Executive Summary

Social entrepreneurs work for the good of all. However, advancing their work is only possible with an inclusive and sustainable economy. This report deep dives into the landscape of social entrepreneurship, with a focus on women social entrepreneurs in ASEAN, to inform key stakeholders on what next steps to take towards the global gender equality movement.

Men and Women Social Entrepreneurs Are Not That Different

Both Genders Focus on Similar Sustainable Development Goals

  • In our research, both men and women have generally similar focus across the sustainable development goals. They have education and health as their top SDG of focus, implying shared aspirations between the genders. 17.64% of women and 14.58% of men reported that they focused on education while 12.29% of women and 16.67% of men chose to work on health.

Both Genders Seek Similar Support Systems

  • For both women and men social entrepreneurs, personal relationships are a primary part of their support system. The surveys demonstrated that 26.20% of women and 22.83% of men rely on their personal circles.

Both Genders See Skill Development as a Key Strategy

  • Social entrepreneurship is a challenging space and this brings a need for constant development. Hence both genders chose skill development as a key strategy to overcome barriers with 20.86% of women and 17.65% of men choosing this.

Unique Challenges and Approaches in Women Social Entrepreneurship

WSEs Tend to Work More Towards Inclusive Communities

  • For both men and women social entrepreneurs, their top two primary focus is on helping those who are less educated and poor, with 18.91% of women and 19.48% of men choosing to help the less educated and 18.91% of women and 14.29% of men working to uplift the poor. However, women tend to work more towards inclusive communities along socio-cultural sensitivities and fault lines, helping those who are under-served due to their sexual orientation, religion, race and ethnicity, or language.

WSEs Have Seen Success in Replicating Their Work Internationally

  • Several WSEs have been pioneers in their focus areas resulting in their work crossing borders. Among the WSEs interviewed 44.44% had replicated nationally and 24.07% had replicated internationally.

Despite Decades of Impactful Work, WSE Struggle to Change Policies

  • Even after being able to replicate their work  across regions, WSEs still struggle to bring about policy change. Getting male policymakers to listen has been a consistent struggle with 67.11% of the WSEs interviewed yet to impact policy change.

WSEs Continue to Tackle Gender Barriers

  • Decades of cultural conditioning has resulted in deep-rooted gender barriers for women. WSEs see this as the most difficult challenge to overcome with 10% more women (34.59%) facing gender barriers compared to men (24.39%).

Men and Women Social Entrepreneurs Approach Scaling Very Differently

  • Most women (18.37%) chose training as their primary approach to scaling while most men (21.25%) chose partnerships. This is reflective of women wanting to build a Changemaker society by empowering others with the right skills. The second most common approach used by women (14.97%) was organizational growth while 16.25% of men chose coalitions as the second most used approach.

Reflections for the Future

With the insights gained from both men and women social entrepreneurs, these are the key enablers that will help them to scale their impact:

  1. Funding: To help ensure the sustainability of programs, reduce dependency on personal assets and help SEs invest in the right resources.

Potential solutions:

  • Build relationships with social organizations that globally showcase the work of social entrepreneurs

  • Reach out to corporates and angel investors with similar visions

  • Creation of a platform to encourage conversations between social entrepreneurs and investors

  1. Partnerships: To help SEs leverage each other's expertise, lobby together for collective change, generate wider impact and reduce costs cutting by sharing resources

Potential solutions:

  • Social entrepreneurs should identify different categories of partnerships they might want to build. This will be based on what they intend to gain from that partnership - funding, networking, technical resources, human resources, legal advice or business advice.

  • Social entrepreneurs can come together to run campaigns highlighting why partnering with them is an investment in the community.

  1. Succession Planning: To build long-term impact, create an Everyone’s a Changemaker environment and involve the community.

Potential solutions:

  • Host workshops for young adults to encourage social entrepreneurship with the next generation.

  • Invite part-time volunteers from the community to experience social entrepreneurship first hand.

  • Train founders and social entrepreneurs on strategic and intentional succession planning

  1. Personal Self-Care: To ensure the continuity of work and sustain motivation.

Potential solutions:

  • Encourage coaching sessions amongst SEs to keep their mental wellbeing in check

  • Host stress management workshops that can help SEs in difficult situations

  • Social entrepreneurs need to come together as a fraternity to offer socio-emotional support to each other

  1. Strategic Thinking: To generate clear and structured goals, build credibility and promote learning and growth.

Potential solutions:

  • Corporate and social organizations can invest in SEs by hosting workshops on strategic planning and problem solving with their in-house talents and expertise.

  • Corporates can offer pro-bono consulting and guide SE with strategic planning across a few key dimensions of the business.


To overcome the common challenges faced by women social entrepreneurs, these are the gender-specific support that will help them to unlock their potential:

  1. A Stronger Network for Support: A platform for peer-to-peer learning, a space to forge partnerships and for emotional support

Potential solutions:   

  • Creation of regional WSEs networks that host regular events

  • WSEs can also host their own networking sessions by invite their colleagues and encouraging them to bring other WSEs

  1. Structured Mentoring Programs: To provide experience based guidance, skill development and training, motivation for young WSEs and build the “Next Generation of Changemakers

Potential solutions:   

  • Set regional mentor programs using a pool of senior WSEs. This can be structured to allow young WSEs to apply to be mentees

  • Larger social organizations and experienced WSEs can allow younger WSEs to shadow their work and learn on the ground

  1. Increase Engagement of Stakeholders: To generate long-term sustainability of programs, better access to resources, enhance potential to drive policy change and change mindsets

Potential solutions:   

  • WSEs can host events and invite not just stakeholders, but members of the community as well. They can use these events to showcase their work and encourage the engagement of the community.

  • Create and support multi-stakeholder engagement platforms in the region

  1. Female Advocates Within Governments: To enable easier conversations, push for policy change, establish budgets for women’s issues, inspire future WSEs and spread awareness about important policies and rights

Potential solutions:   

  • Creation of an association that brings WSEs and female government officials and policymakers onto one platform

  • WSEs can make a collective representation to female officials about changing biased policies

  1. Address Gender-Based Skill Differential: To help tackle specific gender barriers, make up for the lack of resources, boost their morale and inspire the next generation

Potential solutions:   

  • Formulate skill training for WSEs based on the unique challenges they face

  • Corporates can offer internship opportunities to young WSEs to hone their business skills