Making Kindness Fashionable

 

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness,” Mahatma Gandhi said. Can one be fashionable, ethical, revolutionary – and strive to hit social and commercial bottom lines – all at the same time? Lao-based social enterprise Ma Te Sai may have the answer.

Hand-woven fabrics. (Photo Credit: Mate.Sai, Justgola.com)

Ma Te Sai, which means “Where is it from?” in the Lao language, was founded in 2010 by Australian Emi Weir and Clamence Pabion. In partnership with Laotian weavers, the duo founded Ma Te Sai to preserve local handicraft and artisanal traditions, and guarantee artisans sustainable income through bringing their crafts to a wider market. Through their careful method of designing, sourcing, and manufacturing clothing that respected the local culture, Ma Te Sai is able to maximise commercial benefit to the Laotian weaver community, while being backed by a robust financial business model.

Ma Te Sai’s Story

Ma Te Sai’s story began with a chance meeting, and a problem: in 2011, Emi was introduced to Navon by Susu, a French woman living and working at a boutique hotel situated along the Mekong River. The weavers had made more towels than the hotel needed, so Susu suggested that Emi may want to sell them in her newly-opened fair trade store. That encounter took her a step further to learn more about the cotton in Navon’s home. Inspired by Navon’s fabric, Emi partnered with Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre for Women in Vientiane. With various local resources – the talent of the community artisans and material from local suppliers – they quickly put together a design. The jacket was a success. “Tourists, and locals alike, bought it because it had a Lao motif without being ethnic, and it was metro-chic enough to wear at home. It also could be sold at a higher price, better margin, than our existing products, which meant we could sell few but gain better income,” Emi recalls.

What has sustained Emi in her 6 years working on Ma Te Sai? Here are a few tips from her story that aspiring social entrepreneurs could glean from:

  1. Think different to identify and seize new opportunities.

Often, aspiring social entrepreneurs may fear entering a community that they are not a part of. However, Emi took advantage of her outsider status to the Laotian village culture to identify business opportunities.

Being Australian was no deterrent to Emi trying her hand in the Laotian market. In fact, it spurred her on to bring Laotian products into the Australian market.

The level-headed Emi did not see herself as a social entrepreneur at first. She was simply solving a problem with the business acumen she had. “I didn’t know I was a social enterprise until someone told me I was – I was developing a business solution that we could benefit people and beneficiaries with,” Emi said. She recognised the business as an opportunity to develop the ethnic communities in Luang Prabong.

  1. Put people first.

Emi did not rely solely on her business knowledge, but strove to put people first, building connections with her suppliers, clients, and community. Her previous line of work in the tourism industry taught her that relationships were paramount. She applied the same tenacity in building trust among those she served. “When working remotely, go there (to the location where the customers or suppliers are) a lot to build relationships,” she advised. In the early days of her business, Emi would visit suppliers to purchase their goods and establish a positive relationship with them. “Many connections are relationship-based,” she reflected.

In addition to good business relations, Emi also actively invested herself in the social fabric of the community, with her wide range of hobbies and interests. The avid Pilate teacher regularly taught Pilate classes and conducted boat tours to sustain her work with Ma Te Sai. Through building positive relationships with her remote suppliers, and serving the local community, Emi was able to establish a strong social network for her business and personal life in a once-unfamiliar environment. “Working with people who are easy to work with has also been of help,” she laughs.

  1. Find partners whose interests are aligned.

Social enterprises are not lone rangers. Partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments are often necessary for them to thrive, and funders are needed to provide the engine for the business in the long haul. Hence, social enterprises need to be flexible to understand the language and needs of these organisations, and to adapt to them as necessary, without compromising the primary vision.

Working with NGOs and Governments

NGOs provide a foot into the local community, while governments can provide structural changes for lasting impact. However, each organisation has its own concern and operates in different paradigms. Emi, a lady with firm business sense shared that NGOs, for example, may come up to her with suggestions, and she would think: “that doesn’t fit my box”. At the same time, her way of thinking would not fit the “box” that NGOs operate in. Government support can be especially significant in enabling the company to move ahead. “It’s hard for us to be loud and vocal without government ties,” Emi shared.

Indigo-dyed cotton, a popular feature of Ma Te Sai’s wares. (Photo Credit: eatdrinklaos.com)

Funders

Though the search may be rough, finding the right partner, with the right motivation, is worth it for the long haul. Ma Te Sai’s first funding came from a cotton project that was backed by a Malaysian funder that was seeking to do business in Laos. “It was a fit, because he was interested in craft,” she noted. Having a first funder makes getting subsequent funding easier.

“Look for an angel (investor),” Emi advised. In the most ideal scenario, a good funder has passion for what you are doing. Otherwise, it will be difficult to proceed, because the overall investment is not aligned to where the company wants to go. “You need to see if what they are trying to do is in line with what you are doing…and find out if what you want is what they are willing to pay for,” Emi advised.

  1. Understand your partner’s language to negotiate for what you want.

Sometimes, a potential partner’s interests could be aligned to a social enterprise’s – but a social enterprise will need to frame it in the right language to get their attention.

For example, a “product development” in one party’s eyes could be a “skills development” in another – but they both mean the same thing

Like a good partner, it all boils down to a good fit: you need to have a good relationship with the person as well as the organisation.
Evidently, building a social enterprise is not an effort that can occur in a vacuum. Other stakeholders in the ecosystem – governments, NGOs, and businesses – cannot afford to work in silos, but must learn how to work together in order to achieve common goals. Universities, too, are key players in this ecosystem.

How the University Adds Value 

Universities can play a significant role in adding value to social enterprises with their expertise in research – both from students, and faculty.

Singapore student Team – (Team Dash) was given the mission to determine the feasibility of Ma Te Sai expanding to Singapore. On behalf of the social enterprise, they worked tirelessly on the ground to understand Singapore’s consumer market and to propose a practical marketing model to increase awareness and sales of Ma Te Sai’s products in Singapore.

Left to Right: Ranjan Raman (Team – mentor), Emi Weir (Founder, Ma Te Sai), Chew Yee Wei, Tan Ting Jie, Muhammad Khairin Bin Lilias, Sarah Lim

Team -, made up of Political Science and Communications and New Media majors from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with Emir Weir. They were mentored by Mr. Ranjan Raman, Director, Field Enablement APAC, Concur, a SAP Company.

For Emi, the Crossing the Chasm Challenge was “amazing”. “To have someone access the market for you…No one could have done it!” She enthused. Furthermore, Team –, armed with political science training, and gave her good demographic research.

This gave Emi perspective of the potential of the Singapore market, and she perceived the need to pitch the product differently—as a “rural product” in order to gain an audience. “(The Crossing the Chasm Challenge) is admirable, giving us (smaller businesses) a platform to connect with,” she shared.

Impact assessment could also be a product that is helpful for social enterprises – both to give feedback on areas of improvement, and as a selling tool to gain more funding, Emi observed.

As the university attempts to make its unique contribution to the ecosystem, it too can learn much from the best practices of social enterprises to think different, put people (and communities) first, find partners whose interests are aligned, and be flexible in negotiating for what it wants. A welcome storefront for dialogue (like Ma Te Sai’s below) may be an excellent starting point for such conversations.

Ma Te Sai storefront (Photo Credit: Emi Weir)

Nothing is impossible (the right method just hasn’t been discovered yet)

Society Staples and Team Spera

“Challenge the status quo of what is possible, and what isn’t. If the current method is not working, find another way to do things,” said social entrepreneur and Society Staples co-founder Debra Lam. Society Staples, which aims to be a voice for inclusion for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Singapore through a variety of engagement platforms with different stakeholders, was paired with student Team Spera (made up of NUS students Business School students Jasmine Tan, Cheong Joo Yee and Kellin Er), who seek to bring hope (the Latin translation of “Spera”) to Singapore’s PwDs.

The team rose to the challenge of building an inclusive society through raising awareness of Society Staples’ brand and PwDs, and educating the public regarding challenges faced by PwDs. With Team Spera’s help, Society Staples was able to maximise its resources to meet its customers’ needs more swiftly.

Universities contributing talent to social enterprises

In the conventional sense, contributing to a social enterprise could look like one of the following: a) starting one, b) joining one (as an intern or staff), c) volunteering with one, or d) buying from one. The Crossing the Chasm Challenge adds another contribution channel: e) skilled volunteering from universities in the niche area of marketing. This gap that social enterprises have in marketing themselves – as they are often more focused on other strategic priorities – is ably filled by resourceful higher education students that are eager to apply themselves to meaningful work that harnesses their skills over the summer break.

With Team Spera’s help, Society Staples was able to expand its capacity. “Marketing has always been something we want to execute it well but we never have the time nor the bandwidth to look into it. So it was very nice having a team (Spera) working on our marketing challenges and suggesting what we can potentially do to reach out to different target audiences,” Debra shared. Thanks to Team Spera’s contribution Society Staples was saved a great amount of time for the “pre-work” – surveys, brainstorming of ideas, and research – that would otherwise have to be done.
Universities could further add value by tracking of the effectiveness of social enterprises’ programmes and initiatives, Debra added. This would allow social enterprises to “move the needle in their progress for change” by convincing key stakeholders with research-backed evidence. This evidence could strengthen the voice of PwDs through advocacy.

Partnership crucial to a fragmented sector

Cooperation between higher education students and social enterprises through the Crossing the Chasm Challenge shines a spotlight on another gap to be addressed in the sector: the need for partnerships. “There is a great fragmentation of work done by all sector partners, and also little to no flow of information between each other.” Debra observed that despite a common cause, the sector seemed to not be moving in sync. As a national dragonboater, she would know the importance of rowing together for consistent progress to be made. Without effective partnerships, the sector makes slower progress collectively, which makes potential future plans uncertain. “I see that as a great obstacle to private players like social enterprises and corporates because it hinders our ability to plan and pivot (whenever needed) and play our role in supporting the public players more,” she stated. Furthermore, there is also the loss of opportunity for great collaborations and synergies in the entire sector when a report or study is only published after the initiative has completed.

Row fast, row alone. Row far, row together. (Photo Credit: Royson Poh, Sharing the Lion City. http://www.sharingthelioncity.com/youths-start-deaf-rowing-team/)

This gap could be solved through conversation. To better serve PwDs, Debra suggested opening doors to different players in the market – a trend she has observed more in recent times – to share information on challenges, possibilities, and future plans more freely, and consistently through a platform or annual dialogue. This way, everyone would be able to pool resources. “There should also be more channels and room for social enterprises to work with the private sector and pilot projects together,” she recommended, “as each party brings a different set of expertise and resources to the table”.

Debra sharing her thoughts on the subject of entrepreneurial learning as a panellist of Edutech Asia. (Photo Credit: Society Staples)

One eye on the future

For Society Staples to achieve its ultimate dream – to close down, because PwDs would be effectively integrated into Singaporean society – Debra observed that the following needed to take place: first, there need to be a change in mind-set and attitudes towards PwDs; second, better quality of life and opportunities in all dimensions (economic, social, education, employment etc.) need to be developed for PwDs; third, the government needs to adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to solve challenges and cater to the needs of PwDs.
Debra shared her own paradigm-shifting journey. To advance the opportunities and push boundaries for PwDs, she advised, “believe wholeheartedly that nothing is impossible, the right methods just have not been discovered yet”.

Complementary partnerships – with her co-founder Ryan, and other stakeholders in the PWD space, make an inclusive future in Singapore possible. (Picture credit: Society Staples)

Society Staples co-founder Ryan is good at maintaining this relentless optimism, she remarks – and she learns from him every day. “My skills and strengths complements Ryan’s, and that’s why we make a good team,” she notes. Moving forward, perhaps partnerships across the PwD space can continue in this manner, complementing one another, and learning from each other while moving towards an inclusive future. Perhaps through partnerships, contributors to the PwD space can make impossible dreams possible.

Local social enterprise Society Staples, student team, Team Spera and judge Sihol Parulian Aritonang, Head of Executive Board, Tanoto Foundation (Indonesia), celebrating second runner up Team Spera’s win.

Crossing the Chasm Challenge 2017

Conceived in 2016, the Crossing the Chasm Challenge (CCC) aims to provide student-driven consulting solutions to enable pioneering social enterprises. These enterprises stand at 2 to 3 years old, and find themselves teetering in the middle of the funding spectrum – being too large for seed-funding, and too small for accelerator grants or impact investors. The Challenge combines students’ youthful energy and the wisdom of marketing experts in multi-national companies to solve significant problems encountered by local and regional social enterprises. Singapore-based enterprises seek to empower and award dignity to marginalised communities, while impactful social enterprises from the ASEAN region seek to alleviate poverty in their local communities (in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Thailand).

For the 45 student teams of 147 students, who came from a range of disciplines – global affairs, to engineering, to business – across 5 tertiary institutions, the Challenge gave them an opportunity to work closely with social entrepreneurs, understand the challenges they face, and to offer useful solutions. It also provided a platform for their personal growth. “We want to develop a new generation of business leaders who are not only sensitised to social and environmental concerns but are also trained to engender systemic change where there are market or government failures,” said Professor Lam Swee Sum, Director of the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP).

The Challenge concluded with a final showcase on 17 August 2017, featuring 3 teams from the Regional Category, and 3 teams from the Local Category. Team Delta Squad took home the prize in the Regional Category, demonstrating the best strategy for Colour Silk to expand their footprint in Southeast Asia. Prizes for top teams, sponsored by Tanoto Foundation, were awarded to both social enterprises and students for their co-created solutions.

Rising to the Challenge

 

Opening Address delivered by ACSEP Advisory Board Chairman, Keith Chua

These young changemakers were encouraged to rise to the challenge of combatting social problems with a fresh pair of eyes. “You come with no baggage,” remarked ACSEP Advisory Board Chairman Keith Chua in his Opening Address. This freedom from pre-conceived notions of how things ought to be done would allow students to generate relevant solutions in partnership with beneficiary communities. At the same time, exposure to real-world problems through the Challenge aimed to provide an eye-opening reality check for student participants: they are “not going to save the world, but to serve the world,” remarked Ms. Laina Greene, ACSEP Associate Director (Community Development). Armed with the right attitude and adequate contributions, students could help social enterprises become effective to carry out their purpose, said Director of the Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme (CTPCLP), Professor Albert Teo – to help “marginalised communities seek agency, empowerment, and the restoration of human dignity”. The spirit of empathy and intrapreneurship instilled in these students through the Challenge, especially the high value placed on collaboration, would point them in the right direction to achieve social impact through partnership.

Collaborate for Impact

Co-creation is the name of the game: social enterprises alongside beneficiaries; students consulting with social enterprises; and two university departments working in partnership with each other. A wide range of local and regional social ventures were featured in this edition of the Challenge – from ethical fashion, fair trade, creative arts as a training platform, to products and services for persons with disabilities. With the help of 29 mentors from the corporate sector, whom student teams were “match-made” with, students came up with relevant solutions to support these social enterprises with their skills. Students were equipped to do this through five workshops on corporate shared values, empathy and social entrepreneurship, the process of consulting, effective presentation structures, topped off with a pitching rehearsal session. This greater pool of resources could be tapped into, thanks to ACSEP’s partnership with CTPCLP in co-organising the Challenge. Through this platform, corporates, social enterprises, and student teams were able to productively support and complement one another.

The Challenge leveraged the strengths of these various change agents to spark active dialogue and conversation. Social enterprises commended the students for their active listening skills, dedication, and creative solutions. Ventures from the Regional category who sought to expand into the Singapore market, such as Cambodia’s The Colour Silk and Laos’ Ma Te Sai, benefited from the data on customer demographics the students were able to compile. This gave them key insights into their priorities for market expansion. Local social enterprises such as Society Staples also benefited from the student teams’ efforts and were able to gain more leads. Mentors were especially encouraging, investing in the teams’ solutions as if it was their own, and being a helpful sounding board for their ideas. Students, on the other hand, benefited deeply in terms of their own growth, learning, and discovering a sense of purpose through serving social enterprises with their gifts.

Crossing Personal Chasms

The “chasms” crossed were certainly not limited to the social enterprises alone. In their own learning and personal development, students crossed personal “chasms” too. For some, such as Victor Zhu (NUS, Quantitative Finance) of Team Hatch, his participation in the Challenge confirmed assumptions of social ventures: he saw that “while social enterprises often operate amongst uncertain and unintuitive landscapes, their successes are nevertheless realistic possibilities”. In addition, students had their paradigms challenged as a result of their encounters with the social entrepreneurs. Business students Cheong Joo Yee (NUS, Marketing and Finance) and Kellin Er (NUS, Marketing and Finance) of Team Spera found themselves confronted with new situations that they had yet to deal with in the business school: evaluating smaller-sized companies with multiple bottom lines. “You have to think about the welfare of the people, as well as the value proposition,” they noted. Significantly, the students gained confidence in themselves. “I learnt a lot – how to research, how to collaborate. After going through the process, I realised I could do it, by having a heart for the social enterprise and contributing my utmost best” said Lucas Tan (NUS, BBA) of team SLZW. Participants had the rich opportunity to learn from their own projects, from other finalists, and other people they met from the social enterprise ecosystem.

Regional Category winners Colour Silk and Team Delta Squad

Local Category winners E & I Concepts and Team Hatch

The journey continues…

For many of the participants, the journey of the Challenge did not end with its completion. Jasmine Tan (NUS, BBA), who participated in the 2016 and 2017 edition of the Challenge, saw the Challenge as an opportunity for her to meaningfully invest in skills-based volunteering. “Usually when we do voluntary work, we are on the frontline, but this time we get to adopt a more top-down approach, in talking to the management team,” she reflected. A number of student teams, such as Team Emerald, who supported Bliss, a local social enterprise restaurant to enable persons with special needs, were keen to continue to be involved in the venture because of the ownership the students developed over the project, and relationships formed with the rest of the team. How far did the Crossing the Chasm Challenge help move social enterprises from one milestone to the next? Only time will tell. However, one thing is certain: the Challenge helped to build bridges for a community of change-agents to move towards long-term sustainable development in this region.

Crossing the Chasm Challenge – a collaborative, creative community

International Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship 2017

This year marks the 3rd of the International Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship (ISSE) since its inaugural in 2015, organised by Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP), NUS Business School. On 21th April, ISSE 2017 provided a platform for academic researchers, social entrepreneurs and various stakeholders to share their knowledge and expertise in the development of social enterprises.

The theme this year, Impact Assessment for Social Enterprises: Contextualisation or Generalisation, is a push towards understanding frameworks to facilitate social investment flows so as to rightly allocate resources to where the expected social impact is the highest.

Before social enterprises can scale up, they need to provide convincing evidence that their activities have a social impact. There exists a wide array of options for social impact assessments, ranging from simple logical frameworks to complex reporting tools and metrics, and from participatory evaluations to randomized control trials. What is the difference among all these approaches – and is there a right approach? Moreover, impact assessment is costly. While some may consider it as a legitimate cost for aiding the enterprises in strategic decision-making, others may feel that it is extra cost and bureaucracy that comes at the expense of the effectiveness of the enterprise.

Our keynote speaker, Professor Fergus Lyon, from the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research, Middlesex University, took the stage with his speech discussing the opportunities and dilemmas of impact assessment for social enterprises.

Professor Fergus Lyon, from the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research, Middlesex University

Following which, a plenary session featuring 5 thought leaders in the social space here in Singapore shared about the usage of impact assessment within their organisations and in their line of business. The general sentiment was that forming networks, sharing knowledge and engaging stakeholders could ultimately prove impact assessment to improve outcomes for beneficiaries.

Plenary Session with Ms Ramandeep Sidhu, Assistant Director of Philanthropy and Partnerships, National Volunteer & Centre (NVPC), Singapore, Mr Alfie Othman, CEO of the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), Ranchika Ranchan, Head of Funding & Partnerships (Social) of Tote Board Singapore, Ms Tina Huang, Deputy CEO, National Council of Social Service, Singapore and Ms Martina Mettgenberg Lemière, Head of Insights and Capacity Building, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) (left to right)

 

With an end to the insightful sharing session, academic researchers from various institutions were invited to present their respective papers. A total of 4 papers were presented, with titles including:

  • A Landscape of Social Impact Assessment Practices among Impact Investors in Asia – Frank Hubers, ACSEP NUS Business School, Singapore
  • Measuring the Social Value Added by social enterprises – A Case Study applying the SIMPLE Methodology – Jim McLoughlin, University of Brighton, UK
  • Reporting in Social Entrepreneurship – Barbara Scheck, Ann-Kristin Achleitner, Alexander Bassen, Wolfgang Spiess-Knafl, Munich Business School, Germany
  • Distinguishing Game Changes from Boastful Charlatans: Which Social Enterprises Measure their Impact? – Karen Maas, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

As the sessions came to a close, the key takeaway from the day was that there is a need for greater understanding of how organisations can demonstrate their impact and a need for a common language on impact assessment. Indeed, funders tend to have more say in driving this common language and the allocation of the right resources to the right place would maximize the social impact brought about by social enterprises.

The ISSE 2017 Proceedings can be downloaded here.

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)

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.

raise

  • 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:

ChannelNewsAsia
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-buying-from-social-enterprises-in-singapore-survey/3233126.html

Singapore Business Review
http://sbr.com.sg/retail/more-news/awareness-social-enterprises-in-singapore-jumped-five-fold-65

TODAY
http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/survey-social-enterprise-shows-stubborn-group-non-buyers

Lianhe Zao Bao
http://www.zaobao.com.sg/news/singapore/story20161027-682626

World News
http://world.einnews.com/article/351055235/live

http://world.einnews.com/article_detail/350873688?lcode=xl1eBYycU4VK26V5PaobVMyQrM5d1vuUHoIrB6NGtcQ%3D

Wild Singapore
http://wildsingaporenews.blogspot.sg/2016/10/more-buying-from-social-enterprises-in.html

Local News Singapore
http://localnewsingapore.com/more-buying-from-social-enterprises-in-singapore-survey/

65 Singapore
http://www.65singapore.com/news/sinnews/47316.html

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?

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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.