Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, has something for everyone – delicious food, fascinating culture, markets that seem to sell everything you could ever wish for or need and shopping malls that are the size of towns. Chances are if you’re on a trip to South East Asia, your plane will stop here. If it does, it’s definitely worth a stopover. And while you’re at it, why not check out some of the growing number of social enterprises…
Cabbages & Condoms –“Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy”
Cabbages & Condoms (C&C) is a non-profit social enterprise restaurant in Sukhumvit, one of Bangkok’s main business and shopping districts. Popular with locals and tourists, C&C has over 4,000 reviews and a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor. It not only serves delicious food but also promotes positive sexual health. All proceeds from the restaurant funds social development programs of The Population and Community Development Association (PDA). PDA was founded in 1974 to promote family planning in Thailand.
PDA has been internationally recognised for its work, including two programs being recognised for best practice by UNAIDS. It was awarded the 2008 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and Chairman, Mechai Viravaidya, was awarded the Gates Award for Global Health in 2007 for pioneering work in HIV/AIDS prevention. In 2005, the World Bank estimated that seven million lives were saved from HIV/AIDS through PDA’s public education and prevention programs.
Dialogue in the Dark – “Moving beyond sight”
The Dialogue in the Dark exhibition is part of the National Science Museum in Bangkok. Blind guides are employed to take visitors on a one-hour tour of different scenarios of city life in Bangkok completely in the dark. Launched in Bangkok in 2010, the exhibition has been extended every year since due to its popularity. Tours are available in English and Thai and the entrance fee goes towards paying the guides.
The first Dialogue in the Dark exhibition was held in Germany in 1989. The concept was developed by German social entrepreneur Andreas Heinecke who also developed Dinner in the Dark, as well as workshops in the dark. It is now a global network in more than 30 countries. More than 8 million visitors around the world have gone through an experience in the dark.
LocalAlike works with villages across Thailand to enable them to manage and plan tours themselves so that the income from tourism goes towards the local community instead of the tour companies, hotels and agencies that normally profit from visits to local villages and communities. LocalAlike runs an online marketplace which includes profiles of the communities that are willing and ready to accept tourists, as well as user reviews. Profit is split 30/70 between LocalAlike and the community with 5% of both group’s share being allocated to address development issues within the community. Tour options include village homestays, day trips and half-day trips and customised corporate tours.
SocialGiver partners with local businesses to offer online deals on a range of products and services, such as hotel rooms. Each baht spent on a gift card gets converted into a “social coin” that then gets donated to social projects. Users can vote where their money goes.
FarmSook Ice Cream
Farmsook Ice Cream teaches children from disadvantaged homes, orphanages and foundations basic business skills, as well as how to make ice cream. The ice cream that the children make is distributed and sold with proceeds reinvested into the training program. Ice cream is available for pre-order delivery, as well as at various locations across Bangkok, including Café Velo Dome, TCDC Shop and Ma:D (see Farmsook’s Facebook page for more info).
KlongDinsor has developed an educational tool called the Lensen Drawing Kit to facilitate blind children’s learning process through art. Simple, yet effective the Lensen Drawing Kit features a a velcro-like board that people can draw on using a specially-developed wool pen, which rolls out a yarn that gets stuck in the Velcro so that people can feel what they’ve created. The kits are available for sale online. KlongDinsor also organises events where blind people and volunteers can exchange experiences.
Khanun meaning “jackfruit” is a Thai inspired restaurant with a focus on creative local cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. Run by NGO Peuan Peuan* (“friends” in Thai), it is also part of the TREE alliance – a global alliance of training restaurants. All profits from TREE restaurants are invested in the students who train there and the social programs of partner NGOs which support them. “TREE – 100% for impact and sustainability.”
*Peuan Peuan was founded in 2006 by Friends International. Its work addresses youth unemployment, unsafe migration, child abuse and lack of access to services.