Malaysia is a multi ethnic and multi racial society which has seen tremendous socio-economic changes over the past 50 years since its independence from the British in 1957. It has an impressive track record of poverty reduction from 50% of house hold to less than 5% in 2007 However over the years income differences have widen between the top 20% and the bottom 30% and in addition the experience of the urban poor shows a deep sense of alienation and lack of access to public sector provisions (using a measurement which goes beyond income indicators). Many outstanding projects have been developed in Malaysia such as the Federal Land Development scheme (www.felda.net.my) in providing agricultural land and support for the rural poor, the emergence of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (www.aim.gov.my) which is a Grameen replication and The public sector overall social development such as health care, education, employment and housing projects has further facilitated upward socio-economic mobility. However sections of the Malaysian society still feel alienated from the formal economy and through self-help and civil society initiatives are making a difference in creating an alternative framework and market for socio-economic development. A significant section among these are displaced plantation workers in urban poor locations, forest based communities (whose livelihood is threatened by logging, hydro dam development and plantation industry), disabled people, rural poor especially fishing dependent families, refugees and migrant workers.
The Collective Initiative
The current efforts for economic empowerment can be strengthened by ‘sharing and learning from one another’ (Learning Journey) . Some of the partners have strengths in community development, others in research & training, others in policy advocacy, others direct social welfare assistance and others in business and credit lending. A collaborative engagement will enable them to be an alternative player creating the structures and models which will enhance grassroots knowledge, expertise and competencies ie role in policy advocacy. Initiate a training and capacity building of leadership and building sustainable institutions and micro social enterprises. Various actors met on Feb 20, 2009 for sharing and brain storming together with Mr Ben Quinones of CSRSME, Asia at the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Binary University College. In addition a number participated at the Workshop on Finance for Social Enterprise in Malaysia (March 10-13, 2009)
Stakeholders/ Partners in the Informal Network
All these Malaysian institutions and organizations have been running successful socio-economic programmes. A partnership and cooperative agenda is being developed to tap the full potential of civil society action in empowering the poor and disadvantaged communities at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in Malaysia. Micro finance institution: Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia Cooperative Movement: National Land Finance and Cooperative Society & Workers Credit Cooperative. Socio-development organizations: National Social Welfare & Development Council, Malaysian CARE, People’s Service Organisation and Foundation for Community Studies & Development Disabled peoples organizations: Malaysian Association for the Blind, Bethany Home, Day Break, Cheshire Homes, Society of families of persons with learning difficulties.
Emerging issues from Malaysia
Strengthening participatory process in decision making, leadership development and capacity building of the stakeholders especially the affected people groups Impacting the political climate in reforming democratic institutions and ensuring human rights is central to societal life thereby recognizing that every citizen’s rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural) are ensured. Utilizing the cultural heritage of the land for example namely the Islamic values, Islamic banking, the “halal” global markets and “shari’ah” compliant enterprises Fostering a policy environment which will be supportive for the development of the informal sector. Securing state resources for training and capability building Networking with the formal economic sector/ private corporate sector
Research Components of the Initiative
The first dimension is developing a framework for social enterprises which will foster sustainable business development and socio development agenda. This dimension will be coordinated by the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (CSE), Binary University College, Puchong, Malaysia. In addition CSE will develop a training module on social entrepreneurship and social enterprises.
The second research aspect is to research on the impact of economic empowerment, of disadvantaged communities and inter-ethnic relations/ community harmony. This aspect will be researched by the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Malaysia Kebagsaan, Bangi, Malaysia.
Presentation by Dr Denison Jayasooria Principal Research Fellow, Institute of
Ethnic Studies, University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).