Private Equity Asia interviews AVPN CEO on venture philanthropy in Asia


September 27, 2012

Five Minutes With Simon Chadwick

Venture philanthropy asks private equity to use its skills to transform social organisations. It’s new in Asia, but membership in the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network is up to 111 members from 18 countries. Simon Chadwick, the chief executive of AVPN, discusses his work.

How does AVPN get Asian private equity firms, which are by definition for-profit, to go into projects that really have no profit?The Asian firms are interested in it because they want their firm as a whole, or their brand, to include those activities that are related to philanthropy. It doesn’t mean they stop being private equity, but as a firm they recognize that they do need to be investing in their community. And in the case of venture philanthropy, they can use the same skills that they apply in their regular profit-seeking activity, but with organisations that may not be seeking any profit and still need help. Some leading private equity firms in Asia have gone beyond this and have an internal charity committee, where they dedicated part of their profit to be used to support either social enterprise or philanthropic activities.But it’s harder here because many of the firms are younger, so they haven’t developed a significant track record. What we’re doing is we’re talking to people who are personally supportive of philanthropy, and encouraging them to also bring that into their firms.Have there been some Asian venture philanthropy success stories that you would like to see repeated?There are organisations that do venture philanthropy in Asia, but these are mostly organisations in areas related to education, healthcare and livelihood. I can give you a success story from India called Magic Bus, which was noticed very early on by an Indian venture philanthropy organisation called Dasra. Dasra saw the potential for the activities of this small non-profit that helps children, through sport, to have aspirations, build leadership and team skills, and then want to participate in the education system [Dasra brought in Indian private equity firm Impact Partners to help improve Magic Bus]. What is significant is that it was just a small program helping a few hundred children. Now every year, 200,000 children from deprived or difficult backgrounds are helped by Magic Bus, and therefore have the opportunity to be able to be financially independent.What is the most difficult part of your job in Asia specifically?There isn’t a long track record of venture philanthropy in Asia, so we’re trying to bring together the different groups that will build an ecosystem. And the most challenging part is encouraging people to involve themselves with their time and provide non-financial resources as well. Like private equity people to assist in the screening and the business plans and the strategy, and then to help people grow their organisations. It’s the development of professional volunteering as part of venture philanthropy that is the most difficult.There are already a lot of wealthy, successful companies and families, and they do have significant philanthropic funding available. But a missing ingredient is then to put that together with non-financial resources, people and organisations that can manage and deploy that money. But we already have [private equity] people coming to us saying “I’m interested”, so we’re hopeful that the momentum will build rapidly here.

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