The One Launching Asia Community Ventures

by Ming Wong, 12 Mar 2013
Asia Community Ventures - the first Rockefeller Foundation-supported Hong Kong-based non-profit organization launches today 
Selects Hong Kong as pilot to promote impact investing as an approach to solving social and environmental issues 

Incorporated in September of last year, the Hong Kong-based not-for-profit organization Asia Community Ventures (“ACV”) celebrates its official launch on 13 March 2013.

Messrs. Philo Alto and Ming Wong, the two co-founders of ACV, first worked together as co-conveners of EngageHK, a community initiative to map the social ecosystem in Hong Kong. This project, funded by Hong Kong-based family office RS Group, seeks to identify and bring together a broad range of stakeholder groups, including the Hong Kong government, private sector, non-profits and social enterprises, universities and students, foundations, and various intermediaries involved in impact investing and social entrepreneurship.

The EngageHK initiative lies at the core of ACV’s mission, which is to promote collaboration among key players in the social sector ecosystem across Asia. Wong and Alto believes that Hong Kong, as an international financial and investment hub, stands ready to contribute to the global trend of impact investing and serves as an ideal pilot ground to facilitate exchange of ideas and capital to support impact investing activities in Asia.

Impact investing, defined as investments intended to create positive social impact beyond financial return, has become an increasingly popular concept globally. This investing approach is in line with the growing support for the use of “blended value” as a more integrated way to measure the total return (financial, social and environmental) of an investment. These ideals contrast with the traditional bifurcation of responsibilities between profit-making corporations vs. do-good charities. “The status quo of government, private sector and civil society working separately in their respective silos to address social problems must come to an end, ” said Alto. “We cannot assume what has worked well in the past will still be effective in addressing current and future social problems.“

While impact investing is still emerging from its infancy, especially in the region, Wong and Alto believes there is a strong need to foster an enabling policy environment and to promote collaboration among key players in the social ecosystem. Wong explains the work of ACV with a simple analogy, “We build the roads and create the road maps so that both entrepreneurs and investors alike can drive to their intended destinations in the most efficient manner. “

Rockefeller Foundation, one of America’s oldest private foundations which recently celebrated its centennial anniversary, has provided grant funding to ACV (the first Hong Kong-based non-profit organization to receive such support) to expand on its EngageHK initiative to study the policy frameworks necessary to build an ecosystem for promoting social enterprises, catalyze demand for and supply of impact investment capital for enterprises and intermediaries serving poor or vulnerable populations in Hong Kong.

The latest project resulting from this partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation is the East and Southeast Asia Impact Investing Forum to be held at the University of Hong Kong on 14 – 15 March, 2013. The forum is the first of its kind to be held in Hong Kong and is the third of a four-city series that also involves Sao Paolo, Bangalore and Cape Town. This two-day event is expected to attract close to 300 leading practitioners, thought leaders, and policy-makers in the impact investing and social entrepreneurship space.

The launch of ACV comes at an opportune time as the Hong Kong government is also exploring new and innovative ways to address the city’s many social issues, as evidenced by the recently announced HK$500 million Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund. The Chairman of the Task Force overseeing this proposed fund, Professor Stephen Cheung, will be delivering the keynote address at the above-mentioned Impact Investing Forum on 14 March, 2013.