Asian social investment should leapfrog world, AVPN Global Conference is told

Asia has huge scope for innovation and scale – not to mention wealth – but is often ignored on the global stage, says AVPN’s Naina Subberwal Batra, who urges social investors to grasp the “amazing opportunity” for action. 

Social investment in Asia should take a massive step forward to help combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing inequality.

Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO of AVPN, set out her ambitions for the region as she opened the AVPN Global Conference 2022 on Tuesday in Bali, Indonesia. More than 1,100 philanthropists, family office representatives, policymakers, academics and other members of the social investment ecosystem attended the four-day event, held at the Bali International Conference Centre.

“Our revolution has arrived,” she said. “This is the decade for action, the decade for decision. This is our decade, the Asian decade.”

She pointed out that there was an estimated $4.2tn funding gap to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals across the world. At the same time, Asia now held 42% of global wealth, with the region witnessing a huge transfer of wealth between generations.

This is the decade for action, the decade for decision. This is our decade, the Asian decade

“This creates an amazing opportunity for you all in the room – for the social investment ecosystem to leapfrog the rest of the world,” she said.

This meant developing Asian leadership, innovation in addressing the SDGs and transforming the economy to focus more on benefitting communities and the environment.

“Asia is on the cusp of doing really great things,” said Subberwal Batra. “We are very innovative. We do things on a scale that is sometimes not seen anywhere else.”

However, at a global level, Asia was often ignored. “Right now there are global crises and decisions being made with very few voices from Asia sitting at the table,” she said, pointing out that Asia held 63% of the world’s population. “A lot of times when I speak in global forums, I’m the only Asian.”

What’s more, she pointed out: “The way philanthropy and social investment has been approached in the West may not work in our region. The solutions will come from our communities.”

The way philanthropy and social investment has been approached in the West may not work in our region

At a dinner for selected guests the night before the conference opened, AVPN and the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Asian Impact Leaders Network which aims to amplify the voices of some of the region’s most ambitious social investors, innovators and policymakers. Members include the director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, the CEO of Singapore's Temasek Foundation, former government ministers, civil servants and academics.

The AVPN conference is an official partner of the Indonesian government’s G20 presidency this year. Addressing the event, Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia’s minister of tourism and the creative economy, threw his backing behind the movement. He said: “We talk about blended finance, and sustainable finance, I believe that is the way to go.”

The government could not solve problems alone, he said. “I believe through our collaborations we could use some of the opportunities of this philanthropic network to subdue some of the devastating impact of the pandemic.”

Key themes raised during the conference included the importance of social investors giving investees the freedom to decide how they used their funding, collaboration between investors as well as with the public and private sector, and whether social investors should take greater risks with their capital. 


A tribe with shared values 

Jacqueline Novogratz at AVPN Global Conference 2022Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of impact investment fund Acumen, received a standing ovation on Thursday for a keynote address which focused upon her experiences in impact investment.

She highlighted the unsustainable inequality and climate crisis that the world faced, alongside increasing division and lack of trust between people. 

She said that she wanted to overcome that division by building communities of leaders which cut across nations. Referring to the Acumen Academy, she said its members saw themselves as “one tribe with a shared set of values”.

Being a leader who wanted to make positive change was challenging. “So many of you know the long loneliness of it,” she said. “The work is hard… lifetime hard.”


Photos: Naina Subberwal Batra; and Jacqueline Novogratz addressing the AVPN Global Conference 2022 (photos courtesy AVPN). Pioneers Post is media partner at the AVPN Global Conference

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