Lack of awareness on social enterprises biggest challenge

Report notes improvement of system-wide coordination required to unleash full potential

Social enterprises say that low public awareness of the sector has made it challenging for them to garner support and recruit staff or volunteers.

This was a key finding from The State of Social Enterprise in Malaysia report, the tenth in a series of surveys undertaken by the British Council around the world. The report, launched on 12 March 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, also indicated that most social enterprises (62 per cent) say they lack knowledge of existing and workable social business models, making this their top financial challenge.

“At a time when Malaysia is undergoing significant socio-political change, we hope this research will contribute to a more informed conversation about social enterprise in Malaysia,” said Sarah Deverall, Director Malaysia, British Council.

The State of Social Enterprise in Malaysia was published by the British Council, in partnership with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Ministry of Entrepreneur Development Malaysia, and Yayasan Hasanah.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP noted: “Social enterprises in Malaysia present a significant opportunity to generate employment, support vulnerable and marginalized communities and realize the Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations ESCAP is pleased to partner in the publication of this report, to provide an evidence base and support policy development to further strengthen the social enterprise sector.”

The report noted that over 55 per cent of social enterprise leaders in Malaysia are under the age of 40, and a majority (54 per cent) of social enterprises are led by women. Social enterprise leaders are also more educated than the general workforce, with 83 per cent having graduated with a degree-level qualification.

The report states that unleashing the full potential of social enterprises requires an improvement of system-wide coordination between ecosystem enablers to address the geographical divide in terms of support and awareness building.

Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan bin Md Yusof, Minister of Entrepreneur Development said: “This survey report is timely to complement the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development Malaysia’s effort to formulate a holistic social entrepreneurship development policy that is inclusive and competitive, including driving the development of the B40s and M40s in Malaysia.”

The launch provided insight into social enterprise in Malaysia, including the changes undergone by the sector since the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC)’s State of Social Enterprise in Malaysia 2014-15. Attended by government departments and related agencies, donors, funders and investors, public and private universities, social entrepreneurs, third sector organisations, and the private sector, the launch saw assessment of several key initiatives supporting the sector. Key evidence-based recommendations relevant to various stakeholders and access to advocacy tools for local sector enablers were also presented.

Notes to editors

About The State of Social Enterprise in Malaysia

The State of Social Enterprise in Malaysia is the tenth in a series of surveys undertaken by the British Council around the world (

The objective of this survey is to provide a summary of the current size, scale and scope of the social enterprise sector in Malaysia. This survey is, in part, an update to and expansion in scope of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC)’s State of Social Enterprise in Malaysia 2014/2015.

In addition, this study aims to make an important contribution to the development of social enterprise globally, as it will allow for other actors to assess the progress and identify possible entry points for supporting growth or for participating in the sector.

The study presents an updated snapshot of the Malaysian social enterprise landscape and combines the results of a nationwide survey, desk research, and workshop discussions with stakeholders. The results present a picture of a vibrant sector that has a promising future, with social entrepreneurs optimistic about growing their reach and impact.

Key findings regarding Malaysian social enterprise include:

  • Social enterprise leadership tends to be more diverse than the rest of the MSME sector
  • Social enterprises are focused on building communities
  • While cash flow is a major challenge, many social enterprises are still viable and profitable businesses
  • Awareness and understanding of social enterprise business models still have a way to go.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body.

We have been working with Malaysia since 1948.

We aim to contribute to inclusive economic growth in Malaysia through our social enterprise programme. We promote the development of social enterprise as a means of addressing entrenched social and environmental problems and delivering positive change to our communities and societies. Our work draws on UK and global experience and is delivered across 29 countries with local and international partners.

In 2012, we led a three-year programme to support business development of social enterprises who are today leading advocates for the ecosystem. In 2017, our Social Economy and Investment Conference brought together international experts, 500 delegates and saw the launch of a Social Outcomes Fund. In the same year, the British Council brought former MP and author of the UK Public Services (Social Value) act, Chris White, to support social procurement initiatives in Malaysia.

About United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and The Pacific (ESCAP)

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) serves as the United Nations’ regional hub promoting co-operation among countries to achieve inclusive and sustainable development. The largest regional intergovernmental platform with 53 Member States and 9 associate members, ESCAP has emerged as a strong regional think-tank offering countries sound analytical products that shed insight into the evolving economic, social and environmental dynamics of the region. The Commission’s strategic focus is to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is reinforced and deepened by promoting regional co-operation and integration to advance responses to shared vulnerabilities, connectivity, financial co-operation and market integration. ESCAP’s research and analysis coupled with its policy advisory services, capacity building and technical assistance to governments aims to support countries’ sustainable and inclusive development ambitions.

For further media information, please contact:

Ikram Khasim
Head of Communications, British Council Malaysia
E: [email protected]
T: +60 3 2723 7969

Eisya Sofia Azman
Society Programme Manager, British Council Malaysia
E: [email protected]
T: +60 3 27237914

Kavita Sukanandan
Public Information Officer, United Nations ESCAP
E: [email protected]
T: +66 2288 1869