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 From the Chinese/ Straits Chinese to the Indians/ Ceylonese, the Jews, to the Arabs and Malay-Muslims, women had superseded formal notions of monetary philanthropic giving to volunteer and contribute informally in sharing resources like food, helping mark key rites of passage, and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.

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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.

Social Impact Assessment Workshop conducted for the Thai Social Enterprise Office

e15b2cf2-55db-465d-b909-c1a93925c2b0 2905065b-2f36-43a1-a18c-787e7dcad1b2 93f22cfe-eca9-401a-a3cc-9a24dcd13071 402886fb-3c4c-46e4-8c98-8c9df9ee5269 96901a43-e9de-4044-9b92-7f427ab1ac9dMeasuring social impact is often a difficult task and attracts much debate because there is no one size fits all solution that could be applied across all social enterprises. Despite the difficulty, social impact assessment is not only necessary but critical.

Understanding the importance of social impact assessment (SIA), ACSEP has been invited by the Thai Social Enterprise Office (TSEO) to conduct a 3-day workshop from 26 – 28 Nov. Various stakeholders of the Thai SE sector attended the workshop: such as the social entrepreneurs themselves, impact investors, researchers and policy makers.

It was a fruitful three days as Prof Lam Swee Sum and Dr Weina Zhang shared on the latest developments of SIA tools around the world and worked with participants in applying the SIA frameworks to their work.

We thank TSEO for collaboration and look forward to future collaboration and partnership opportunities.

Workshop by Prof Dr Barbara Scheck

Capacity-building for Social Enterprises: Social Impact Analysis & Strategy

DSC00711Prof Dr Barbara Scheck is the visiting fellow at Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP) at NUS Business School from September to October 2015. She is an Assistant Professor for Social Investment at the University of Hamburg since 2012. The workshop was conducted on 14th October 2015 where 11 participants spent a fruitful morning discussing the tools available for social impact analysis and strategy formulation.

Indeed, achieving social impact is the very “reason for being” of social enterprises. Delineating how such social impact can be achieved is through the modelling of the so-called “theory of change”. At its core, a theory of change expresses an initiative or program logic. It defines long-term objectives and then maps these backward to identify necessary resources and activities. During the workshop, participants were given a chance to apply these frameworks to their social entreprise under the guidance of Prof Dr Barbara Scheck and are given feedback on how to improve their social impact analysis and strategy.

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Executive Programme by Prof Paul Brest

Measuring & Improving the Impact of Social Enterprises

Paul BrestACSEP was privileged to have Prof Paul Brest from Stanford Law School, former President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, to conduct a Executive Programme on the 25th to 27th August 2015. The event kicked off with an introductory lecture on strategic philanthropy and its discontents. The workshop then proceeded to touch on topics of strategy and impact investing while participants and Prof Paul Brest shared light hearted moments over lunch.

The 18 participants from various government agencies, foundations, corporates and grant makers, from Malaysia and Singapore, thoroughly enjoyed the time spent learning and interacting with Prof Paul Brest.  The intensive programme focused on designing, implementing, and evaluating strategies for the delivery of social goods and services through non-profit organizations (NGOs) and for-profit enterprises (impact investees). To fully benefit from the programme, the participants were given pre-requisite readings comprising book chapters and case studies before the programme.

International Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship 2015

The inaugural International Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship 2015 saw the gathering of over a hundred academics, practitioners and researchers as they discussed fervently on the challenges and promises ahead for the social entrepreneurship landscape in Asia and the world.


To Measure or Not To Measure?

“Currently, there is no one proven model for social impact measurement. The conversation to find better ways to measure and create collective impact requires active participation, reflection, coordination and action. Only then, would we truly be able to deliver actual value to the social sector.”

A reflection paper by Zhao Binru Bryan, as partial fulfillment of a BBA (Honours) module, “Measuring Success in Philanthropy and Impact Investing”.

This paper seeks to discuss whether managers in the field of the public sector or nonprofit organizations (NPOs) should, or should not use performance measurement for performance management. According to Hatry (2014), performance measurement refers to the regular collection of output and/or outcome data throughout the year for the NPO’s programs and services. Performance managers would then use these performance data to help them make decisions that continually improve their services to their customers. In this paper, the concept of philanthropy is extended to ‘entrepreneurial philanthropy’, comprising of ‘venture philanthropy’ as well as ‘impact first impact investing’ (John, Tan and Ito, 2013). Financial and human capital are deployed to primarily achieve social impact and outcomes.

The adage that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” appears to be unequivocal. Without performance measurement, managers would not be able to make decisions pertaining to evaluation, control and budgeting (Behn, 2004). Both Brest (2003) and Gates (2013) emphasize the importance of measurement of progress and outcomes in NPO programs. Performance measurement thus serves as a feedback loop to ascertain if the program is on track or not, and if necessary corrections should be made. Moreover, Brest and Born (2013) define the achievement of social impact as an increase in the quantity or quality of the enterprise’s social outcomes beyond what would otherwise have occurred. Determining the social impact that is solely attributable to the program through quantitative or qualitative indicators may help NPOs determine the validity of its theory of change. For instance, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was able to prove that the eligibility for merit-based scholarships led to better academic grades amongst students, with improved student and teacher attendance (Brest and Krieger, 2010). Measurement through randomized controlled studies proved that the intervention works. This serves as useful information for the program managers to continue with and make further improvements to the program. Even if the results had proven negative, or inconclusive, they still serve as useful information for subsequent studies to become more targeted.

Based on the theoretical and empirical evidence presented, measurement that is tied to outputs and outcomes is essential for performance managers to make objective and informed decisions. However, measurement is not an end in itself and being able to measure performance does not necessarily equate to the ability to manage performance.

“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”.

The first half of this statement posits that it may sometimes be impossible to obtain quantitative data for performance management. Brest (2003) acknowledges this through the example of a performing arts organization, which should place emphasis on the quality of its production as well as the size of the audience. While the size of the audience is a quantitative indicator that is comparable and objective, this is difficult to achieve for the quality of production. It could instead, be assessed by critics. However, Brest also argues that data such as quality of production, though subjective, may be quantified for comparative purposes. Brest notes, however, that this should be done with the program’s goals and outcome in mind. This clearly shows that measurement should be carried out merely as a tool to assess outcomes and impact. Barkhorn, Huttner and Blau (2013) further debunk the validity of the first half of the statement. Through designing an Advocacy Assessment Framework, they were able to quantify and compare advocacy efforts of different NPOs. This quantitative estimator for the likelihood of success pushes the boundaries of evaluating advocacy, traditionally thought to be a risky area of business.

The second half of the statement considers the circumstances where the quantification of outputs does not necessarily guarantee the achievement of the intended outcomes. The Acumen Fund had used an output metric measuring the sales and distribution of bed nets as a proxy to measure the outcome of malaria prevention (Ebrahim and Rangan, 2011). However, not considering if the bed nets were even used represents an information gap to establish causation and impact. This presents a limitation in performance measurement for management of outcomes. However, Trelstad (2008) explains that understanding outcomes and demonstrating the counter-factual is both complicated and costly. He recommends measurement by outputs and using literature reviews to justify the output’s link to impacts. While this may circumvent the problem of measuring outputs to outcomes, it reveals another argument against measurement, in that it may be costly and not produce useful results.

“Measurement is expensive and its results are often ignored”.

Brest (2003) recognizes that data collection becomes more difficult and expensive when trying to measure intermediate and ultimate outcomes. Often, NPOs have limited time, money and lack the administrative expertise to track social outcome (Tuan, 2008). Although the cost of measurement may sometimes be borne by foundations and funders, this process still incurs a huge time cost for the NPOs. In addition, the measurement results may sometimes be ignored. Tuan (2008) highlights REDF primary funder’s decision to discontinue using SROI metrics, as the SROI results had no impact on any investment decisions in the REDF portfolio. Likewise, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation had also decided to exit its Nonprofit Marketplace Initiative after some review. A report “Money for Good” from Hope Consulting revealed that the American donors’ demand for information to identify top-performing nonprofits was much lower than expected. Only 3% of Americans would compare between NPOs when making a gift. However, Harty (2014) presents an alternative viewpoint. He posits that advances in technology had led to lower costs of information and more timely results. Evidence-based decisions and program evaluations have also led to a widespread increase in demand for reliable evidence in the NPO sector. The examples of REDF and Hewlett Foundation reveal that measurement results may sometimes be ignored. However, one must note that the SROI framework was intended to measure the returns to society as a whole, and not to track individual program outcomes. Likewise, the Nonprofit Marketplace Initiative also served to improve the information availability for the whole American population. In fact, 85% of the population cares about performance of the NPOs, which are measured by indicators (Hope Consulting, 2014). As such, it is not justified to say that results are often ignored.

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for decision making, the more it will be subject to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor”.

Fitzgerald (2013) points out that emphasizing social impact reporting may result in NPOs being too concerned with securing funding from donors and funding agencies. There is also a possibility that focusing too much on measurement may lead NPOs to take on activities that are only measured by quantitative metrics (Brest, 2008). This might lead to perverse incentives for creaming and cherry picking. The Oklahoma Milestone Payment System, an outcome-based payment system, created incentives for managers to screen out difficult customers (O’Brien and Cook, 2005). However, such creaming practices may be countered through higher payment levels for higher support needs (O’Brien and Revell, 2005). While quantitative social indicators may lead to unintended consequences, social impact can also be measured by qualitative metrics. These qualitative metrics can serve as a check and balance on the programs, and be considered in tandem with quantitative results for performance measurement.

The above discussion leads to a viewpoint that managers in the field of NPOs should use performance measurement for performance management. Empirical evidence also suggests that pre-investment venture capital practices do matter for the expected performance of social investment funds (Lam, Leong and Lek, 2010). With that being said, it is imperative to keep in mind that the process of measurement is not an end in itself. Devoting too many resources to measurement may result in managers neglecting the social impact and outcomes of the programs. Often, the customers and beneficiaries are overlooked, and yet they are the results that provide leading indicators for long-term program effectiveness (Twersky, Buchanan and Threlfall, 2013). As such, a strong engagement with the partners and beneficiaries is crucial to obtain high quality information and data. Currently, there is no one proven model for social impact measurement. The conversation to find better ways to measure and create collective impact requires active participation, reflection, coordination and action. Only then, would we truly be able to deliver actual value to the social sector.


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