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FEATURE STORY March 4, 2019

Thinking Equal in Thailand: Aliza's Path to Social Entrepreneurship


On International Women’s Day 2019, we are sharing stories of women doing inspiring work across East Asia and Pacific. Whether in the business world, advocacy, media or countless other sectors, their contributions highlight the transformative power of women in the region. Aliza Napartivaumnuay co-founded SocialGiver in Thailand as a way to allow people to donate to issues they care about while shopping for a variety of goods and services.

Tell us about yourself.

Bangkok-born into a Thai-Chinese family in, I have grown up in Calcutta, Rome, Seattle, and the UK before being back permanently in Thailand to pursue my goals as a social entrepreneur.  I started off in the corporate sector focused on supply chain management as it fascinated me how much upstream we can influence to create greater change in how we consume. I did not know at that time that there was even the term "social entrepreneur"! Being in project management roles for 10 years, I co-founded Socialgiver in 2015 with a mission to convert the world's spare capacity into social progress.

Socialgiver is essentially a lifestyle platform where customers shop for hotel stays, dining experiences, and a wide range of activities from all over Thailand with 100% of the profits going directly to organizations that are doing great work. We believe that it is not just the small percentage of people who are working in the social sector that is changing the landscape of how we can create resilient communities, but rather most us that are essentially voting on which brands are worth our money by supporting those that are giving back in meaningful and scalable ways. I'm an advocate for socially conscious living and believe that we all can take part collectively to see impact.  

What set you on this path?

Looking back, the path that brought me to where I am now as a Social Entrepreneur began rather unexpectedly. As ambitious as one young mousy woman could be, I grew really passionate for my career in Supply Chain and Logistics industry – a field in which no one, more than 10 years ago – supported me to take a degree on because it was not very "womanly" to be working with trucks and distribution centers. I was attracted to the ability to create win-win solutions to create greener and optimized supply chains connecting thousands of suppliers to become more conscious about the impact that they are creating on the communities and environment in which they work in. I never intended to become an entrepreneur. The closest person that runs a business in my family is my beloved grandpa who was a doctor and runs a Chinese medicine pharmacy, so I cannot technically say it was something I inherited or grew accustomed to. Yet I took it in my own hands to create a balance between having personal success that also resulted in creating a better world to live in. Having previously volunteered with grassroots organizations that have had drastic budget cuts of more than 70% because they relied so heavily on international donations was really heartbreaking. My love for joining and initiating volunteering activities grew into developing scalable solutions. 

What inspires you to get up in the morning? What drives you?

Knowing that we are building a revolutionary tool that will be able to impact millions of lives made me unable to stop doing what I do each day. I truly believe that it is the little things that add up to the bigger things and there are no shortcuts but to work hard and be consistent with how you want to grow, as an individual and as a social enterprise. So what we are doing at Socialgiver is breaking the barriers between consumer spending power and donations. We look to engage the unconverted, people who never really cared about the environment and wildlife issues, the importance of women and children in underserved communities and building resilient ones. I believe that is where the untapped resources lie. We are hoping to scale up our solutions to serve great organizations all over the world and that is only possible through collaboration. We now have close to 300 leading brands from all over Thailand supporting our mission at Socialgiver. How can we inspire more of this generation to be a part of creating solutions that will enhance collaborations and make a lasting difference?

What advice do you have for young women who want to take a similar path?

My advice to young women would be to start now, stop setting conditions for yourself. We tend to be cautious about the prerequisites of getting a job done and many times we become our own barrier to growth. Learn fast and be open to criticism. They care, that is why they make time tell you. Be aware of your self-talk, because it is the underlying foundation of how you see yourself and how far you can go. At the end of the day, also be kind to other women. 

Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ― Edward Everett Hale

What are the biggest issues in Thailand right now and how can they be addressed?

Every year, hundreds of social projects in Thailand fail due to the lack of funding - leaving vulnerable people, animals, and fragile ecosystems without the support and solutions they need. What I feel is lacking is the root of how funding issues are being addressed as it links back to our values, our participation and how we really drive citizen social responsibility at a national level. 

To identify success only as financial means is too narrow-minded in this day and age. Despite the need to reform our educational system, I find that digging deeper into the roots are the family values that are ingrained into building individuals that are compassionate as they are professional. Any young person whose dream is to create change may be restrained by their family obligations, beliefs, and cultural norms that they are too beaten down so early on that they do not believe change is possible. 

On another note, Thais are great at using humor to highlight issues in our society, I hope that we can further extend such engagement to trigger thoughts, conversations, and actions to materialize into a variety of development missions that are taken seriously by those making decisions. 

Where do you see Thailand in 25 years?

I would imagine it to be a country where we invest heavily in retaining our cultural heritage, see the value in creation and building rather than just consuming – all while being careful to include social development and environmental preservation as a part of making decisions. Positive change is not driven by passion alone, it is done so with clear intention and self-discipline. By then, I hope that Thais would realize that where and who they spend their money with determines not just our economic development but also our social development too. 

What change would you like to see that could bring greater equality in Thailand?

Respect. For each other and the environment at personal levels. Bold leadership. Culture is set from the top so it is crucial that it is strategically placed as part of the foundational values of how things are run, regardless of which sector of the industry you are in. 

If you could use one word to describe women in East Asia Pacific what would it be?

Courage, because despite all obstacles and fear, one still takes action.


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.