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Create economic value through social innovation—conference

News /18 November 2019

Over 130 business leaders, policymakers and social entrepreneurs convened at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok on 3 October for The Economist’s Social Innovation in Action Summit.

Participants gathered to discuss the future of social innovation in Asia, and whether the region can lead the way in providing data-driven and technology-based solutions to long-standing social issues. Case studies from across South East Asia were examined during the sessions and experts shared insights on managing a social innovation ecosystem, design thinking and using technology for social change. Charles Ross, Editorial Director for Thought Leadership Asia, The Economist Intelligence Unit; and Emerging Markets Editor Simon Cox moderated the panel discussions.

Investing in Women’s Impact Investing Director James Soukamneuth joined other finance and investment experts and thought leaders as one of the panel speakers for Creating a Social Innovation Ecosystem—a Joint Effort.


James ventured a working definition of social innovation: businesses becoming a force for good and moving beyond business as usual, particularly with impact investing. He also identified two types of social innovation grounded in organisational change: innovation in aid and development and process innovation.

Innovation in aid and development is a kind of social innovation that moves beyond traditional grant-making to embrace novel instruments towards social and/or environmental outcomes. It involves the process by which donors carry out overseas development assistance and utilises new sources of financing for development—potentially at scale.

Through process innovation, companies and investment firms create economic value and de-risk business activities by re-assessing their corporate cultures and organisational practices.

James discussed the importance of process innovation, particularly in efforts to convince private sector partners of the business case for investing in women, workplace gender equality, diversity and inclusion.

He pointed out that abstract ideas of social innovation can often be conflated with technological changes and advancements that reinforce shared value, linking company success with social progress. James, however, purposefully cautioned against technology for technology’s sake.

“At times, they can be solutions in search of problems—especially in the international development field. There are other, more straightforward, ways to realise social innovation,” he said.

Learn more about Impact Investing on the Investing in Women website.

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