The Peak Power List 2016

peakThe Peak, Luxury lifestyle magazine, honoured 10 Philanthropists and social entrepreneurs in its 2016 Power List. We are very delighted to note that ACSEP’s Advisory Board Chairman, Mr Keith Chua, is one of the honourees.

Mr Keith Chua is the executive chairman of ABR Holdings and trustee of Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund. He believes strongly in the need to research philanthropy in the context of the local society and culture to propel the future of giving. Through the trust, Mr Chua donated $40,000 to seven charities including Care Corner Family Service Centre (Admiralty), Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore and New Life Community Services. It is also heartwarming to note his dedication to the support of non-profit Children of Cambodia to reduce infant mortality in Cambodia since 2012, by building a neonatal ward and encouraging the sharing of medical expertise.

Mr Chua markedly invested in the need for philanthropy to keep up with the times. Recognizing significant interest in philanthropy among the younger generation in Singapore and the region, he initiated the idea of introducing philanthropy as a subject of mainstream study at university level to support and encourage greater engagement and integration of philanthropy in young minds.

“Many Asian countries today are still looking to research done in the Western world. But there’s perhaps value and opportunity to research philanthropy in the context of our society and culture. It will help us better understand how philanthropy is unfolding in this current phase of our economic and political development.” ~Keith Chua

Mr Chua’s interest culminated in an initial $1.5 million donation to support the establishment of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy in 2009 (later renamed Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, or ACSEP, in 2011). ACSEP has conducted multifaceted studies which have proven to bring tangible value to local organizations. For example, The Community Foundation of Singapore, where Chua is a board member, regularly taps into ACSEP’s research to better direct its programmes to help wealthy donors undertake philanthropy journeys.

Looking forward, ACSEP is conducting a large-scale study of the last 200 years of philanthropy in Singapore from 1819-2019, which Mr Chua believes will offer strategic insight into how philanthropy can continue to be practised here. He envisions philanthropy to be a practice that will grow very quickly in the coming years and hopes that even more efforts would be made to attract groups within the philanthropic eco-system to help them move forward in their giving journey.

“To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power.” Aristotle said. However, effecting change through the best means possible is no simple task. Indeed, the contributions of Mr Chua and the other social change advocates reflect the true spirit of philanthropy in collectively building a sustainable future for the public good.

Thank you, for helping us to make the world a better place.

Once again, Congratulations, Mr Keith Chua!

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

Crossing the Chasm Final

The Crossing the Chasm Final, held on the 16th of September, was the culmination of hard work on the part of the organisers and participants. The final saw the presentation of marketing plans by our 5 finalists, namely Team iChange, Team Social Innovators, Team The Glass Half Full, Team BMY and Team Krakakoa.

Each team was given 15 minutes to impress the judges and audience with their marketing plans for their respective social enterprises. All the teams put up astounding presentations that reflect the depth of their thoughts and the countless reiterations that the challenge entailed. The impressive work put up by all the teams made it very hard for the judges to decide on the winners.

As the judges deliberated over their decisions, the audience was treated to an insightful sharing by Mrs Dinny Jusuf, the founder of Toraja Melo, on the ups and downs of running a social enterprise. Mrs Dinny also reminded us that being a social entrepreneur may not be for everyone, but everyone can certainly generate ripples of change in their own way. Following Mrs Dinny’s sharing, A/Prof Albert Teo, the director of the Chua Thian Poh Leadership Programme, took the stage with a single but important message – that empathy is indispensable in our effort of generating change. A/Prof Teo’s message prompted us to reflect on our life values and their indelible impact on others.

With an end to an inspiring sharing session, the judges were then invited in to announce the winners of the challenge. Team iChange emerged the champion, earning their partnering social enterprise SDI Academy and the team of S$30,000 and S$12,000 in prize money respectively. Meanwhile, Team Krakakoa emerged as the people’s choice awardee and the runner-up, benefitting their partnering social enterprise Krakakoa and the team a total of S$22,500 and S$10,500 respectively. All prizes were generously donated by the Tanoto Foundation and will go a long way in extending the social impact of the winning enterprises.

As Crossing the Chasm Final came to a close, a general sense of optimism filled the air. It was very heartening to witness the passion that our future business leaders share in effecting positive social change. It gave us immense hope for the future and most importantly, it left us thinking – what else can we do to leave the world a better place?






Crossing the Chasm Challenge Finals Preparation Workshop

CCC Workshop 2016 (Web-Size)-180 CCC Workshop 2016 (Web-Size)-39 CCC Workshop 2016 (Web-Size)-86 CCC Workshop 2016 (Web-Size)-181 CCC Workshop 2016 (Web-Size)-131CCC Workshop 2016 (Web-Size)-46On 25 August 2016, the five finalist teams of Crossing the Chasm Challenge 2016 attended the Finals Preparation Workshop led by Tom Kosnik, lecturer from Stanford University and consulting professor for the National University of Singapore Overseas Colleges (NOC) program in Silicon Valley.

Crossing the Chasm Challenge 2016 is an inaugural competition jointly organized by students and the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy (ACSEP) where students team up and work alongside partner social enterprises to co-create a marketing strategy and pitch.

Having been through months of ideation and execution with their mentors and partnered social enterprises, the finalist teams presented their work to Tom who then provided them with valuable feedback, in preparation for the finals to be held on 16 September 2016.

All the teams benefitted from Tom’s detailed guidance on presentation content and techniques, from the sequencing of their slides to their presentation styles.

Team Kakoa who worked with social enterprise Kakoa—a bean-to-bar chocolate company which aimed to empower cocoa farmers and sustainable farming practices while providing high-quality chocolate products—were commended for their ability to better position the company’s products through a revised packaging of chocolate bars, reflecting the stories of the farmers.

To further enhance their proposition, Tom suggested the team to conduct up-close communication with the farmers to better appreciate the nuances of their stories.

While greatly impressed with the range of strategies Team Social Innovators had employed to help their social enterprise, The Fabric Social, Tom advised the team to reduce the words in their slides to better draw the audience’s attention to their key issues and solutions.

As the workshop was also the first time the finalists presented their works to one another, it provided an opportunity for the teams to learn from one another and understand the challenges confronting the other social enterprises.

The workshop concluded with Tom’s presentation on “How to present your Marketing Plans and Pitches to the Judges of the Crossing the Chasm Challenge (CCC 2016)”, providing the finalists with insights to help them in their preparation for the finals.

The finals of Crossing the Chasm Challenge 2016 will be held on 16 September 2016 at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House.

 The five finalist teams and their partnered social enterprises are:

  • Team iChange, SDI Academy
  • Team Social Innovators, The Fabric Social
  • Team The Glass Half Full, Bayani Brew
  • Team BMY, Empower Generation
  • Team Kakoa, Kakoa

ACSEP Chairman Mr Keith Chua’s Closing Speech on the Singapore Early Women Philanthropists Research Seminar

closing speech photoA warm thank you to ACSEP Chairman Mr Keith Chua for gracing our Singapore’s Early Women Philanthropists (1900-1945) Research Seminar on Friday, 10 June 2016. Below is his closing speech.

Ladies and gentlemen. A very good afternoon to everyone and thank you for joining us today at the launch of the ACSEP paper entitled ‘Singapore’s Early Women Philanthropists 1900 – 1945’.

I have found it a truly commendable work of research by Ms Ooi Yu Lin. It provides us with valuable historical information and documentation – much of which I believe has not been previously collated and presented in the context of a study of philanthropy.

The study of Women in philanthropy is unique given that today the more common gender associated with philanthropy in Singapore seems to be with Men. Look around you at the buildings and halls around us in NUS and the names that are on them. Most of these names are male philanthropists.

In building our continuing research on philanthropy in Singapore this paper will be an important study.

Yu Lin has documented within the limits of archival and other means how Women at the turn of the last Century contributed in pioneering ways toward the development of Singapore philanthropy – and looking back it would seem to have had some degree of lasting impact. The Chinese Women’s Association which started as the Chinese Ladies Association celebrated her 100th Anniversary in 2015.

Women in Singapore philanthropy has been an unspoken but important segment of philanthropic history. It becomes even more amazing when we have this with understanding of the social, political and economic trends of that period. The place of the woman in 1900 is not easy to fully grasp for those of us brought up in modern Singapore.  Yu Lin’s paper also affirms that the practice of philanthropy cuts across race and religion, across all social and economic strata.

I first approached Yu Lin to join ACSEP research with a much wider ask. I had known of her interest in some areas of philanthropy and her work researching the Peranakan culture and history. In further discussion I then realized the extent of work that she had been progressively researching for many years. The project I had in mind was 200 years of philanthropy in Singapore’s history. The dates would be 1819 to 2019 which would imply that we would be actively engaging this for a few more years before the grand masterpiece is completed.

She eventually chose a bite size part of this story that has remained unwritten until today. This paper and another ACSEP paper that we released at the end of 2015 entitled ‘Philanthropy on the Road to Nationhood in Singapore’ will form key portions of this larger research project. I welcome all of you to partner us at ACSEP as we continue research and documenting 200 years of philanthropy in Singapore.

Let me mention a couple of more recent philanthropic models that Yu Lin’s paper documents has already been in practice 100 years ago. One is the concept of Giving Circles. In the past 10 years there has been an increase in many creative and impactful initiatives through the formation of active giving circles. Giving circles is a helpful framework for persons with interest in a particular area to pool resources for greater impact. The Women 100 years ago had already seen this as they launched appeals and pooled resources.

Secondly, I continue to carry the hope that ACSEP will be able to help shape and develop in a meaningful way the proposition that everyone in Singapore can give. This was one of the intentions when we launched a subject in the Business School that promoted the practice of philanthropy. A course that would engage students in learning by giving. Yu Lin has very helpfully featured the practice of giving by the Majie in our community. Again 100 years ago we discover that it did not matter which economic strata you were in – you could still embrace and practice philanthropy.

Philanthropy is indeed a practice that all of us can engage in. Whether we are giving time or resources, we can all be actively engaged in love for others driven by human compassion and care.

I look forward to seeing you at our next ACSEP gathering. Once again join me in congratulating Yu Lin for an excellent paper and also in thanking the team at ACSEP for keeping up the good work toward a better and more caring society.

Singapore’s Early Women Philanthropists (1900-1945) Research Seminar

146_6871 copy146_6661 copy146_6622 copy146_6766 copy146_6517 copyConsultant Ms Yu-Lin Ooi conducted an enlightening talk on the nature of philanthropy acted out by Asian women in early Singapore. Four key questions were discussed: firstly, who were Singapore’s early women philanthropists, secondly what contributions did they make, thirdly how were their contributions expressed, and finally were there any key factors that hindered/ enabled women in doing philanthropic work?

Over 70 participants packed the room to glean from the nuanced understanding of women in philanthropy that consultant Ms Ooi had gathered in the context of her interviewees’ life experiences and memories. From the Chinese/ Straits Chinese to the Indians/ Ceylonese, the Jews, to the Arabs and Malay-Muslims, women had superseded formal notions of monetary philanthropic giving to volunteer and contribute informally in sharing resources like food, helping mark key rites of passage, and passing on culture, values and faith to next generations. These contributions differed from traditional giving of men in philanthropy, but no less supported the growth of communities and identity in early Singapore.

Philanthropy in Transition: An Exploratory Study of Asian Women and Philanthropy in Singapore, 1900-1945 the working paper and culmination of months of research, was also launched. The impact of these unsung heroes has just begun to be uncovered and we look forward to more stories to come.

We thank Mr Robin Thevathasan, Ms Joy Thevathasan, Ms Roshini Prakash, Ms Siu Tin, Ms Su-Lin Ang, Mdm Ng Siu Yue, Prof Jin Bee, Mr Neil Ang, Ms Norhidawati, Ms Nurfarhana and ACSEP Chairman Mr Keith Chua for their gracious support at the seminar and contributions to the research.

Panel Discussion: Breaking Through The Hype of Social Entrepreneurship

acsep-breakingthroughhypeA panel discussion about the hype surrounding Social Entrepreneurship and the opportunities it presents took place yesterday evening and was attended by over a hundred students. The panelists were Prof Albert Teo, Prof Wong Poh Kam, Dr Tan Lai Yong, and moderated by Ms Laina Greene. There has been a lot of hype in Singapore about social entrepreneurship, and many are still confused about definitions and which organization qualifies as what. Meanwhile, NUS professors have diligently been offering classes about social entrepreneurship and there is growing interest to learn more about social entrepreneurship on campus. The discussion sought to bring students interested in this field together with these various professors to gain valuable insights into why they are passionate about social entrepreneurship, why and what they teach in their courses and a few lessons they feel students wanting to explore this field must truly understand. This discussion was a good continuation to last week’s talk about empathy and human centric design by Acumen+Singapore and Ashoka. It was a fruitful evening and the students in audience all took away valuable insights..

Presentation by Dr Weina Zhang at the Philanthropy Research in Asia-Pacific event

The event was held in Melbourne on the 17th -18th December 2015. Organized by the Swinburne’s Asia Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy, Centre for Social Impact, the event saw leading academics come together for a fruitful 2-day session.

Dr. Weina Zhang, Research Director of ACSEP, shared with other regional research centres on the research and education initiatives and programmers conducted in ACSEP. She also highlighted that there is an annual International Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship to be held by ACSEP and encouraged all academics to submit their latest research on the field.

The event was attended by leading academics of the field, which includes: Mark Sidel, John Fitzgerald, Noshir Dadrawala, Wendy Scaife, Sudarshan Ramaswamy, Zhang Weina, Naoto Yamauchi, Fang Changchun, Shen Hui, Cheng Gang, Tao Ze, Deng Guosheng, Anthony Spires, Mei-fen Kuo, Tony Liao, Tracy Lee, Holly Chang and Michael Liffman.

Weina_Australia Picture

Philanthropy on the Road to Nationhood in Singapore

The first working paper in the Philanthropy in Asia series, titled Philanthropy on the Road to Nationhood in Singapore, was launched on 16th December 2015 at the Central Public Library.

Click to view larger versionThe event saw over 45 attendees comprising of academics, philanthropy groups and members of the public. It was a fruitful session where the authors Roshini Prakash and Pauline Tan shared on their key findings. During their sharing, the audience was taken on a journey of over 70 years of philanthropy in Singapore. Among the anecdotes of notable philanthropists and their generous spirit of giving, heart-warming stories that were also shared involved many Singaporeans who gave during a time when they had little. Dance hostess performing for fund raising nights for the building fund of Nanyang University while prisoners cooking for the 16,000 people displaced during the Bukit Ho Swee fire were among the many stories that highlighted the ‘kampong-spirit’ of Singaporeans.

It was a fruitful event that saw many attendees staying back after the presentation to engage the authors with more questions and personal sharing. We thank the authors for their insightful presentation and for their hard work.

Continuing 100 years of philanthropic work

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The Chairman of the Advisory Board of ACSEP, the esteemed Mr Keith Chua has been featured in an interview documented in the Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report.

Mr Keith Chua is a fervent philanthropist and a strong supporter of ACSEP’s research and education efforts to further social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in Asia.

In this interview, Mr Keith Chua talks about his philanthropic work, his motivations and, on a more personal note, how he is carrying on his great-grandmother’s work, spanning over the past 100 years, through the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund which is named after her.

You may read the full interview here.