The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with Digital Pathways at Oxford, the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN), the Honey Bee Network, and the Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN), organised a Forum on Frontiers of Inclusive Innovation: Formulating Technology and Innovation Policies that Leave No one Behind. The forum took place through a series of six online sessions in November and December 2021.
The final policy exchange explored how to promote inclusive businesses based on the experiences and mechanisms used by ASEAN countries. It specifically explored opportunities to build synergies among efforts that promote inclusive businesses, social enterprises, and impact investments.
The full report, Frontiers of inclusive innovation: Formulating technology and innovation policies that leave no one behind, is available here.
The practice and principles of inclusive business are gaining recognition in many regions of the world. Governments and policymakers have begun to recognise the relevance of inclusive businesses in aiding post-pandemic recovery for low-income people. The present challenge, however, is in mainstreaming inclusive business models and situating them as a central element of the larger economic ecosystem.
- Secure government support in promoting inclusive business. It is critical to garner the support of national policy makers and local policy implementers to promote inclusive businesses. A national strategy on promoting inclusive business should come along with the necessary funding support.
- Synergize existing policies on inclusive business promotion, SME development, and impact investment to scale up grassroots level initiatives for national adoption. Support should be given both to the supply and demand sides for inclusive business. This may include developing a national strategy for inclusive business and guidelines for impact investing while connecting SMEs with impact investors. Working closely with impact investors will provide additional financial resources.
- Design suitable tools and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of inclusive business. These toolkits will provide metrics and standards in measuring the impacts of different inclusive business models or approaches providing concrete data and evidence on what is effective or not. This would help inform policies and activities designed to promote inclusive business.
Examples of good practices
- Viet Nam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment conducted a national landscape study of inclusive business in Viet Nam. Based on this study and the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN, Viet Nam has developed a program to promote sustainable businesses, which includes inclusive businesses. This programme will develop an Inclusive Business ecosystem, through the accreditation of inclusive business, the establishment of a data platform, raising financial resources and investment, and providing training and coaching services, especially for SMEs.
- In Sri Lanka, Lanka Social Ventures is partnering with the British Council to provide training on promoting social enterprises to more than 400 government officials responsible for entrepreneurship development and support.
- Several ASEAN member states have conducted national studies of the landscape of inclusive business. More importantly, ASEAN member states have adopted the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN. The annual ASEAN IB summit is an opportunity to share good practises and identify collaborations between the countries. The ASEAN IB Awards are recognising inclusive business models. In addition, ASEAN has published several reports regarding the promotion of inclusive businesses.
To further promote inclusive business, inclusive business must be part of mainstream economic development conversations at the national, regional, and global level. The documentation and sharing of the rich experiences of ASEAN in promoting inclusive business will be a big help in expanding their promotion in other subregions.
“The toolbox for traditional economics is there. When we talk about the impact and social economy, in which inclusive business play a key role, it is not clear if we have yet the right tools”
Jonathan Wong, Chief, Technology and Innovation Section, United Nations ESCAP
Learn more about the forum's discussion topics
REPORT: Frontiers of Inclusive Innovation: Formulating technology and innovation policies that leave no one behind
This report highlights the opportunities and challenges that policymakers and development partners have to expand the frontiers of inclusive innovation. When inclusion is the next frontier of technology, STI policies are designed differently: With broader objectives than just economic growth, with social development and sustainable economies in mind; and they are inclusive in terms of aspiring to enable everyone to benefit from – and participate in – innovative activities.
Governments can add an inclusive lens to STI policies by considering the following questions:
This report explores how these four dimensions of inclusivity are addressed in several innovation policies: national STI policies; digital economy strategies; initiatives supporting grassroots innovations; and policies promoting inclusive business.