Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Faculty Hero: Ada Chirapaisarnkul

Ada Chirapaisarnkul, Thammasat University, Thailand, shares a story of pioneering social entrepreneurship in higher education by connecting local and foreign students and institutions to inspire all parties to lead social entrepreneurship education reforms throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Ada Chirapaisarnkul is featured as a part of Ashoka U’s new blog series, “Faculty Hero,” that tells stories of outstanding faculty members, leading changemaking initiatives at their colleges and universities around the world. Check back for a story of a new Faculty Hero on the Ashoka U Blog!

1) Describe the changemaking class, program, or project do you lead. How is it distinctive in higher education?
I am currently an Executive Director of GLab at Thammasat School of Global Studies in Thailand. One of GLab’s key activities is the Brain Exchange Program (BEX) which will be featured in the Internship Session at Ashoka U Exchange 2014. BEX puts global brains to work on local development issues by matching the next generations of passionate thinkers around the world to social enterprises in need of their help.

On the demand side, we talk to local development agencies from civil society, government and private sector about their human resource needs, and help them develop job descriptions and deliverables. On the supply side, we share these descriptions with Master’s degree students in development-related fields abroad, and advertise the internship opportunities to local undergraduate students through their career services and faculty. We then match one foreign Master’s degree student and one local undergraduate student to a company.

BEX is a win-win-win solution for all parties! The organizations have exceptional people working for them. Foreign Master’s students get to do an internship where they can have a real impact and experience working, traveling and living abroad in Southeast Asia. Local undergraduate students learn more from their internship working with the Master’s students, help foreign students understand local context and acquire skills and a global perspective from the foreign buddy.

2) Did you face any challenges/obstacles along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
I initially managed BEX as a program under Thai Young Philanthropist Network (TYPN) on a voluntary basis. Therefore, we didn’t have a capacity to sustain and scale the program, even though we received a lot of requests from social sector organizations, especially from social enterprises, as well as from university students in Thailand and abroad. We overcame this issue now, since BEX has been adopted by GLab and will now operate as a project of Thammasat University.

3) How does being on a college campus amplify or affect your work (in a way that might be different if you worked elsewhere)?
Apart from the opportunity to scale BEX and reach more social enterprises and students, we can also provide supporting activities and infrastructure for our interns, including an orientation, welcome reception and networking.

Most importantly, being in a scholarly intellectual community enables us to academically document and manage knowledge and know-how in the social sector. Starting this summer, BEX will develop case studies of the organizations we work with. These case studies will be used for Social Entrepreneurship teaching and learning and become a tool to disseminate local best practices in Thailand and beyond.

4) Tell us about a result that you’re most proud of (including social impact and/or impact on students).
I am proud of the catalyzing impact BEX has had on the emerging Social Innovation space in Southeast Asia and of the top talents our program attracted and inspired to continue working in the space.

For example, Mark Wang, a Canadian intern from Columbia University, fell in love with Southeast Asia and aspired to pioneer social investment in the region; he moved back here to set up one of the first regional Social Investment Funds. A Thai undergraduate who attended the program in 2011 turned down an attractive consulting job opportunity to continue her work in the social sector. We need this top talent to fully commit in order for the sector to grow, scale and thrive; and create a systemic change in Thailand.

I wholeheartedly believe that everyone is a changemaker. Building a program where I can get the brightest and passionate minds to work on the most pressing issues of our time gives me hope for a promising better future.

5) What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other faculty or staff thinking about getting involved in social innovation?
I would suggest for them to get in touch with someone who is already working in social innovation. This person will be a good friend or a mentor to introduce them to the space, share resources and support their work. The journey is truly rewarding but one could struggle from time to time, so it’s good to know there is someone out there who believes in the power of social innovation to change the world and works in similar environment. The very first step could be attending Ashoka U Exchange! I think it’s a great venue to meet, connect and collaborate with like-minded people who are working toward the same goal.

6) How do you see your work evolving and growing in the future?
I am starting to see a fast-growing movement to integrate social entrepreneurship into the higher education system in Thailand. My work at GLab could provide a basic infrastructure, tools and know-how for other institutions who want to follow the same path. I envision GLab becoming a hub for social entrepreneurship education in Thailand and an enabler to make this trend flourish in the country.

On the social impact side, I truly believe that our platform will lead to multi-stakeholder collaboration that delivers substantial impact to Thailand. Public-private-people partnership has long been discussed in Thailand, but it was more of a romantic idea rather than a pragmatic achievable reality. I see a high potential that the GLab will pilot one of such a partnership on a large scale and ignite more of such work elsewhere in the country.

More information about Ada will be featured on social media this week, so make sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook! Check out Ashoka U’s blog each week to see new stories of phenomenal faculty heroes making a difference in their institutions and the world.