Have you “social enterprised” today?

It is another new day. You put on your reasonably priced WILDGREEN t-shirt to get ready for work. Made from organic cotton with no pesticides or dyes, wearing this t-shirt is naturally zero-burden to the planet, and can even help protect the environment. Before you leave your home, you reserve a seat for your grandfather, who has recently sprained his ankle, on Duofu’s Rehabus shuttle, which allows temporarily immobile elderly people to return to the hospital for routine diabetes visits before meeting friends on Tamsui’s Old Street. With the help of the shuttle service, immobile people can now fulfill their need for mobility and do not need to be bored at home all day.
WILDGREEN organic cotton clothing. Source: Social Enterprise Insights / Duofu shuttle bus. Source: Duofu Care & Services
At midday, you go to Enjoy Taipei Restaurant for lunch, where all wait staff are mentally or physically challenged. The Victory Potential Development Centre for the Disabled is responsible for the operations of this restaurant, and has created a friendly working environment here, with each staff member prepared well in all the service tasks of seating guests, taking orders, finalising bills and cleaning up through training and guidance that lasts several months. The restaurant facilities have also been redesigned, from lowering the height of the bar to sticking operating instructions next to the cash register, in the hope of developing the potential of disabled people and providing them with employment opportunities.
The operations managed by Victory Potential are diverse, including (top left) the Victory Petrol Station, (bottom left) Enjoy Taipei Restaurant, (top right) Victory FamilyMart, and (bottom right) the Victory Data Entry Centre. Source: Victory Potential Development Centre for the Disable
After eating your fill, you go browse Okogreen’s fair trade supermarket. The coffee beans and handicrafts here come from producers in developing countries. These producers work with purchasers who follow fair trade mechanisms that secure work with stable pay and expenses, as well as allow children to go to school. In addition, a fixed proportion of every dollar earned from the sales of fair trade goods is placed in a subsidy fund, which might be used to help Indian women unite to form trade unions, or might be used to help reduce child labour in Cuba.
Fair trade market. Source: UD
In the afternoon, you participate in an operational meeting at your company, where colleagues suggest utilising corporate social responsibility (CSR) resources to support organisations that use commercial power for community improvement. For example, Lien Hwa Industrial provides manufacturing technology in its cooperation with Rejoice Community Supported Agriculture Group to revitalise local wheat production, and DBS Bank’s provision of concessional loans has supported Aurora Social Enterprise in setting up the Manna Social Enterprise Café, which uses organic produce grown by indigenous Alishan farmers to create healthy and delicious cuisine for those who live in the city.
Wheat produced by Rejoice to make bread. Source: Rejoice Community Supported Agriculture Group / The opening of Manna Social Enterprise Café at Fu Jen Catholic University. Source: Aurora Social Enterprise
On the way home from work, you see a familiar orange vest next to the MRT station and go buy the latest issue of The Big Issue from the once-homeless vendor. Not purchasable from general convenience stores, this monthly magazine not only helps you become well-read in diverse news about global current affairs, business, design, etc, but also puts the concept of “buy instead of donate” into practice, helping homeless people retrieve autonomy in their life.
Group photo of street vendors. Source: The Big Issue
After returning home, you discover the fresh produce you ordered from Farm Direct this morning has already been delivered. This virtual farmers’ market provides farm products to customers who live within a 30 kilometres’ radius. Not only can you trace the products provided by the producers, but Farm Direct also spends a lot of energy putting together menus. You have bought ingredients to make “fragrant ginger meat and fried mushrooms”, so why not have a go at showing off your cooking!
Official website of Farm Direct
Before going to sleep, you remember that you have not yet arranged this year’s holiday. In the past, you decided to register for volunteer travel through ELIV International in order to experience a different world, and to increase your understanding of and connection with our global village.
ELIV International building a house overseas with the help of a relay of volunteers. Source: ELIV International
In Taiwan, organisations such as these that use innovation and the spirit of industry to improve society, that do not rely on subsidies and that do not exploit people’s compassion are generally called “social enterprises”. They cover food, clothing, housing, travel and other areas, and hope to bring a shared, bright future to the land of Taiwan. Social enterprises are not just about a bunch of operational figures, and nor do they just concern esoteric policies. Instead, they are about the beautiful stories of the value of people and land in all of our lives. You are welcome to slow down your pace of life to explore and appreciate even more of the organisations that hold the spirit of social enterprise in Taiwan.
Most of Taiwan’s social enterprises aim to improve agricultural development and empower vulnerable groups. From enterprises like Okogreen, Duofu Care & Services and ELIV International, to student groups that host in-depth discussions about social enterprises, to those who have climbed the international stage to be announced winners of social enterprise competitions, a new generation of young faces is becoming involved in social innovation and an important force behind social entrepreneurship. The supporters who have provided all sorts of resources in contribution to these developments are also extremely important, including:
2006 – National Chengchi University Professor Ping-Der Huang’s establishment of the Social Enterprise Development Association
2007 – Fu Jen Catholic University’s establishment of its Social Enterprise Research Centre
2007 – Steve Chang and Tom Wang’s establishment of Taiwan’s first social enterprise venture Flow Inc.
2007 – The first social enterprise business competition to be held by Flow Inc.
2010 – The founding of the Taiwan Social Enterprise Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society
2010 – The first Social Enterprise Conference to be held by Fu Jen Catholic University
2011 – The first student group concerned with social enterprises to be established at National Taiwan University
2011 – Ray Chen and Shu-ren Duan’s establishment of Living Water Social Ventures
2011 – The Vocational Training Bureau’s establishment of the Office of Socio-Economic Development, OSED (later called the Workforce Development Agency, MOL).
2012 – The first social enterprise information exchange platform Social Enterprise Insights to go online
2013 – The establishment of a master’s program in social enterprises at Fu Jen Catholic University
2013 – The draft “Public Benefit Corporation Law”, which brought attention to social enterprise policy
Social enterprises are formed from the unique spirit of small and medium enterprises. They at once take into account the challenges of public welfare and profitability, subvert the traditional concept that corporations have to maximise their scale, and have been enabled by crowdfunding, all of which has changed the “rules of the game”. Integration with technology, community and the global village has become a particular focus of this field. The articles that follow will continue to introduce this trend. Please keep reading.
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