Hidden amidst the myriad of social issues that plague this world are a great many people who work relentlessly to find solutions for these issues and alleviate their worst effects. These people can be divided into two groups: one group works in social purpose organizations that provide direct help to those in need, and the other in capacity-building organizations that provide assistance to the first group.

As a venture philanthropist, I belong to the second. We use our business expertise to work very closely with social purpose organizations to help them do what they do better, and with fewer resources.

From the perspective of social purpose organizations, solving social problems is not just about the numbers—it’s really about the people managing the organization. In investment parlance, we call this human capital. This is the least straightforward category of capital as compared to financial capital or intellectual capital. After all, we are talking about personalities, motivations, and desires of individuals, all of which are components that deal less with the head and more with the heart.

It’s the people that make the difference. They are the ones who have the greatest impact on the lives they touch. For many social purpose organizations, it is this basic tenet that will move their mission from being one of simply doing good to one of doing good well—the ultimate goal being, as the title of this book insists, to do good great.

But just who are these people? Who are those that do good great? What makes them tick? What are their stories, their motivations, and their philosophies of life? Essentially, what makes them heroes?

I am glad that Willie, Sharifah, and Cheryl—the authors of this book—have chosen to take on this task of finding heroes in a dozen Asian countries and telling their stories. I have known all three, especially Willie, for over six years. They do good work themselves in the social space in Asia.

They have done a great job of pulling together, in an absorbing, heartfelt way, a book that not only tells the personal stories of this remarkable group of Asian social entrepreneurs, but is also an informative primer on the social cause that each hero is tackling in his or her country, and where that cause stands on the world stage.

Altogether, the 12 chapters make for inspirational reading while providing an educational tour of the diverse social issues and personalities in Asia.

I have been in the venture philanthropy field for over 10 years, initially in London, and then further afield to Europe and beyond. Although I have been going to Asia since the late 1960s, I made my first foray into the Asian philanthropy field five years ago and have been impressed with the diversity of its needs, people, and culture. With this book, I am learning even more about this amazing region and its people.

I hope the book inspires each of you to engage in addressing social issues. In doing so, select your cause with your heart, and the groups you work with, with your brain. Is the organization transparent, and does their product or service really make a difference? Can you help them become more effective or efficient? When you do engage with them, please work with others as collectively as you can, to make an even greater impact and do good great.

Douglas Miller
Chairman, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network