establishment stemmed from a conversation Sasibai Kimis, its founder, had with some village artisans in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. The weavers told Sasibai how middlemen were buying their products at extremely low prices and selling them at exorbitant rates to tourists. Exploitation was happening in broad daylight and the villagers could do nothing about it[23]

The team at Earth Heir is committed to serve traditional artisans in underserved communities by collaborating with them to procure raw materials, design beautiful products and produce them. In 2015, Earth Heir received a stimulus by the British Council Social Enterprise Award allowing them to scale their business[24]. Today, when you visit their website, you will be drawn by the artistry and delicate craftsmanship of handmade products such as woven bags and jewellery. The organisation has since transformed the livelihoods of over 500 traditional artisans from various states in Malaysia[25].

Explore Our Sources:

  1. Q. Tariq.(2019). Budget 2020 MaGIC gets RM 10mil to develop social enterprises. The Star.  Link
  2. R.Jeremiah. (2020). The problems with our local education system. Free Malaysia Today. Link
  3. Teach For Malaysia. Link
  4. Teach for Malaysia. (2021). Teach For Malaysia stands ready to support MOE to address the 18,702 teacher shortage. Malaysiakini. Link
  5. Arus Academy. Link
  6. British Council. (2015). “Entrepreneurs For Good” Social Enterprise Award – Wave 3. Link
  7. World Economic Forum. (2019). Insights from peer group analysis. Link
  8. World Health Organization. (2021). UN report: Pandemic year marked by spike in world hunger. Link
  9. Biji-Biji Initiative. Link
  10. J. Pybus. (2020). Pandemic pivoting: how Malaysia’s social enterprises are responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Pioneers Post. Link
  11. N. Khoo.(2019). Putting theory into practice – Urban Hijau. Edge Prop.  Link
  12. E. Fazaniza. (2020). Enthusiast starts urban farm cultivating crops using productive, environmentally- friendly methods. The Sun Daily. Link
  13. Urban Hijau. Link
  14. M. Yusof. (2019). Urban Hijau: Empowering the next generation with Permaculture in Malaysia. AMUST. Link
  15. FMT Reporters. (2021). Poverty rate shoots up to 8.4% in 2020. Free Malaysia Today. Link.
  16. E. Koshy. (2019). Native : A social enterprise featuring the Orang Aslis that’s powered by friendships! New Straits Times. Link
  17. Singapore International Foundation. (2019). Link
  18. Native. Link
  19. Masala Wheels. Link
  20. D.Wong. (2019). How Does A M’sian Social Enterprise Get Robots and AI Onto Its Food Truck Fleet. Vulcan Post. Link
  21. T.Jayatilaka. (2020). 2 Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs On Their New Year Wishes. Tatler Asia. Link
  22. C. Hong. (2019). Masala Wheels: From food truck to café, this Malaysian social enterprise helps troubled youths get back on track. Going Places. Link
  23. C. Santhinathan. (2021). 5 Malaysian Social Enterprises to Support This Eid. Airasia. Link
  24. S. Low. (2020). Earth Heir helps local artisans weave a living creating luxury Malaysian goods. The Star. Link
  25.  Earth Heir. Link

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