Thursday, February 11, 2010

SE Tales and One Man's View [1 of 4]

SE Tales and One Man's View -
Social Entrepreneurship in Hong Kong

It is difficult to delineate the state of Hong Kong's social enterprise development in around a thousand words. KK Tse, the most enthusiastic SE promoter in town, gave a largely optimistic view in his presentation delivered in the recent SE Summit held in Hong Kong. As someone more like an observer from the backseat, I agree with most of KK's observations. Here, rather than trying to give a comprehensive overview, I chose to go over just a few features from three SE case stories - the Three SE Tales as I would put it - which I believe are important in shaping Hong Kong's SE development.

Three SE Tales

One might find the SE tales I examined here kind of odd, as many won't even consider the three cases social enterprises. Yet an examination of these 「outlier」 cases could help us explore some important themes that might be overlooked by the mainstream discourse.

1. Non-Profit-Making Veterinary Services Society Ltd (NPVSS)

NPVSS is a case that highlights the importance of virtue and commitment in any socially entrepreneurial undertaking. In establishing NPVSS, the goal of founder Mark Mak is to bring veterinary services within everyone's means. Feeling frustrated by the fact that many pets and their owners were deprived of basic veterinary services because of unreasonable pricing strategy of existing animal clinics, NPVSS was established in 2006 to challenge the status quo. It is now running two clinics, with the second one opened in 2009 in response to huge service demands.

In order to attain self-sufficiency, the prerequisite of covering deficit is upheld in that it charges the veterinarian services and medicine separately based on a strict 「cost plus」 pricing principle. In essence, unlike other clinics which might take advantage of the empathy of the pet owners and exploit them with questionable pricing and trade practices, the spirit of 「fair」 professional services is instituted and entrusted to the pet owners utilizing its services.

And while it won't over-charge its regular service users, NPVSS would also offer special discounts to pet owners who are social security recipients. Instead of submitting to the view that the poor and the disadvantaged should not be pet owners, NPVSS recognizes that pets are sometimes the most important companion for the socially disadvantaged - including the singleton elderly living in poverty who chose to have pets - and simply ignoring their demands for veterinary services is not doing justice to both the poor and their pets, not to mention the social cost that would likely incur if unconcern is the attitude we chose to take towards these pet owners (e.g. the lack of breeding control, animal abandoning problem, etc.). It is Mark's vision to turn NPVSS into a platform for offering the much needed services to the disadvantaged and their pets.

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