“Learning by Investing @ NUS” Grant Presentation Event

37 BBA students saw their hard work come to fruition at the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy’s (ACSEP) “Learning by Investing@ NUS” grant presentation event on 23 April 2015.

As part of the BBA (Honours) module, “Measuring Success in Philanthropy and Impact Investing”, the students had to identify the most investment worthy social enterprises based on assessment metrics learned in class. And at the April event, each of these social enterprises were awarded a grant of S$5,000, with an additional S$5,000 going to the social enterprise voted top by the whole class. The translation of classroom learning to actual financial impact was  made possible through the generosity of Mr. Keith Chua, Executive Chairman of ABR Holdings and Chairman of ACSEP’s Advisory Board.

ACSEP first introduced this approach to learning last semester. At the November 2014 “Learning by Giving” grant presentation event, the students identified the most donation-worthy charities. This year, we focused on social enterprises to help our students build capacity in social investing across the spectrum, moving beyond philanthropic giving to venture philanthropy and impact investing. The skills of socially responsible investing, impact investing and venture philanthropy also bear more direct relevance for our business school students’ career options.

The five selected social enterprises are:

  •  Backstreet Academy
  •  Green Prints
  •  Daughters of Tomorrow
  •  Wateroam
  •  Blue Impact

Daughters of Tomorrw came up top in voting by class and received additional S$5,000 grant.

Learning the Art of Philanthropy


29 BBA students recently saw their hard work come to fruition during The Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy’s (ACSEP) “Learning by Giving at NUS” event.

As part of a course, “Measuring Success in Philanthropy and Impact Investing,” the students had to identify the most donation-worthy charities in Singapore by adapting and using frameworks and tools created by Northeastern University.  They had to use the RISE assessment framework to ascertain the Relevance, Impact,Sustainability and Excellence of the charities they were looking at.

According to Dr Tan Jee Peng, NUS Visiting Fellow who has had more than 40 years of rich experience with The World Bank, “young people should learn now to give by having actual dollars to give away.  By trusting students to make philanthropic investments… gives them a sense of agency and social responsibility.”

Through the generosity of Mr. Keith Chua, Executive Chairman of ABR Holdings and Chairman of ACSEP’s Advisory Board, the students were empowered to donate a total of SGD40,000 to charities that they identify as being the most donation-worthy.  They include:

  1. Care Corner Family Service Centre (Admiralty)
  2. Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore
  3. Singapore Red Cross
  4. Home Nursing Foundation
  5. New Life Community Services
  6. Kidney Dialysis Foundation
  7. Reach Community Services Society

Home Nursing Foundation received an additional SGD5,000 for being voted “Top of the Tops” by the class.

The identified charities were recognized through the award of a grant from the Mrs. Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, a foundation that honors Mr. Chua’s late great grandmother.

Originally posted at: http://bizblogs.nus.edu/outside-in/learning-the-art-of-philanthropy/

Philanthropic Psychology

ACSEP Philanthropy Seminar: Philanthropic Psychology by Prof Jen Shang from Plymouth Business School and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University. People often have complex motives for giving. The new academic discipline of philanthropic psychology draws on theories from psychology to generate practical ideas that fundraisers can integrate into their professional lives. Prof Shang used evidence from field experiments to help the audience understand the “whys” in giving and how to enhance the donor experience. The seminar was moderated by Ms Jane Binks, and joined by panelists comprising Mr Keith Chua and Mr Chew Kheng Chuan.


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