Executive Programme by Prof Paul Brest

Measuring & Improving the Impact of Social Enterprises

ACSEP was privileged to have Prof Paul Brest from Stanford Law School, former President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, to conduct a two-day Executive Programme on 3 and 4 September 2014. Before the programme began, Paul Brest provided an overview of good grant making practices from start to finish at a dinner session on 2 September 2014 where participants were able to interact comfortably with each other.

The 31 participants from various government agencies, foundations, corporates and grant makers 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.

Community Consultative Circle

The Community Consultative Circle, was a day-long closed-door discussion with 24 individuals. Each of these participants was invited based on their knowledge of and/or involvement in the sector, be it in social enterprises and intermediary organisations, or as funders and investors.  These individuals discussed what they thought the fundamental characteristics of social enterprises were, and what role these organisations might play in addressing future unmet social needs in Singapore.

Landscape of Social Entrepreneurship in Singapore

ACSEP Social Entrepreneurship Series

Landscape of Social Entrepreneurship in Singapore by Pauline Tan and Roshini Prakash. Launched on 3 June 2014, this report described the diverse landscape and eco-system of social enterprises that has developed in Singapore since the 1925 registration of the first co-operative, the Singapore Government Servants’ Thrift and Loan Society. The launch event drew an audience of over 100 practitioners, academics and students, and was covered in the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao.

Virtuous Circles: New Expressions of Collective Philanthropy in Asia

ACSEP Philanthropy Seminar

 New Expressions of Collective Philanthropy in Asia. Rob John presented key findings from the research report. Thereafter, he was joined by giving circle members from India, China, Korea and Singapore for a lively panel discussion.

Finding THAT Business Model that is Scalable and Sustainable: A Journey of Discovery

The inaugural seminar in the ACSEP Social Entrepreneurship Series held on 7 March 2014, Finding THAT Business Model that is Scalable and Sustainable: A Journey of Discovery, found over 170 participants spellbound by Mr Sasa Vucinic, founder of the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) and other social ventures.

MDLF was the first organisation in the world set up to give loans to media companies in developing countries. As Mr Vucinic shared his experiences and lessons learned through his years leading MDLF, he took them on a reflective journey during which he transformed MDLF from an enterprise that relied primarily on donations and grants into a viable enterprise that was financially sustainable. In the early years, MDLF struggled to find the grants and donations that would allow it to make loans to fledgling media companies. It considered several alternative approaches, including securing funds from the market through products such as a bond-like structured product listed in Zurich Stock Exchange. However none of these were sustainable. But an innocuous line of gratitude in a Christmas card received from one of its early clients changed all that, and led to MDLF not only providing loans but also equity investments. One of its best investments resulted in an annualized capital gain of 33%. The capital gains allowed MDLF to subsidize other clients, and ultimately led to its self-sustainability.

The icing on the cake came when Mr Vucinic summarised his learnings points over his 15 – 16 years in MDLF. He said: there is never one business model that is waiting for entrepreneurs to discover, entrepreneurs have to go through the process of exploring and searching, while always being nimble enough to change course as circumstances evolved. He likened this process to sailing where the sailor, despite having a general direction for the route, has to navigate the boat according to changing wind direction in order to reach his final destination. He concluded that no matter how many failures an entrepreneur had, he/she would never get smarter about identifying the right business model, just faster in recognising failures. Entrepreneurs just have to keep trying. Mr Vucunic closed the session encouraging all entrepreneurs to start working as soon as they have an idea. It’s never too early to start, he said.


ACSEP wrote the introductory chapter to LegaleSE, A Legal Handbook for Social Enterprise, which was launched by the Law Society of Singapore Pro Bono Services Office on 7 December 2013. The chapter was entitled “What is a Social Enterprise? Do you have a social enterprise? Historical and Current Standards” and provided a brief overview of the social enterprise landscape in Singapore and around the world. The book aims to provide legal guidance to socially-driven individuals to help them start, grow and even terminate a social enterprise successfully. Professor Lam Swee Sum presented some highlights from the chapter during the “Good Business Done Right” panel discussion at the launch event.

Download the handbook at: http://probono.lawsociety.org.sg/Documents/pdf/LegaleSE%20Handbook.pdf

SSI Seminar: Change through Good Governance

Stimulate, Sustain, Inspire Change through Good Governance
ACSEP in partnership with Social Service Institute, organize a seminar on “Change through Good Governance” on 27 Nov 2013 at the SSI Auditorium at Somerset. The 3 speakers shared the importance of governance in charities, lessons of good governance practices, and how good governance can be practised and implemented in real life. The audience enjoyed the sharing and actively participated in the Q&A session which was moderated by Prof Lam Swee Sum.


Seminar Highlights:

This seminar will outline principles, policies and practices essential to good governance, by examining governance of charities in Singapore and internationally. Asst Professor Aimee Shih will share global empirical evidence concerning the importance of governance in charities, particularly in the context of a non-profit organisation’s ability to obtain capital, operate efficiently and, ultimately, achieve its mission. Assoc Professor Ruth Tan will share lessons of good governance practices from her involvement in the Charity Governance Award (CGA) 2012 and 2013. This event will be capped by a sharing by a past CGA winner on its learning journey in the pursuit of better governance that led to its emergence as a winner of the CGA award.




  • Associate Professor Lam Swee Sum, Director, Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP), Department of Finance, NUS Business School



  • Assistant Professor Aimee Shih, Department of Accounting, NUS Business School, National University of Singapore.
  • Associate Professor Ruth Tan, Department of Finance, NUS Business School, National University of Singapore.
  • Associate Professor Daniel Fung, President of Singapore Association for the Mental Health (SAMH). SAMH is the 2012 winner for the small and medium category of the Charity Governance Award

Philanthropy to Social Entrepreneurship

On 25 Nov 2013, as part of the visit by the Indiana University (IU) Philanthropy, Public Affairs, and Business Delegation, Founding Dean, Prof Gene Tempel gave a presentation on the topic “Philanthropy to Social Entrepreneurship to ASCEP Board Members, researchers and invited guests, Prof Tempel discussed the origins of philanthropy and philanthropic trends, including the development of philanthropy to more formal systems, such as social entrepreneurship. The presentation was followed by a lively and engaging Q&A.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong visits ACSEP

Emeritus Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong visited NUS Business School on November 22, 2013 for a delegate meeting with the Dean, Professor Bernard Yeung; Paul Cheung, Professor of Social Policy and Analytics at NUS; Ivan Png, Lim Kim San Professor of Strategy & Policy; and Mr Tay Kuan Ming, the Associate Dean. Also present at the meeting were various team members of the Asian Centre for Social Enterprise and Philanthropy (ACSEP): Mr Keith Chua, Chairman of Advisory Board, ACSEP; Lam Swee Sum, Associate Professor and Director of ACSEP; Ms Chua Beng Yan, Associate Director and research associates Ms Pauline Tan and Ms Roshini Prakash.

The ACSEP team members made a presentation to Mr Goh about the landscape of social enterprises in Singapore, including the challenges to identify and define social enterprises and differing stakeholder priorities.

Mr Goh and the Dean discussed the role of education in changing mindsets about philanthropy and the need for a more comprehensive and integrated approach at the grass-roots level to bring social and philanthropic activities to those who need them the most. Business efficiency is critical to the success of social enterprises and a business school can help make a difference, according to Mr Goh.