Asia is facing simultaneously huge growth potential and increasing inequalities with often weak national solutions to the social issues at hand. Social purpose organisations (SPOs) – which includes but is not limited to non-profit organisations, charities and social enterprises – are seen to solve these issues sustainably. Social incubation is seen as a tool to help SPOs grow and potentially build a pipeline for social investors. Yet, how does social incubation in Asia work?
These are the first insights from surveying 15 social incubators in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore which existed for at least two years.
So are they effective? The strongest indicator was that seven out of ten incubators report that their graduating SPOs have progressed by at least one to three stages from entry to the incubator.
The incubator’s Operating Dependencies
- Effective incubation tends to be indicated by selectiveness of the incubator, success of the social organisations in securing follow-on funding and the graduates’ sustainability.
- Selectiveness allows the incubator to focus on the potentially more successful SPOs. In our sample, 22.4% of applications are selected on average, similar to social incubator peers (21%).
- Follow-on funding for SPOs after graduation is critical for SPOs’ sustainability and survival. In the 15 incubators, on average 47% of graduate social organisations secure follow-on funding. Data for sustainability after 2 years and beyond however is not available.
- Another critical ingredient for the incubator effectiveness is the extent of their networks. The incubators in the study had strong, diverse and local or regional networks.
The Incubation Programmes
- Regarding the programme and services provided, the intensity, length and content is critical for the success of the incubatees.
- Most common content provided was business skills while the least provided support was impact measurement.
- Graduation from the programme occurred either on a performance or time-bound basis.
- Mentorship and diversity of mentorship was key to incubatees’ success: the sample of incubators had on average 24 mentors and 13 full-time staff and had a diverse set of professions and backgrounds to cater to diverse needs of incubatees.