Asian Institute of Technology

Bangkok: Sustainable City – Social Business City (BKSBC)

Sustainable development

Inequality is a global challenge nowhere more palpable than in Bangkok. BKSBC will demonstrate how Social Business within an SDG-led approach can narrow the gap.

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Lead Organization

Asian Institute of Technology

Bangkok, Changwat Pathum Thani, Thailand

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Project Summary

Inequality defines sustainability in today’s world. Ever-growing cities are living showcases of wealth concentration and inequality. The economic ecosystem concentrates wealth, depletes natural resources, and perpetuates inequality. Bangkok, ranked the world’s most unequal city, illustrates this like no other.Social Business is an enterprise-led development approach proven to redress income disparity in unconventional ways. A Social Business City is where stakeholders solve social problems together using business solutions, galvanizing entrepreneurs and boosting self-sufficiency. The UN SDGs establish a roadmap, as well as measures of performance across comparable parameters.BKSBC combines these into a scalable Social Business City Matrix that will map specific social issues together with stakeholders and help City administration and development partners design, implement, and track high impact enterprise-driven community service projects that raise incomes, and reduce inequality for Bangkok’s most vulnerable. Learnings from such an integrated enterprise-led program scaled to 22 million, can guide urban communities everywhere.

Problem Statement

Inequality is the challenge of our time. 99% of the world’s population own 1% of global wealth. Inequality is a barrier to economic development, a drag on the global economy, but also an omnipresent threat to the fabric of society. Inequality causes eco-environmental harm, threatening the life of the planet.For the first time, 50%+ of the world’s population live in cities. By 2050 urban settlements will hold 75% of humanity. Urbanization reflects the trajectory of global development. Nowhere is inequality more glaring than in today’s megacities.Thailand is the world’s most unequal country according to Credit-Suisse Global Wealth Report 2018, with 1% of Thais controlling 66.8% of the nation’s wealth. And its consistently high GINI coefficient make Bangkok the global capital of inequality, which exacerbates social fragility and continues to undermine the city’s resilience.Bangkok is mentioned for SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), and SDG 11 (sustainable cities). In fact, these are only two of the 17 inter-connected human challenges that Agenda 2030 articulates. Bangkok’s problems are an example of the integrated nature of the SDGs, and a living illustration of why it is near-impossible to address SDGs sequentially, or as individual tasks.The current economic ecosystem will continue to leave the most vulnerable behind unless we adopt approaches that boost social mobility. Considering the future of jobs in a digitalized world, the problem will grow exponentially. Bangkok and many other societies have a narrow window to re-conceptualize business as an engine for equitable growth, before it is too late.

Solution Overview

The project will integrate the Barcelona-model and YCA approach to engage, educate, and empower citizens on Social Business as an antidote to inequality, and a means to the SDGs. Propelled by TKT’s local strength, and guided by YC’s global experience, BKSBC will create an urban mega-community where stakeholders collaborate within an enabling policy environment to solve social problems through enterprise solutions.The tool will be the Social Business City Matrix containing a dynamic aggregation of solutions. The Matrix arrays SDGs against an action agenda developed from stakeholders’ problem identification. Each box within the Matrix will comprise an enterprise solution to a validated social problem specific to a group, location, or situation. The Matrix will be the dynamic tech-based roadmap for BKSBC with built-in monitoring and course-correction.BKSBC will start with a city-wide baseline of SDG progress interpreted as inequality. From this an evidence-based action agenda will be developed using big-data, tempered with best-practice and TKT experience, and plotted on to the Matrix.At the end of the project, Bangkok will have a robust framework for reducing-inequality and achieving the SDGs. Citizens will be themselves becoming social entrepreneurs. Knowledge infrastructure will be building capacity for Social Business, and a self-sustaining Social Business Equity Fund will be financing scalable solutions.Inverting the purpose of business transforms it to an engine of social mobility rather than wealth concentration. Social Business applied to the SDGs creates the desired interconnectedness of Agenda 2030. Without such a systems approach every response to inequality will be unsustainable.

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