Welcome Remarks by Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, at the ASEAN Conference on Social Entrepreneurship, NUS Business School, Singapore

Ms Elaine Tan, Executive Director, ASEAN Foundation
Mr Dondi Hananto, Board Treasurer, UnLtd Indonesia
Mr Romy Cahyadi, Executive Director, UnLtd Indonesia
Friends from ASEAN social enterprises
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to the inaugural ASEAN Conference on Social Entrepreneurship. I am honoured to be here today, humbled to be among so many established and aspiring change makers with your bold ideas and innovative social enterprises from across ASEAN.

The world we live in today is increasingly complex – we face intractable problems caused by climate change, rising income inequality, (unprecedented) forced displacement of people, epidemic of chronic diseases, digital disruptions, to name a few. Our shared goal to uplift lives and effect positive change is increasingly difficult. I believe one of the reasons why social innovation and entrepreneurship is flourishing is because many old policies and ways of working can no longer solve many of today’s pressing challenges. It requires truly novel solutions. It demands that we work together in new ways. In ways where we forge a common understanding of issues and foster collaborative problem solving. Complex challenges can be cracked when we bring together networks of people who share common values and goals, to collaborate on social and environmental problems and uplift lives.

This is what social entrepreneurs do best. They pioneer solutions to social problems for systemic change. They are fiercely collaborative - as Pamela Hartigen of Skoll said, because social entrepreneurs are focused on social value creation, in that spirit they are willing to share their innovations and insights for others to replicate. They believe strongly in the ‘’innate capacity of all people” to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development. Social entrepreneurs adopt market principles and entrepreneurial zeal in pursuing their social mission. And achieve social impact with their scalable ideas alongside sustainable financial return.   

This is why the SIF started a Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme in 2010. To build a global network of young change makers - youth with innovative business ideas focused on social good, mentored by established social entrepreneurs, business consultants and supported by social impact investors - to start or scale up social enterprises in Singapore and beyond.

Today we have a network of 480 youth of 23 nationalities with innovative business ideas or social enterprises impacting some 12 countries.  Sixteen aspiring YSE teams are here today, comprising youth from Azerbaijan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Yemen. They have just come back from a study visit to Malaysia as part of their eight-month YSE programme. They are excited to be here among successful social entrepreneurs. I hope you will take the time to encourage and share your insights and experiences with our youth as they embark on their journey as changemakers. I am pleased to also see past YSE alumni, including 2013 alumnus Inclusive Arts Movement who gave a beautiful performance earlier, as well as programme partners like The Thought Collective and Dignity Kitchen.

The importance of connectivity and collaboration is also at the heart of the new ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC, whose vision is to integrate Southeast Asia’s diverse economies to achieve a better future for its peoples. It is our hope that through this conference, we can foster a collaborative ecosystem for social entrepreneurs in ASEAN. Here we have an opportunity to forge strong collaborations within and across the public, private and people sectors across borders. To develop new partnerships, share resources, and leverage one another’s expertise to create impact beyond what one alone can deliver.

For that, I would like to thank our partner UnLtd Indonesia for co-organising this conference, as well as our funders the ASEAN Foundation and Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund for your generous contributions. I am also grateful to our panellists and representatives from supporting organisations for contributing precious time and resource to this conference.

On this note, I encourage all of you to participate actively over the next two days, in the sharing of insights, skills and experiences in this serious business of making a difference. I hope you also make new friends and networks that enable future collaborations for change.



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