The British Council Bangladesh, in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), organised the first ever Policy Dialogue on 'Social Enterprise: Policy and Practice' in Dhaka at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre from Wednesday 25 to Thursday 26 February.
The event brought together 100 policy experts and social enterprise and social investment intermediaries and practitioners from Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh and the UK, including organisations such as BRAC and Shujog as well as Social Enterprise UK. The strategic partners of the event were Hathay Bunao Bangladesh, mPower Social Enterprise Ltd, Betterstories ltd and Ashoka Bangladesh.
This event aimed to focus on how Bangladesh can harness the experience of other countries and develop a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for the government to support the sector’s rapid growth. This policy dialogue was a part of the British Council and the UK Government’s commitment to support social enterprise growth worldwide.
Dan Gregory, Director of Policy at Social Enterprise UK presented a keynote speech on lessons from the UK policy experience and Professor Durren Shahnaj, Founder and Managing Director of Shujog and IIX in Singapore presented key notes on how Bangladesh economy can take full advantage of the opportunities presented by Social Enterprise.
The policy dialogue was an opportunity to contribute to the development of a social enterprise policy framework in Bangladesh. It considered the contexts (economic, cultural, political) that have supported the development of the social enterprise sector in countries in East and South Asia and in the UK in recent years, creating an excellent platform for exchanging views and experiences, sharing best practices in social enterprise, and exploring their adaptation in Bangladesh. Additionally, the policy dialogue will help continue the development of a network of policy influencers, social entrepreneurs, academics and private sector enterprise specialists in East Asia, South Asia and the UK.
Mark Clayton, Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission in Bangladesh, and Rokia Afzal Rahman, President, Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (BFWE) were present as Special Guests.
The first day of the Policy Dialogue focused on the following areas:
- Advantages of the opportunities that Social Enterprise offers in the economy
- Policy support
- Social Enterprise in Higher Education
- Social Enterprise and Women Empowerment
The second day of the Dialogue began with panel discussions about investment opportunities and possibilities. Delegates and participants also shared stories of good practices, learnt from each other and created networking opportunities between the delegates from the UK, East and South Asian countries.
Bangladesh has been a global pioneer in social enterprise and we believe that the event was taking place at a pivotal moment for the country. Today there is a small but vibrant social enterprise movement in Dhaka and a relatively large amount of on-going social enterprise activity across the country, depicting a growth in entrepreneurship. This raises the need to create an enabling environment through legal and regulatory structures for social enterprises to be both sustainable and multiply. Therefore, we felt the need to engage all relevant stakeholders and facilitate a discussion on creating the right ecosystem.
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