Social investment tools can fill developing Asia’s finance gaps

Nikkei Asia

Developing Asian economies, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka face severe fiscal constraints and struggle to fund even basic government services.

Kithmina Hewage, the Senior Adviser at the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society, believes that there are a number of innovative tools by which governments can utilize cross-sectoral resources to address social needs, including public-private partnerships (PPPs), which can be set up by governments linking with companies’ corporate social responsibility arms as well as through direct engagement with management.

Read more here.

The role of philanthropy in China’s war on poverty

Alliance Magazine

Poverty elimination has been a mass mobilization campaign in China. To accomplish this task, the Chinese government encouraged financial institutions to lend more and support local projects, as well as the private sector to contribute through investment funds and charitable foundations. Read the article from CAPS’ Angel Chiang here.

Seema Aziz (Pakistan)
CARE Foundation

Published date: 30 September 2022

Seema Aziz is the co-founder and managing director of textile company Sefam. In 1988 she founded CARE Foundation to build schools and provide quality education to underprivileged children in Pakistan. From the first school built in 1991, CARE now oversees the education of 300,000 children in 888 schools across Pakistan thanks to its innovative Adopt a School program. CAPS spoke to Seema to find out what motivates her strong commitment to improving educational outcomes for Pakistan’s youth.


CAPS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Your story is a truly remarkable story, from starting a successful textile company to founding Pakistan’s largest educational NGO. Can you take us back to the beginning and share how you become involved with community development?

Seema: It started with the business. The first shop opened its doors in 1985. We worked really hard for a whole year: running around, fixing the quality of the fabric and dyes. We put together whatever little bits of money we had and put all of our energy into the business. Soon we built a reputation for our locally made, high-quality fabrics.

The belief that we, as humans, have a responsibility to others as part of civil society was always a part of our company’s values. In 1988 there was a terrible flood in Lahore and we realized we had to help the people affected. So we went out to deliver food and medicine.

After the water receded, many people had lost their homes and there were thousands camped out on the roads. And much more help was needed. Our first idea was to help people to rebuild homes. We thought we could do ten homes. We picked ten people at random from the hundreds who applied and gave them the money to rebuild. Then we repeated the process a few times and ended up building about 80 homes.


CAPS: How did that evolve into a focus on education?

Seema: I was particularly involved in one area that was hit badly: no electricity, no sewage system and no running water. As I was going around to check on people, hundreds of children would follow me. I asked some of the women there why they were following me and they replied, “What else should they do? There’s no school.” That really horrified me. I said to them, “What if I build a school?” They were all so excited. They told me to stop building the homes and to build the school.

My friends and family in the city told me I was totally mad, that the poor don’t want to educate their children. But when I looked at the people I was trying to help, I realized the only difference between them and me was an education. Thanks to my education I had so many opportunities. Those mothers wanted a better life for their children the same as any mothers do. If the opportunity does not exist, it’s not their fault, it’s the fault of society. I decided to build a school. We collected donations from friends and family and in 1991, we opened the doors. On the day of opening 250 children were standing outside. They had all lined up for a chance at a better life.


CAPS: Apart from the physical buildings, what else went into developing the schools?

Seema: Developing the curriculum was important. When I looked at what the government schools were teaching, I realized that it wasn’t enough. That’s why we introduced the English curriculum. And we also had to provide pencils and books and other necessary supplies for the children.

I didn’t want any child to ever grow up thinking that the support we were giving them was charity, because it wasn’t. It’s their right and our duty to ensure that they get that education. And so, they each paid ten rupees for their education, then everything else was free.

By the end of the first year, word had gotten around that ours was a school where education happens. The next year we had 450 children, then 850 the year after. We acquired some more land, so we built another school and then another. And the children worked so hard, they learned everything we taught them.


CAPS: How did the partnership with the government come about?

Seema: By 1998, I was realizing the sheer number of children in need. And in my heart, I knew that only government could provide education for all. No private organization could ever provide education for all, it needed government infrastructure. That same year, the government asked me to go and survey about 25 schools in Lahore. I was horrified: no running water, no toilets, no lights, no furniture, no teachers, and children sitting on broken floors in their neat little uniforms waiting for an education, which was never going to happen. I saw in my city of Lahore, which we think of as the cultural heart of Pakistan, schools with no roofs, schools with no door.

I told the government that we would partner with them to support ten schools. CARE would take on complete responsibility for the school’s operations and expenses (capital and running), including the infrastructural improvements, staff recruitment, training and salary. We adopted government schools that were not in good shape, and by the end of the year we turned them around. Enrolments doubled and then quadrupled.

CAPS: What have been the major challenges CARE has faced?

Seema: Originally when we took over the government schools, we said that we would stay for ten years. We would help train others, then slowly reduce the number of our people. But it hasn’t worked out like that. We still haven’t exited those schools because we know the moment we walk out, they’ll collapse. They keep asking us to take on more schools, but getting money from the government has also been difficult. So, I’ve committed a percentage of my company’s earnings to CARE.

Another challenge is the drop-out rate, especially among girls. There are many bright students who do not have the means to go to college. So, we set up a scholarship program that supports our students to go to some of the best colleges in the country.


CAPS: What keeps you motivated to keep CARE running despite these challenges?

Seema: We are totally committed to children graduating. Education is a great equalizer. It shouldn’t just be available to rich children. We need to even the playing field and create equal opportunities. We really believe in that, and we’ve done our best. I think that’s the main thing.


Soul of Business: Companies step up social do-gooding in Asia

MoneyFM 89.3

On Soul of Business, Dr. Ruth Shapiro, Co-Founder and CEO of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS) speaks with Claressa Monteiro on the growing trend in Asia of companies and governments partnering to address social challenges. They discuss our new report, Public-Private Partnerships for Social Good, and how the pandemic is accelerating opportunities for multi-sector collaborations which utilize the comparatives strengths of each stakeholder to solve a variety of issues from disaster relief to climate change and education. They also discuss impact investing and how more forward-thinking companies are moving even beyond ESG standards to develop innovative social solutions. Listen to the full interview here.

Companies step up: Public-private partnerships for social good proliferate across Asia


Eco-Business features our newly launched Public-Private Partnerships for Social Good report and press release on its website. Read the press release here.

Money Talk – Business and Market Discussion

RTHK Radio 3

CAPS’ Director of Research, Mehvesh Mumtaz Ahmed, speaks Peter Lewis on RTHK’s Money Talk program on the philanthropy landscape in Asia and CAPS’ latest report, Public-Private Partnerships for Social Good. In the interview, Mehvesh shares examples of how and why companies across Asia are increasingly stepping up and joining forces with government to address social needs. She shares some of the strategies that help public-private partnerships achieve impact at scale. Listen to the full interview here (Philanthropy Landscape clip).

The People Behind the Partnerships – How Asian Business Leaders are Championing Public-Private Partnerships for Social Good


As the world comes to grips with the social and economic repercussions of Covid-19, the need and potential for multi-stakeholder collaborations are becoming more evident. CAPS’ Senior Researchers, Annelotte Walsh and Wilson Lau, discuss how a deeply rooted desire to do good drives business leaders to partner with government for social good. They showcase the many ways in which Asian business leaders have shaped and driven these partnerships. Read it here.

Public-Private Partnerships for Social Good

Rethinking PPPs

There is a growing trend in Asia of governments and the private sector coming together to address social needs, and our latest study spotlights these “public-private partnerships for social good.” With 88% of top business leaders in Asia believing such partnerships will become even more common over the next five years, it is more important than ever to understand what they are and how they work.

We conducted an in-depth analysis of 20 notable PPPs for social good spanning 11 Asian economies and 9 sectors to find out. Our report showcases why this trend is taking root, what best-in-class PPPs for social good look like, and how they maximize impact.

The report sets out 6 strategies that enable public-private partnerships for social good to achieve greater impact, how they can prepare for sustainability, and how they can navigate risks.


Public-private partnerships for social good proliferate across Asia

Alliance Magazine

Alliance Magazine reported the release of our latest study, Public-Private Partnerships for Social Good. Read it here.

Philanthropic public-private partnerships have increased across Asia

CNBC International TV

Ruth Shapiro of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society says that the number of public-private partnerships working on philanthropic efforts have increased in Asia, and pointed to Singapore and Taiwan as particular standouts. Click here to watch.