The Asia Pacific Social Innovation Summit was held April 10 to 11. During the successful event, the third annual Asia Pacific Social Innovation Partnership Award (APSIPA) honored 10 outstanding projects.

The purpose of APSIPA, launched in 2019, is to encourage social innovators in the Asia-Pacific to collaborate across sectors. The jury reviews applications and selects highlighted projects on the basis of impact, diversity, innovation and sustainability. In addition to making new solutions to social-environmental issues more widely known worldwide, APSIPA aims to encourage the replication of projects across the region so as to scale up their impact.

In the three years since its inception, APSIPA has highlighted nearly 250 collaboration models to promote biosphere sustainability, inclusive business and social prosperity. As COVID-19 continues its march around the globe, New Reality was selected as the theme of the jury’s special award to explore how social innovation and cooperation can find novel ways of sustaining communities.

APSIPA received 77 project applications across 13 jurisdictions, including Taiwan, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Laos, Singapore and South Korea. The jury consists of senior partners long devoted to social innovation from Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and the U.S., among others. As the convener of the jury, I learned about some impressive regional partnerships.

In order to achieve net-zero emissions, some partners take advantage of technology to enable public participation in the simplest way. For example, Taiwan’s social innovation organization Sunnyfounder created the country’s first green energy crowdfunding platform matching funds and suitable rooftop resources. With as little as NT$15,000 (US$534), one can subscribe to a solar panel. And through the green energy charity model, Sunnyfounder matches companies with citizens to build solar power plants for community organizations. Together with the feed-in tariff scheme Taiwan adopted to encourage the development of renewable energy, the initiative can provide charities with a stable source of income for 20 years.

Following the launch of Sunnyfounder, seven companies and 20,000-plus individuals banded together to raise funds to build more than 200 solar power plants. Twelve community organizations serving economically disadvantaged groups such as seniors and the physcially and mentally challenged have benefited. Due to its innovative ways of fostering particpation in renewable energy, Sunnyfounder won APSIPA’s Social Prosperity Award.

Also in Asia, through the nonfired brick system in Nepal promoted by South Korean firm InnoCSR Co. Ltd., we see another brilliant example of multinational development of innovative technologies to promote transformation of traditional production. In Nepal, due to the booming number of reconstruction projects in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes, as well as rapid economic growth in recent years, local demand for bricks is extremely high. At least 5 billion bricks are needed each year, leading to severe pollution caused by firing.

InnoCSR’s nonfired brick system mitigates at least 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide from each production site. It also greatly decreases labor costs and improves manufacturing efficiency and quality. In addition, InnoCSR collaborates with more than 100 brick-firing related local nonprofits to jointly promote new manufacturing technologies and establish training schools. This brings about better working environments and higher incomes for laborers. Many manufacturers have embraced this technology in an effort to help protect Nepal’s environment. Recognized by APSIPA’s Environmental Sustainability award, the technology will be shared with other countries in the future.

The examples of InnoCSR and Sunnyfounder show that although the climate crisis is worsening by the day, social innovations can lead to paradigm shifts across all segments of society, fostering people-public-private partnerships. It takes all hands on deck to bring about change, and everyone can be part of the solution.