What prompted The Bridgespan Group to open an office in Southeast Asia?

Chris: Singapore was a natural place for Bridgespan’s next office in Asia. (Our India office opened in 2015.) In each geography, we consider the potential for learning and impact. There’s so much innovation happening in Southeast Asia’s social sector: from social enterprises and NGOs leveraging technology to achieve impact at scale, to those forming deep partnerships with local governments to help build nations, to family offices using their assets for impact, to foundations exploring innovative models. We are excited to learn from these models and share our lessons with others in the region and around the world. Singapore’s central location makes it possible to serve clients from across APAC, from Australia to North and East Asia and everything in between.
Xueling: Southeast Asia is also very densely populated, with over 675 million people, so there’s an opportunity—and need—to advance inclusive and sustainable economic development, both to improve health and education outcomes and to combat and adapt to the results of climate change.

What work has Bridgespan already done in Southeast Asia?

Chris: Prior to having a physical presence in Southeast Asia, Bridgespan engaged with several clients in the region and APAC more broadly. We supported Temasek and ABC Impact as they launched their impact investing fund. We also collaborated with Bain to serve the Thai Red Cross and the Tanoto Foundation. More recently, we have worked with the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network on their strategy and operations and with the Tenure Facility, which works with Indigenous people throughout the world’s tropical forests to secure land rights.

How is Bridgespan incorporating equity into its work within the region?

Chris: This is such an important question and a place for us to do some deep learning as an organisation. There are really three components to our approach in the region that build on and localise Bridgespan’s overall diversity, equity, and inclusion focus:

  • The first is that, because there is no one “Southeast Asian culture,” our team has been conducting research and participating in trainings on cross-cultural collaboration and sensitivity. These will provide important skills for both expats who join our team as well as local hires.
  • The second element is that we are engaging in a series of conversations to understand the historical context of countries within Southeast Asia. That context is critical to understanding the current state of equity. We are just scratching the surface of different historical immigration patterns, colonisation, independence movements, and other issues.
  • Finally, we are going country by country to explore some of the biggest issues of equity, whether around gender, religion, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+ communities, or other marginalised populations. Building this foundation will enable our team to bring an intersectional equity lens more effectively to our work with clients, as well as engage in conversations with sector leaders on issues of equity and, over time, help to create more equitable results for society.

Xueling: We’re coming at this work with a spirit of humility, focusing on listening and learning. We’re engaging as much as we can with proximate leaders in the social sector, seeking first to understand instead of imposing any preconceived notions.

Read the full article about Bridgespan Southeast Asia by Chris Addy and Xueling Lee at The Bridgespan Group.