Magazine menu

Thu, Jul

Issue 57 | Asia 2019: A Dynamic Social Innovation Ecosystem

Current Edition

Dear Reader,

See others as yourself. See families as your family. See towns as your town. See countries as your country. See worlds as your world.

-Lao Tzu

Today, we are releasing the latest edition of the Social Innovations Journal, Edition 57: “Asia 2019: A Dynamic Social Innovation Ecosystem,” curated by the Journal’s International Director Alejandra Navas that features social innovators from across Asia. These innovators are reenvisioning societal issues and finding ways to work collaboratively with communities, partner organizations, government, for-profit business, and academia to uncover solutions to the challenges that too often divide us. According to the United Nations, there are 48 countries in Asia and the harsh reality of poverty is felt across these geographic boundaries. In response to the crippling poverty across the continent exacerbated by the rise in climate concerns, dwindling resources, growing populations of elderly, health care inequality, mass urbanization, and more, Asia is a fertile ground for social innovation to take root.

According to the Asian Development Bank, the Asia and Pacific regions have the largest number of poor citizens with 63 percent of the world’s poor living in this area in 2008. Social entrepreneurs across Asia view these challenges as opportunities to disrupt the status quo in order to grow social innovation as not only a response but a sustainable solution to eradicate these issues. Through information, knowledge, financial resources, and technology -- Asia’s social engineers are changing the trajectory of the region by promoting a dynamic social innovation ecosystem that will provide answers to the communities’ problems that these innovators have embraced as their own opportunities.

Social innovation is leveraged to tackle unmet social needs that oftentimes government cannot solve independently -- an out-of-the-box approach to solve societal problems across Asia is not only innovative, it is critical.

The Hope Institute research team, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, investigated how social innovation practices have been put into effect in Asian countries and how they have influenced its societies.[i] This research strongly supports the core principle that “social innovation is neither context-free nor value-neutral”.[ii]

Despite, growth across Asia, not all people have reaped the benefits and social innovation is responding to this by redistributing resources, providing access to quality health care, improving educational opportunities, among other key initiatives. Social innovation has a pivotal role in creating a more robust and dynamic Asia for all people today, tomorrow, and generations to come. 

The articles highlighted in this edition came as part of Alejandra’s tireless efforts to identify edge social innovations that best demonstrate the dedication that Asia’s social innovators bring to meet the challenges of the region by not only embracing the community and its issues but also through empowering the communities as part of the long-term solutions. We hope that you are inspired by the work and commitment of the authors featured in this edition and that you continue to embrace communities in need as your own. The issues found in this edition are our shared challenges; we ask that you seek to become part of the collective solution.

Yours in innovation and change,

Nicholas Torres and Tine Hanson-Turton, Co-founders
Alejandra Navas, International Director

Mike Clark, President and Alescia Dingle, Managing Editor

Article Summaries 

Light Be: Redefining Urban Poverty Alleviation with Innovations in Social Housing

By Lehui Liang

Hong Kong is well-known globally for being the most expensive housing market. Encapsulated in unaffordable housing are the plethora of socioeconomic issues such as domestic abuse, social isolation, and a lack of opportunities for upward mobility, to name a few -- all of which entrap local families in a vicious cycle of urban poverty. In the face of this seemingly unsolvable conundrum lies the belief of Ricky Yu, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Light Be, that every Hong Konger deserves the dignity of decent living and a chance to uplift themselves. Starting as an “outsider” to Hong Kong’s real estate and social welfare circles, Light Be pioneered the concept of “social realty.”


Samatoa: Weaving A Lasting Connection and Empowering the Search For Excellence

By Awen Delaval

Samatoa is a social textile enterprise focusing on the values of fair trade and sustainable development to create an alternative to the textile industry. Creating the greenest and most innovative textile in the world, Samatoa was recognized in 2012 by the UNESCO Prize for Excellence. The lotus fabric enables the creation of a workshop of 30 people with exceptional know how. The fabrics are innovative, 100 percent ecological, spun and woven by hand, and follow traditional Cambodian methods giving them a special texture and unique properties. From these exclusive materials Samatoa develops different patterns and high-quality scarves bringing a new way for Cambodian women to empower themselves, “get out of the mud” and blossom, just like the lotus flower, that Samatoa’s textiles are created using.


Sense Innovations: We listen to Eyeses

By Jane Lee and Stanley Fu 

Stanley Fu, the COO of Sense Innovations, is an example of someone who took a life passion and used it to make a positive impact on those with special needs as part of his vision that has empowered more than 600 individuals today. It is an unfortunate reality that while there are opportunities for the special needs population to be assisted and supported, there are not many opportunities for them to further their potential to do more. With eye-tracking technology and dedicated one-on-one training programs, individuals with disabilities are provided with new avenues of learning and communication methods to truly maximize their potential. This article sheds light on the vision of Sense Innovation, the progress they have made, and where they plan to go from here by listening to eyes.  


When Psychology Meets Technology: An Innovative Approach

By Isabel Li

Like in other developed countries, mental health is one of the major concerns for overburdened citizens in Hong Kong. In 2016, the Hospital Authority in Hong Kong published a “Mental Health Review Report” (2), in which it was estimated that about 1.7 million out of eight million citizens in Hong Kong have different levels of mental illnesses. TheraTalk is a multi-disciplinary initiative with experts in psychology and counseling, counseling research, marketing and business, start-ups, technology, and design that facilitates the technology-based mental health services provision in Hong Kong. By featuring a variety of online counseling services, including free mental health screening and consultation, one-off psychological consultations, periodical text-based counseling and regular text-based counseling services at the initial stage, TheraTalk is destigmatizing mental health issues and bringing help to people where they are.  


Glasgow Caledonian University: The Dictatorship of No Alternative

By Mark Anderson

Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland has become increasingly recognized as a leader in the  field of social innovation for its pioneering work in embedding international social innovation networks in universities. The Southeast Asian Social Innovation Network (SEASIN) ( has been established between eight HEIs in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Cambodia along with four non-HEI social innovation organizations and three European universities. The approach argues that universities should support social innovation in a systematic way beyond ad hoc initiatives and sporadic activism. All of these projects seek to demonstrate the potential of universities to use their knowledge by developing new paradigms and tools for targeted exchange between actors from all sectors of society. At the same time, they have demonstrated how universities can learn from other organizations with experience in the field to further support social innovation.  


Zunosaki: Improving Quality Of Life Of Disabled

By Alvin Cheung

Zunosaki Limited, established in 2015, is a Hong Kong based robotic technology venture founded on the mission of tackling health care accessibility while improving the quality of life of disabled people. The start-up empowers community health care service providers with affordable solutions through the design and development of affordable robotic products for physical rehabilitation.


Peek Me Naturals: Impacting Health Paradigms

By Arlin Chondro

Founded in 2016, Peek.Me Naturals is a health care social enterprise in Indonesia. This innovative disruptor didn't start with the founder's degree in medicine or public health, instead it began close to home, from her search to provide a better remedy for her son suffering with asthma. After finding that aromatherapy worked for her son and also reduced her household's health care spending, Peek.Me Naturals’ founder wanted to share this information with all Indonesian people and the world to improve their quality of life and change their health paradigm.