From SF to Hong Kong, the PCV network finds new solutions to old problems

by Amelia Pentecost, 25 Apr 2014

A blogpost from our partner Pacific Community Ventures.


Pacific Community Ventures isn’t only about connecting entrepreneurs with capital and advising, nor is it only about partnering policy and best practices to support socially impactful businesses. PCV is about the network. The community that we’re creating across the globe is what makes our work possible. It’s the engine behind social change. Without our partners, across the country and abroad, our unique ecosystem of programs wouldn’t work to create jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurs in underserved communities.

I had the pleasure of speaking to one such partner last week – Hong Kong-based Asia Community Ventures. Co-Founders Ming Wong and Philo Alto are both former bankers in Hong Kong’s bustling financial scene, and wanted to do something different in exploring the intersection between investing and social enterprise. Philo describes wanting to change their life priorities “from success to significance.”

Ming and Philo connected with Annie Chen of RS Group and her advisor Jed Emerson and they began collaborating on EngageHK, a mapping exercise of Hong Kong’s social sector. EngageHK’s mission is to ensure that ideas and capital are efficiently allocated across all sectors, including academia, government, intermediaries, capital providers such as foundations and corporates and social purpose organizations such as non-profits and social enterprises.

Seeing the need for the financial world to understand the social sector in order to create positive change, and vice versa, Philo and Ming knew they wanted to continue their work. The two first became acquainted with PCV in 2010 at the inaugural IIPC Conference in Bellagio, Italy. Then, a short time later, Ming traveled to San Francisco with a group of colleagues to attend SOCAP and we reconnected at the PCV offices. After learning more about PCV’s unique ecosystem of programs, Philo and Ming embraced the concept and Asia Community Ventures was born. “We liked the ‘Pacific Community Ventures’ name and origin story,” says Ming, “It indicates that this is not just business as usual, and the organization is finding new solutions to old problems.”

And Asia Community Ventures is indeed finding solutions to old problems and is using PCV’s model – advising, financing, community building and impact measurement – to do so, although with a slight twist. Asia Community Ventures is working to connect social enterprises with potential funders, continually measuring their impacts, hosting events and conferences to foster collaboration across the field and setting up an advisory platform to assist charities and social enterprises to scale their organization and social impact.

While on the call, Philo shared an interesting analogy with me, which aptly describes the issues that both Asia Community Ventures and PCV are trying to solve. He says that he thinks of the space as a garden – the plants represent the social enterprises that need help to scale and the hose represents resources needed for those plants to thrive. However, there are kinks in this hose, which are stopping the flow of resources to the social issues (government legislation, gaps in knowledge, cultural mindset differences). What Asia Community Ventures and PCV are trying to do is to clear those blockages, one at a time. Philo and Ming will admit that the process can be slow, but they are seeing the changes happening right in front of them. “Initially social enterprises are skeptical of us,” the Co-Founders say, “But as they talk to funders and hear about our background, we see the gap in mindset closing. By earning the trust and acceptance of key players on each side of the equation, we’re creating cohesion in the field that just wasn’t there before.”

It is this changing mindset, this acceptance, that Philo and Ming agree is one of their greatest accomplishments to date. “The people and companies that we work with are in silos, and having them see the other side is a great success,” they say. And what’s next? “Continuing to develop the field of impact investing in Hong Kong and proving the value of our work,” says Ming.

We are inspired by organizations like Asia Community Ventures, and feel very honored to work with them to achieve our collective goals. To learn more about Asia Community Ventures and their work, please visit their website or check out their latest report.