Bambang Ismawan

Bina Swadaya
Year founded: 

Bina Swadaya focuses on the socio-economic development of Indonesia's rural communities through educational publications, training, consulting and microfinance.

Focus: Agriculture, Microfinance, Rural Development, Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Indonesia
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 46,179 (2010); 33,000 training graduates
Annual Budget: US$ 2.3 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 100%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Indonesia, 2006

Comprised of about 18,100 islands in the south-east Asia archipelago, Indonesia has a population of nearly 237.6 million people. With the bulk of the economic activity concentrated in the capital of Jakarta, many rural communities struggle to keep up economically as the country progresses. Approximately 40% of Indonesia’s labour force is still engaged in agriculture, so introducing more effective agricultural production practices is one way to immediately impact the income and livelihood of rural communities. As Indonesia has changed over the past 50 years through various social movements, the need for a multifaceted solution to foster socio-economic development became apparent. Thus began the Pancasila Social Movement in the 1950s, which formed the basis for much of Bina Swadaya’s operations.

Innovation and Activities
For decades Bina Swadaya has focused on the socio-economic development of Indonesia’s rural poor and their communities, by directly empowering them through education and training. To address the strong demand for agricultural education and knowledge dissemination, Bina Swadaya formed a publishing business and started Trubus, an agricultural magazine that is currently a market leader on the subject. Building on the success of this publication, Bina Swadaya then leveraged its printing infrastructure to enter into other diverse publication segments like gardening, health issues, language, education, lifestyle, children, religion, and vocational and small business skills. To date it has published approximately 1,500 agricultural book titles and 2,300 titles in other areas.

Besides generating profits from the sale of its own publications, Bina Swadaya has developed significant expertise in the field of publishing, while at the same time offering leading consulting services. In 2001 the organization started a franchise operation for agricultural shops, providing market access for the Bina Swadaya group’s products. It also offers microfinancing through four rural banks and cooperatives.

Bina Swadaya literally translates into the “self-reliance development foundation”. To fulfil its mission, Bina Swadaya focuses activities on the following areas: community empowerment; microfinance development; agribusiness development; magazine and book publishing; printing services; alternative tourism development; and meeting and workshop facilities for self-help groups.

Each of the Bina Swadaya business operations is profitable. Overall, 25% of the profits generated from these operations are re-invested back into the Civil Society Empowerment operation, which funds the expansion of Bina Swadaya’s work throughout Indonesia.

The Entrepreneur
While pursuing an economics degree at Gadjah Mada University, Bambang Ismawan found that he was interested in neither business nor politics, and wanted to identify with something more meaningful. He has been involved in Bina Swadaya’s formation and growth for the past 40 years, and has developed a proven track record of successful partnerships with government, NGOs and businesses. His philosophy of promoting self-reliance within Bina Swadaya’s self-help groups drives the strategic development of the organization. He invests a large portion of his time on developing the leadership capabilities of the organization. The fact that several employees have grown with Bina Swadaya for more than 30 years is a strong testimony to his ability to empower and cultivate leaders within the organization.