Mindful Markets Social Enterprise Course 2016

23 August – 4 September 2016, Bangkok, Thailand

Coordination team: Narumon Paiboonsittikun, Wallapa and Hans van Willenswaard, Michael Commons, and Kittikhun Bhukhongkha

This course was held from 23 August to 4 September 2016 in Bangkok with excursions in Thailand. The aim was to empower social entrepreneurs and strengthen their capacities to develop and manage social enterprises that can help change our food systems. The course included exposure visits to successful social enterprises in Thailand, sharing experiences, and mentoring by social entrepreneurs working towards systems change.  

The Mindful Markets Social Enterprise Course is open to public and supporting Towards Organic Asia alliance partners to learn and share the knowledge to promote social enterprise and sustainable food systems. Altogether, there were 30 people in the course, 14 males and 16 female from 7 countries (Bhutan, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia and Thailand). The participants from China were sponsired by Partnerships for Community Development (PCD), Hong Kong. This was an interdisciplinary course that drew strongly on the diverse models bridging consumers and small-scale producers in Thailand. Interdisciplinary learning included a range of learning processes to fully engage the creative and critical learning capacities of the participants: lectures from experienced practitioners; world café sharing; mentoring from social enterprise practitioners; public forums and working groups; exposure visits; and workshopping on business plan development.

From a theoretical foundation that started learning on the background of food systems and why they look the way they do today, the course then expanded to experiential learning directly from diverse models that seek solutions to the mainstream food system.These included Dairy Home – a successful organic dairy business; CSA models,including Thailand’s oldest CSA which has been running for over 10 years;community-based herbal medicinal production through the Abhaibubhejr model, and an expanding model (Sampran), linking tourism and organic producers. Drawing on local wisdom was also an important feature.

From direct learning from these diverse examples, participants were equipped to engage in a learning platform, sharing lessons learned and creative ideas in order to begin to see how they could integrate these learnings into their own social enterprise plans. The result was inspiration for the participants to move forward in linking small-scale farmers with consumers in diverse ways. For example:

  • METTA Development Foundation (Myanmar), Natural Ginger Tea,Natural Green Tea and Natural Irrawady Rice
  • Dilip Khumar Subba (Bhutan), TSIRANG ORGANIC SEED ALLIANCE (TOSA)
  • Somchit Phankham and Nont Choedamphai, (Laos), Panyanivej Organic Farm     
  • Shen Ye (China), Beijing Farmer’s Market

Achievement of Course Objectives

To inspire the concept of Mindful Markets social enterprises through the process of sharing and learning experiences and from successful social enterprises.

As mentioned above,this was achieved through the diverse conceptual and practical learning processes that were integrated into the programme. Not only could the participants learn directly with social enterprise practitioners in their field, but were also supported by mentors through the process, enabling them to carefully craft a plan for their own enterprises. The diversity of participants also provided a pool for learning from each others’ experiences. While contexts in each country vary, common themes relating to global food systems and how they interplay at the local level could be mapped and understood, and common solutions explored.

To enable participants to start their Mindful Markets enterprises through recognizing potentiality to develop their own business plans supporting organic food for all.

Ten business plans were developed during the course, which are in various stages of implementation. Implementers are continually supported by their mentors and TOA for ensuring they have resources needed to fully implement their plans. These 10 plans were all designed through a common agreed framework developed during the course.This includes:

  • Clear vision and guidelines for overall mindful markets business plan
  • Sustainable income generation
  • A wellbeing approach to evaluate the success of the business plan through indicators for health, economics, environment and society, drawing on updated GNH indicators

To strengthen networks and cooperation of mindful markets at national and international levels.

An informal network was formed as a result of the course, despite its short time frame. Throughout the course, the creation of a learning platform to learn from each other has helped develop linkages between the participants in order to continue learning from each other, especially by drawing on their areas of expertise. TOA/ School for Wellbeing also continues to connect with participants for ongoing support of their business plan implementation. PCD (China) committed to continue the collaboration.

Overall, this was a highly unique, creative and inspiring course. As a result of the course, plans are now in place to develop this course specifically for Thai businesses as an alternative to existing CSR models. This arose from interest during the course, seeing the process of learning as more integrated, holistic indicator development beyond environment and society, and with a mentor support system to ensure plans can be initiated and adapted as best as possible. Plans are also in place to offer the course again next year due to its popularity and positive feedback from participants, mentors, and social enterprise practitioners who took part in the programme.

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