Issue/WT Notices2012. 6. 7. 11:48

[International News from the WT]

2. A case study of the Smile Together Project of the WT in 2011 Asian Solidarity Economy Forum (ASEF)

Supporting Social Entrepreneurship in Underdeveloped and Developing Countries

- A case study of the Smile Together Project of the Work Together Foundation-

Marie Myung-Hee LEE

Head of International Affairs, Work Together Foundation



The Work Together Foundation (WTF) started the Smile Together Project in 2010. Even though its planning was initiated at that time, the actual implementation has just started this year. In this breakout session, WSS 1f CSR & Community-based Enterprises including Cooperatives, I would like to introduce the background, philosophy and core values of the Smile Together Project, while introducing four of its projects, its challenges, and its future tasks.

The Start

Originally, WTF had not been oriented toward development assistance projects in developing countries. WTF’s vision is building a sustainable society by resolving social polarization and developing an employment-friendly environment, and WTF supports social entrepreneurship as one of the ways to attain this vision. WTF works with private companies to raise funds, rather than with personal donors. This is a good way to get a relatively large amount of funding from private companies in terms of operation efficiency, but it reduces the number of opportunities to meet the public, communicate with them, and build citizen-based grassroots support. Considering all of these points, WTF thought it was necessary to meet the public and gain their support. At just that time, Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) introduced a TV fundraising opportunity to fight child poverty at both the domestic and international level. WTF recognized this as an opportunity to promote itself as a civil society based foundation which is supported by citizens, and to raise public awareness of the work the foundation was doing.

In 2009, WTF started to raise funds from the public to support children living in poverty, in partnership with SBS. At that time, five other NGOs got together to raise funds as a consortium, including World Vision, Good Neighbors and UNICEF. The TV campaign focused on fundraising for extreme cases of poverty and hunger. All the other NGOs have already engaged in urgent support overseas for many years, and had abundant cases to be broadcast. The first TV campaign was successful, and all the participating NGOs got even distribution of the donations collected by SBS. Each donor promised to donate $18 (USD) per month for two years. Later on, this became the root fund of the Smile Together Project, the international cooperation project initiated by the Work Together Foundation.

Smile Together Project

There are many organizations which support children suffering from hunger and a lack of education. The international NGOs had over 50 years of experience and know-how through the trial-and-errors of their projects. WTF felt that it didn't have to go through this process as a newcomer in international development cooperation. Rather than repeat the errors of others, WTF decided to utilize its strength, which is supporting social entrepreneurship in underdeveloped countries. It was thought that this could contribute to the sustainability and self-sufficiency of the children, their families and their communities, since social enterprises provide the tools to earn a living.

The rules of the Smile Together Project are simple. The project works with local partner organizations which understand local context and utilize resources in the local community and government. Second, it promotes the concept of social entrepreneurship and provides financial and non-financial support for supporting existing social enterprises or startups, which ultimately try to eradicate child poverty. This does not mean that the supported social enterprises should always give direct benefits to children. Social enterprises where their parents work and earn money also fit into the project.



The ST Project's principles are below.

- A project physically based in a local community and working with residents: The foundation believes most problems come from the urban centralization of the population and little wealth redistribution in the local community. The ST Project supports community-based social enterprises, which revitalize the community economy and make people feel proud of their community.

- A project nurturing leadership in local people: If international or national NGOs are engaged in a project, they should have clear picture of when they will step out of the project, even if it’s a long-term involvement. To attain this, the organization should develop the capability of the local staff during its project.

- A project which created a sustainable business model without harming the local community: Most of the businesses in underdeveloped and developing countries take advantage of of low labor costs and harm the environment. In addition, lots of the free training program run by NGOs are in the service industry, since these skills can be taught in the short-term and results are easily seen. This causes the centralization of the population and environmental problems. The ST Project would like to support the building of competitive working skills and business models that don't harm the environment.

The ST Project also considers the points below.

1) Clarity of social purpose and the social problem that needs to be solved

2) Feasibility or actual establishment of social enterprises that aim to provide solutions for impoverished children

3) Possibility of providing direct support to impoverished children for the promotion of the fundraising campaign

4) Networking with the local community

5) Enterprise sustainability even after support from the Work Together Foundation ends

6) Institution’s ability to conduct the enterprise responsibly

7) Effective budgeting and transparency

The details of the implementation of the ST Project are below.

Financial support

- On average $30,000 (USD) for a fiscal year (from $20,000 to $200,000 on each project)

Non-financial support

- Business consultancy services with the uGET program of the School of Management at Yonsei Univ. and pro bono business consultants

- Pro bono professional consultancy services from the business industry

- Connecting business field related resources and networks for facilitating further support

Projects supported in 2011 are below, and the cases of CAMP and Phoudindaeng will be presented during this workshop at ASEF2011.

1) JSC Banteay Prieb Shop for Handicraft (for families’ independence from PWDs)

2) Lotus Hair & Beauty Center (for orphans over the age of 16)

3) CAMP Sewing Center (for relocated people from Metro Manila, the Philippines)

4) Phoudindaeng Community Café and paid program for responsible tourists (for the sustainability of the Phoudindaeng Youth Center which fosters youth leaders within the community with AVAN)


Challenges and Tasks

The biggest issue is continuing the ST Project's funding. Since the foundation raises money from the public through a TV campaign, it is necessary to promote extreme cases of child poverty. And the TV station wants to direct the money to the organizations which attract donors. However, the ST Project does not have those kinds of cases, because we help them find jobs. People usually don’t worry about getting a job until after they address their hunger and healthcare issues. The public do not usually see the necessity to support people who need jobs, preferring to help those in extreme situations. This causes a reduction in the total amount raised for the ST Project. WTF should show the effectiveness of the ST Project and its fundamental approach to eradicating poverty through diverse methods, and encourage people to continue donating to support social entrepreneurship, the sustainable mechanism for ending poverty.

Second, building firm partnerships with local organizations is the key to the success of the ST Project. Different from other funding schemes, the ST Project provides both financial and non-financial support. The ST Project offers financial benefits when it fully understands the meaning and operation of each local project. It also wants to know the management situation in order to introduce other resources appropriate to each project. WTF should not end each supported project by becoming outsiders who offer nothing but verbal support, but by linking individuals to other potential resources and sources of information. Third, utilizing pro bono services is critical to support each project. Services from translating materials for communication to business consultancy are done by professional volunteers. Since they joined the ST Project because of what it means to them, they will leave if they decide they no longer find the work to be meaningful. It is necessary to explain why we work on each project and follow up on the changes that occur while they are involved.


Since the ST Project actually commenced in 2011, there may be the things that weren't fully considered, and it is possible that not all of the supported projects will succeed. But WTF believes in the capability and commitment of its partner organizations, and tries to support them once WTF sees problems that the partner organizations need to work on.

It is true that some parts of the world have an urgent need for emergency food aid and healthcare. Most of those cases are in Africa, and few of them are in Asia. However, there is little support left after their immediate health and hunger needs are met. However, people do not see this as an urgent issue to solve. After their basic human needs have been taken care of, it seems as though there is nothing left to do but sit and wait until they face another crisis that requires outside intervention. This may be an exaggeration, but in many ways it’s true. It is not a matter of laziness; it's that they haven’t had opportunities to earn an income. WTF believes the Smile Together Project will give them such opportunities while acting as a partner focused on working together for sustainability in underdeveloped countries rather than as a provider of direct support, which is pragmatic and humane ways to solve poverty around the world.

Posted by hamkke

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