Finance: Report urges Brits to follow Asia

Social enterprises in Britain should be learning lessons from Bangladesh's flourishing not-for-profit sector, according to a report commissioned by charity think tank nfpSynergy.

The Bangladesh Innovation Take-Away is a review of the most innovative not-for-profit organisations in that country. Bangladeshi not-for-profit organisations are praised for freeing themselves from donor dependency, showing business-like approaches to solving social problems, having non-hierarchical management structures and being open to change.

The report's author, social and agricultural development expert Harriet Skinner Matsaert, writes in the introduction that, despite being portrayed as "a disaster-prone, passive recipient of aid", Bangladesh is actually a "unique and dynamic country that has many positive experiences to share".

A key example is Bangladesh's biggest not-for-profit group, a humanitarian aid organisation known as BRAC, which employs more than 37,000 full-time staff and reaches an estimated 110 million people.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, criticises the British perception that social enterprises have only limited scope. "If you look at the kind of things that have been done by organisations in Bangladesh - selling mobile phones and setting up workplace nurseries - it shows the huge potential of what could be done in the UK if we stopped the self-censorship," he said.

"There has been a big fuss about the fact that social enterprise in Britain is 1 per cent of our GDP - but the question is why this isn't 10 per cent."

Matsaert believes that the success of not-for-profits in Bangladesh has been due to a combination of determination and flexibility. "People are driven by a goal and are incredibly innovative in the way they go towards meeting it," she said.

"I think the main message from this report is that it's useful to look at other countries' experiences and to realise that the best ideas can often spring up in places where the need is greatest," she added.

FACT FILE

The Bangladesh Innovation Take-Away is a review of the most innovative not-for-profit organisations in the country

Bangladeshi not-for-profit organisations are praised for freeing themselves from donor dependency

BRAC, the Bangladesh aid group, employs 37,000 staff and reaches an estimated 110m people. The success is attributed to "determination".

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