Thailand is often referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’. It got this nickname because in Thailand, a smile is much more than just a smile…it is a form of subtle interpersonal messaging. [1]

Over the last decades, Thailand has climbed the development ladder to become an upper-middle-income country with the second-largest economy in South East Asia. Though the majority of Thailand’s population of 69 million are still employed in agriculture, the sector’s economic clout has been dwindling in recent years, which exacerbates inequality and rural poverty, and jeopardises livelihoods. This changing climate therefore stands as a key challenge for a predominately agrarian population. Environmental problems, such as severe air pollution and increasing waste generation, have risen along with economic growth and urbanisation. [2]

The impacts of climate change on Thailand — namely prolonged droughts, decreased agricultural and fishery yields, violent flooding, sea-level rise and health-related issues — are already serious and will likely create or exacerbate a number of additional problems over the next few decades. These include water management challenges, a heightening of class-related tensions, a flood of new immigrants and refugees, damage to the tourism industry and conflict with China over dam-building. [3]

In this article, we will expose eight remarkable projects relating to social innovation in Thailand. 



Dignity Network

Dignity Network is an independent organisation established to help female ex-inmates reintegrate successfully into professional society.

The project was founded and is guided by Thierry Gallo from Brussels.

During a business trip in 2010, Thierry discovered Thailand and instantly developed a passion for the country. After moving to Chiang Mai in the north for professional activities, he discovered the harsh prison conditions of women in the central prison and chose to become involved.

In early 2014, Dignity Network opened its first Women’s Massage Center to offer job placements to former prisoners after they had successfully become vocational graduates of traditional Thai massage.

During prison sentences, courses are held in fields such as restoration trades or the making of clothing and accessories, for instance. In the future, Dignity Network plans to create new centres and programmes to extend the range of fields available in order to better meet the needs of inmates according to the professional skills they may hold.

In harmony with Thierry’s mission, Dignity Network’s ultimate goal is to minimise the risk of recurrence by offering these women a safe working environment. [4]


Farmsook ice cream

Farmsook Ice Cream not only holds classes on how to produce homemade ice cream, but also teaches basic business skills to children from disadvantaged homes, orphanages and foundations, mainly targeting children between the ages of 13 and 18. The ice creams the children produce are distributed and sold, with proceeds reinvested into the training programme, as well as syphoned into a fund to support the children’s future commercial business practices. The social enterprise therefore not only generates income for children, but also encourages them to recognise their own worth via ice-cream making. The ice cream-making courses vary and include, among others, training in how to make ice creams, accounting, and service and sales.[5]


MyWaste project

MyWaste project is a school recycling programme to improve responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities. Students are given an incentive to recycle through an easy-to-use reward system where they can collect points every time they bring in waste to recycle, which can then be exchanged for rewards. They encourage students to be responsible and conscious in their consumption through various means of trying to build a sustainable school community.

By creating a sustainable community, they are not only creating a community where everyone has a good quality of life or a safe and secure community, but also an environmentally friendly community. They also give top priority to the threatening problems we face, such as urban population growth, unemployment, public health, criminal activities and pollution.[6]



Hostbeehive utilises natural resources to produce the highest-quality and healthy products from the wilderness. Their concept is ‘People-Forest-Bees: To get everyone in the community involved.’ With the knowledge from their parents, the local experts, they produce 100% pure wild honey from the fertile forests with zero chemical harvesting. Mutual dependence between humans and forests essentially provides valuable nutrients from the carpels of more than 300 kinds of flowers.

In addition to making products, they create jobs for people in the community and, at the same time, preserve their local wisdom. They provide a place for knowledge sharing to the younger generations through training, activities and workshops. The profit from selling Hostbeehive’s products is given back to the community as a community fund for maintaining sustainable ecosystem growth.[7]


Khon Talay

Many customers overlook how fish are caught. Consumers are mostly not aware of how the fish they buy are caught, compared to how clean and safe [from chemicals] they are.

Khon Talay is a social enterprise whose purpose is to promote ethical fishing, which includes using proper tools and fishing only in designated areas. Khon Talay buys responsibly caught seafood from local fishermen (who are tracked using GPS to ensure they are not fishing outside of designated zones) at prices 10 to 15 per cent higher than the normal middleman. He then resells the fish to a number of restaurants and at the K Village Farmers’ Market at fair prices. [8]  


CAT Digital Come Together

CAT started the ‘CAT Digital Come Together’ project in 2017 with the aim of encouraging Thai farmers to produce high-quality products and have supplementary careers, thereby increasing their earnings. They started the project because they believed that a modern farming system utilising the Internet of Things (IoT) was the only way to help farmers compete in today’s highly competitive markets.

Over two years after the project was launched, a large number of farmers have earned more income from selling better quality products and learned how to use the IoT in their daily activities.[9]


Refill not Landfill

Refill not Landfill is a community environment project whose goal is to reduce the need to buy water in single-use plastic bottles, which ultimately pollute the environment after disposal. 

The Siam Hotel was the first to provide its resort guests with water canisters featuring a printed QR code. The Siam has also installed refill stations at the hotel.

The simple concept is for hotels to provide their guests with water canisters that have the campaign QR code printed on them. Guests then scan the QR code with a smartphone to launch Google Maps, which displays the nearest free water refill station. Canisters with QR codes are also available at retail outlets, including RCB Gallery Shop at River City Bangkok.

Additonally, there are water refill stations at other accessible Bangkok locations, including cafes and restaurants, retail and art centres, and more. Locations can be added to Google Maps by logging on to the Refill not Landfill website. Bangkokians and international visitors can now help both land and ocean by carrying their own reusable water canisters to refill as they head out to explore the riverside neighbourhoods and attractions.[10]



HiveSters is a search engine for locally run tours in Thailand. Every tour works directly with local communities, social enterprises, and individuals and tourists are able to tap into the local community’s knowledge while ensuring money flows directly to those sharing their time and skills with you.

The organisation was founded by Thais as a way to create sustainable change in Thailand’s tourism industry. The organisation uses the HiveSters incubation programme to create and promote their sustainable activities aimed at increasing locals’ income and livelihood, preserving disappearing cultural heritage, positively impacting the community and environment, and creating positive social change.

The database features a range of quirky and fascinating tours in every corner of Thailand, from street-side cooking classes to biking through local neighbourhoods and more.[11]



Learn more at Social Innovation Academy

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[1] https://www.impactgrouphr.com/insights/thailand-the-land-of-the-smiles

[2] https://www.sei.org/centres/asia/research-areas/sei-in-thailand/

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236751238_Climate_Change_and_Thailand_Impact_and_Response

[4] http://www.dignitynetwork.org/about/

[5] https://www.thailandsocialinnovationplatform.org/project/farmsook-ice-cream/

[6] https://sdgactioncampaign.org/2019/06/06/inspiring-sdg-initiatives-in-bangkok/

[7] Youth Co:Lab 2017-2018 Report: https://www.th.undp.org/content/thailand/en/home/library/democratic_governance/youth-co-lab-thailand-report-2017-2018-.html

[8] https://www.timeout.com/bangkok/news/bangkokians-meet-the-people-who-are-bringing-responsibly-caught-seafood-to-you-042518

[9] https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1676748/cat-digital-come-together-project-encourages-thai-farmers-to-use-digital-technologies-to-increase-productivity

[10] https://www.bangkok101.com/refill-not-landfill-launched-in-thailand/

[11] http://grassrootsvolunteering.org/businesses/hivesters

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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