Do people really know what a Social Enterprise is? Public Perception Survey 2016

The Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) commissioned the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP) at NUS Business School to conduct a Public Perception Study in 2016. The survey covered awareness and understanding of social enterprises, purchase behaviour, and the motivations for buying from social enterprises.

It was heartening to note the large increase of 52% in public awareness of social enterprise, since 2010. Working towards the targeted sample size of 2,000 respondents, a questionnaire was conducted where 1,888 valid responses were received.

Increased Public Awareness of Social Enterprises (SEs)


Understanding of social enterprises has also grown, with seven out of 10 respondents being able to correctly categorise at least one of three social enterprises in the survey questionnaire. A key highlight of public perception of the top three social goals in Singapore focused on the most needy groups in the community, relating to people with disabilities, people/families with low income, and people with health conditions.

To drive continuous improvement and further growth in the sector, stakeholders are called upon to work on action plans. In particular, raiSE would serve as a main driver for raising public awareness of social enterprises, helping with funding, and providing advisory/training.

Social Enterprises

  • Increase their competitiveness through innovations to improve the quality of existing products and create new and unique products.
  • Ensure they champion social causes that resonate with the public perception of greatest social needs.
  • Differentiate themselves from traditional businesses, train social entrepreneurs in branding and marketing their enterprises to the public.


  • Step up public communication efforts to increase awareness of raiSE and enhance understanding of social enterprises and their twin goals of doing good while making a profit. Adopt a multipronged approach, taking into consideration the changed media environment where communication has become increasingly conversational (two-way) and centred around credible influencers and passionate advocates.
  • Provide consulting/training to help build the capabilities of social enterprises.
  • Collaborate with media to highlight the efforts of social enterprises and the challenges they face while working to address social needs in the community.

Indeed, such a study offered valuable insights on how public perception of the social enterprise sector and buying behaviour have changed since the 2010 survey. While there have been stark advancements in awareness and understanding of social enterprises, this study propels us to consider emerging challenges in the buying behaviour of the public. With appropriate emphasis on the quality and uniqueness of the products or services offered and the social cause they represent, the sector could potentially be propelled to greater heights.

The full and summary reports can be downloaded here:

Full Report
Summary Report

News Reports:


Singapore Business Review


Lianhe Zao Bao

World News

Wild Singapore

Local News Singapore

65 Singapore