13 episodes

Social Innovation Asia is dedicated to creating dialogue and supporting the social innovation ecosystem across Asia. Through the podcast, we provide a voice to organisations and individuals who are creating impact in small and large ways, and people who can provide fresh insight into the forces of change across the region. The podcast is produced with the support of the School of Global Studies at Thammasat University.

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    • Society & Culture

Social Innovation Asia is dedicated to creating dialogue and supporting the social innovation ecosystem across Asia. Through the podcast, we provide a voice to organisations and individuals who are creating impact in small and large ways, and people who can provide fresh insight into the forces of change across the region. The podcast is produced with the support of the School of Global Studies at Thammasat University.

    Sovan Srun & Meas Sak Pheng of Edemy: The Startupper of the Year and Top Female Entrepreneur

    Sovan Srun & Meas Sak Pheng of Edemy: The Startupper of the Year and Top Female Entrepreneur

    Sovan Srun and Meas Sak Pheng join the series on social innovation in Cambodia to discuss Edemy, their award-winning social enterprise. The Tesdopi learning app developed by Edemy recently won the Cambodia Total Startupper of the Year award and Sovan Srun won the Top Female Entrepreneur Award.   

    After returning from the USA where they were Fullbright scholars, they turned to develop Edemy, which has the mission of equalizing “access to quality learning for everyone everywhere." To achieve this mission they combine their expertise in "education and technology to create a holistic learning experience".  

    They launched Edemy in early 2017 and joined the EPIC Incubation Program by Development Innovations, a USAID funded project. The EPIC Incubation program provided funding, mentoring and business training for Edemy to grow. Since then, they have gone on to create a range of projects that are transforming the experience of education for thousands of young Cambodians. These projects have included a Blended English Program and Learning Labs for rural schools. 

    Their latest creation is the Tesdopi app, which Sovan describes as a Fitbit for learning. Having lived through the trauma of preparing for university entrance exams in Cambodia, Sovan and Meas Sak were well aware of many of the problems faced by students. But they dived deeper and sought to understand why so many students were failing to achieve their goals. Among multiple challenges, they found that one critical but addressable problem was that students had no means of monitoring their exam preparation progress. So, they developed the Tesdopi app which diagnoses the strengths and weaknesses of students. It then provides learning videos for students to work on their weaknesses and generates a report which students can share with their teachers to optimize support. 

    The conversation with Sovan and Meas Sak covers a range of other topics including their experience studying in the USA, leveraging technology to deliver education in rural Cambodia and their efforts to inspire and expand the world of young Cambodians. 

    • 38 min
    Channé Suy Lan of InSTEDD: Designing Tech Solutions to Detect Diseases and Support Development in Cambodia

    Channé Suy Lan of InSTEDD: Designing Tech Solutions to Detect Diseases and Support Development in Cambodia

    As part of our series on social innovation in Cambodia, we talk to Channé Suy Lan the Managing Director of InSTEDD's Southeast Asia iLab in Phnom Penh. InSTEDD stands for Innovative Support to Emergency Diseases and Disasters. It was founded by Larry Brilliant, who while working with a team to eliminate smallpox in India envisioned how technology could play a vital role in early disease detection and response. In 2006 he presented his vision in a TedTalk, which won the year's TED Prize and he used the prize money to launch InSTEDD. In 2008 they opened InSTEDD’s first iLab in Phnom Penh to spearhead innovations in Southeast Asia with the support of Google.Org and the Rockefeller Foundation. 

    Channé Suy Lan joined the iLab when it was launched and has since experienced first-hand the evolution in digital technologies. According to Channé, SMS was central to many of the technological solutions they developed in the early years of iLab but now the internet is widespread and also cheaper. However, she emphasizes the importance of recognizing how many new internet users are not exposed to the internet beyond Facebook. 

    During its 10 years, InSTEDD's iLab in Cambodia has been involved in many projects from creating a malaria surveillance system to supporting remote printing for HIV lab results. One of the latest and most impactful projects is the 115 Hotzone Disease Reporting and Information Hotline. Working closely with Skoll Global Threats Fund and the Cambodia Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Department, they launched the automated hotline in January 2016. The hotline is designed as a medium to report infectious diseases before they spread and is used by 1000 health centres around the country.  

    Members of the public are also encouraged to use the hotline. They are directed to a menu that allows them to access information on diseases or report potential outbreaks in their community. For example, a farmer reported his chicken dying abnormally via the hotline, which allowed government officials to recognise a case of H5N1. Channé explains, "The farmer made a phone call using the system and it immediately alerted the top national officials in the Ministry of Health.”

    Channe goes on to discuss iLab's ICT4D Solution Incubator Initiative, which is supported by SPIDER. It aims to empower Cambodia-based development actors to integrate ICTs in their programs for maximum social impact. One project Channe illustrates is with the KAPE, an NGO that focuses on improving education outcomes in Cambodia. Together with the KAPE, they are developing interactive Khmer reading and writing learning apps for use on tablet computers that are shared in school libraries. 

    The conversation concludes with Channe discussing the importance of projects and solutions being owned by government service providers. “In every place that we do our projects, we are trying to engage the government and the ministry because the goal is to have them own it.”

    • 31 min
    Thavry Thon: Challenging Norms and Inspiring Change through Books in Cambodia

    Thavry Thon: Challenging Norms and Inspiring Change through Books in Cambodia

    In this episode, we are joined by Thavry Thon for an inspiring talk about education, literature and social change in Cambodia. Thavry is the author of several children books and a Proper Woman. She is also the co-Founder of Seavphovjivet, a publishing house dedicated to supporting Cambodian authors and inspiring young people through literature. Thavry also tours the country speaking to young people about the value of education and taking control of their destiny.   

    The conversation begins with Thavry discussing the influence of her parents. She explains, “my parents believed in education, and told us it was the ticket to a better life." Other friends would quit school at grade 9 or 8 and go to work at garment factories and earn $80 to $100 per month but Thavry's parents had a different strategy: “They invested in the long term education of their children in the hope that their children would have a better life than they have”. Thavry reflects on the sacrifices her parents made. "People talked about her [Thavry's mother] behind her back for being foolish," but after seeing Thavry and her brother's success, their perspective towards education and her parents changed. Now they are see them as "successful parents who raised their children well."

    Empowered by her parents, she started the journey towards becoming an author and founding a publishing house. Along the way, she was granted a scholarship to study in the Czech Republic and wrote two children's books through the Room to Read program. Eventually, she turned to writing books for young adults, including  A Proper Woman, which is an autobiographical account of challenging her country's social and cultural norms about being a woman.  

    When she went to publish a Proper Woman, she "found it difficult and frustrating dealing with many of the publishing firms and book shops, and felt there had to be a better way." So, she turned to learning how to publish herself and joined forces with other writers to create a Seavphovjivet Publishing. 

    Together they hope to reinvigorate the publishing industry in Cambodia and support the love of reading across the country. There is a perception that people don't like to read in but according Thavry “readers don’t want to read because they cannot find good books to read.” Part of the problem is publishing firms don’t give enough support to authors. Seavphovjivet is on a mission to change that. "We know what writers feel like because we are writers too. We want to treat them fairly”, Thavry explains. Based on their approach, they were able to entice one of Cambodia's favourite authors Mao Samnang back to writing novels after nearly a decade long hiatus. 

    Thavry’s mission is to inspire young Cambodians so she regularly travels the country speaking at schools and  shares her story and the message that "it doesn’t matter where you are from, your destiny is your own. You design your own destiny."

    Photo Credit: Eldon Lee JinHu

    • 36 min
    Tara Dermott of IOM X: Changing Attitudes & Impacting Lives for Migrants

    Tara Dermott of IOM X: Changing Attitudes & Impacting Lives for Migrants

    Michael Waitze talks to Tara Dermott about how IOM X is using media to support safe migration experiences and stop trafficking and the exploitation of the vulnerable. 

    Originally from the USA, Tara Dermott moved to Thailand as a Peace Corp volunteer 14 years ago. Stationed in the Northeast of Thailand near the Cambodian border, Tara learned about issues related to migration, leading her to work at IOM X as the program leader. 

    IOMX is an off-shoot IOM (International Organisation for Migration), which is the UN’s migration agency dedicated to humane and orderly migration, providing services and advice to both governments and migrants. In partnership with USAID, IOM X creates innovative campaigns to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking.

    One of the problems is, according to Tara, people tend to deny the existence of such migrant exploitation where they live. Its treated as someone else’s problem, so IOM X works to demonstrate what human trafficking and exploitation actually look like. 

    She explains the approach of IOM X and how it uses Communication for Development (C4D), which draws on the fields of sociology, psychology, communication, and marketing to impact attitudes and behaviours.

    Young people are moving away from traditional media yet are the main targets of trafficking and the most likely to engage in migration, so IOM X studies how their target audience is engaging with new media and then develops campaigns aligned with their online behaviour.

    The organization has made a vast range of short videos related to exploitation, trafficking, the fair treatment of migrant workers and safe migration that are circulated across social media platforms such as Youtube and Facebook. Storytelling and drama, Tara explains, is a powerful medium to engage, inspire and influence the attitudes and behaviour of their target audience. One video went viral and raked in over 170 million views.

    Target countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are in the top 10 countries of most time spent online - often on sites like YouTube, but cutting through the noise on the internet and social media noise is a challenge, so IOMX partnered with Google Thailand to identify and work with Youtube stars to empower young Thais to understand exploitation in the manufacturing sector and make more informed consumer decisions.

    Based on IOMX’s immense experiences in deploying communication for behavioural and social change, they have developed a resource portal for educators, students and practitioners seeking to used C4D to support migrants and address other pressing social issues.

    You can access IOM X’s resources here:  https://iomx.iom.int/resources 

    • 40 min
    Pinnapa Satitpatanapan: The State of Impact Investing in the US & Thailand

    Pinnapa Satitpatanapan: The State of Impact Investing in the US & Thailand

    Just before Pinnapa Satitpatanapan headed to Manila for a position at the Asia Development Bank, Michael Waitze caught up with her to discuss her experience studying at Yale, her passion for impact investing and how it can grow in Thailand.   

    Pinnapa did a Bachelor of Business Administration at Thammasat Univesity before gaining experience in the investment banking unit of Bangkok Bank and a Thai real estate developer. She then headed to the US to an MBA the Yale School of Management.

    While her BBA at Thammasat prepared her well, Yale posed new challenges, particularly the dynamic classroom discussions and the mountains of readings for each class. The most valuable lesson she gained at Yale, she says, was on how to prioritize and manage time effectively. 

    A pivotal experience during her MBA was taking the School of Management's Global Social Entrepreneurship course, which has students team up with mission-driven social enterprises in India. She found herself supporting an enterprise called Onergy who deliver solar energy solutions to farmers, helping them engage in organic farming practices and linking them to buyers through an e-commerce platform. Inspired by the passion, hard work and can-do attitude of the people at Onergy in India, Pinnapa asked herself how she could use her skills to make a difference in the world. She turned to social impact investing, which was unfamiliar to her before arriving at Yale. 

    After graduating from Yale, she landed an internship and then a full-time position at Calvert Impact Capital. On returning to Thailand she discovered a dearth of knowledge on impact investing. While impact investing has gone mainstream in the USA, very few people in Thailand are aware of it as an investment option. 

    But awareness is not the only challenge the sector faces, Pinnapa points out. In the US, impact investors utilize standardized metrics to report on the impact of investments and funds. For instance, at Calvert Impact Capital they use IRIS metrics managed by the Global Impact Investing Network.  However, social enterprises in Thailand have been reluctant to adopt measurement practices due to a number of reasons. They are either too focused on getting up and running or lack the resources and capabilities to measure their impact. So, Pinnapa recommends that supporting institutions like the UNDP and universities should focus on improving the capacity of social enterprises to use existing metrics and frameworks to measure impact. After all, investors need to able to see impact goals and progress to those goals.

    Pinnapa is now settling into life in Manila at the Asia Development Bank where she is excited to learn how infrastructure projects impact people's lives on a large scale. We look forward to connecting to Pinnapa again and hearing more about her work at the ADB.

    • 28 min
    Aung Thura: Myanmar's Rapidly Changing New Media Landscape

    Aung Thura: Myanmar's Rapidly Changing New Media Landscape

    To kick off the Social Innovation Asia series on new media in Asia, Michael Waitze and Daniel McFarlane talk to Aung Thura about Myanmar’s rapidly changing mobile media landscape. Aung is the Chief Strategist at Ignite Marketing Communications. With a team of researchers around the country, he is in an ideal position to provide insight into the rapidly changing media landscape. 

    A pivotal year for Myanmar was 2013 when the telecommunications’ market was liberalised. In the past, SIM cards could cost a staggering $2000-$3000 USD, but after liberalisation of the market, SIM card prices dropped and mobile phone ownership rose. In 2014, Ooredoo from Qatar arrived and their sim cards were a mere $1.50. Soon after, Telenor from Norway joined the market and KDDI of Japan signed a joint venture with MPT (Myanmar Posts and Telecommunication), the incumbent local operator. 

    According to Aung, the new arrivals faced tough competition as MPT had the majority of the towers and an established audience, while Ooredoo and Telenor had to start from scratch. Myanmar now has 54 million sim cards for a population of 52 million people. When it comes to market share, MPT is still the market leader with 22-23 million subscribers and is followed closely by Telenor with around 20 million and then Ooredoo with  9 or 10 million.

    Six months ago Mytel arrived on the scene. It is is a joint venture between the Myanmar military and Viettel, a telecommunications company owned and operated by the Vietnamese military that has a strong market position in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and has expanded globally. They claim to already have 2 to 3 million subscribers. Mytel, Aung suggests, are somewhat aggressive, “They are in your face. They stand out.” Their growth is accelerated by offering services the others don’t, such as streaming the English Premier League to the football-mad people of Myanmar.

    Aung estimates that 80% of phones in the market are smartphones, especially Android devices thanks to affordable Chinese brands. These devices are providing many people with their first experience of the internet and that experience is often dominated by Facebook. “Some people even think that Facebook is the internet,” Aung explains. After Facebook, messaging apps rule with the most popular being Viber, owned by Rakuten. 

    Even with the rapid developments in infrastructure and mobile adoption, there are still many challenges. The geographic makeup of Myanmar consists of numerous mountain ranges, causing considerable network coverage difficulties. Around 135 languages or dialects are spoken across the country and it is taking time to develop enough local language content. Another challenge is the use of fonts. While Unicode has been adopted globally, Aung explains, “in Myanmar, we have our own homegrown font system called Zawgyi which 80% of websites use.” The debate between the Unicode and Zawgi camps can be fierce and until it

    • 31 min

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