18 March 2022

Experienced Panel Share about Overcoming Challenges and Finding Purpose in Social Impact Work

Speakers at the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) Global programme highlighted passion, resilience, and commitment as key ingredients in creating meaningful impact.

Winners of YSE Global 2021

Panel Discussion on The Unyielding Changemaker

The panel discussion titled “The Unyielding Changemaker” was a highlight at the programme’s 12th edition. The panel, at the virtual event on 11 March 2022, comprised:

  • Ms Elim Chew, the founder of streetwear brand, 77th Street. She is the Special Adviser to the YSE programme.
  • Ms Yeo Pei Shan (YSE 2018 Alumnus), Co-Founder of UglyFood, which tries to cut food waste by advocating the consumption of fruit and vegetables that may not look good.
  • Mr Tan Song Jie (YSE 2012 Alumnus), Co-Founder of social enterprises 8 Fahrenheit Ice Cream and Sng Kee Ice Cream, which employed individuals from financially disadvantaged and hearing-impaired communities.

The discussion was moderated by Mr Louis Puah (YSE 2016 Alumnus), Founder of Praxium, a “career discovery institute” that helps people of all ages explore their passions, build valuable skills, and lead fulfilling lives.

The panellists noted that social entrepreneurship requires not only intellect and business acumen but also a commitment to finding innovative solutions to everyday problems. This should be underscored by an open mind towards learning and resilience to stay the course in the face of challenges.

The speakers concurred that the key to managing a sustainable social enterprise is balancing profit and purpose. The business must generate enough revenue to support the social purpose. This ensures long-term and sustainable impact of the social enterprise.

However, it is also important to not allow the pursuit of money, power, and fame drive the business completely. Ms Chew said: “As a social entrepreneur, you have to do well to do good. But your core purpose and values should still be at the heart of what you do. These will guide you to make the right decisions and that will contribute eventually to the social impact made by the business.”

The panellists said that there are also many other ways to contribute to the community, and that no contribution is too small when it comes to social impact. Everyone can play a part – whether as a social entrepreneur, a volunteer, a professional in the social sector, or even as a consumer.

Ms Yeo, who is passionate about food sustainability, mental well-being, and youth empowerment, founded Food Warrior after leaving UglyFood in 2021. Food Warrior aims to educate people about food sustainability through workshops, webinars, and collaborations with various organisations.

She said: “The ‘how’ might change, but the ‘why’ does not. I still have a clear vision of what I aim to achieve through my new initiatives, which is to create awareness about food sustainability and empowering individuals to reduce food waste. This sense of purpose drives me to keep going and do my best.”

Mr Tan, who currently works for a voluntary welfare organisation, said he hopes to start a new social enterprise in the next five to 10 years. To prepare himself for that, he is keeping his ears to the ground and constantly learning new and relevant skills.

He added: “I would like to put myself in a position where, if an opportunity presents itself to me, I will be ready to take it on.”

YSE Global 2021

The event at which they were speaking was Pitching for Change, which marked the end of the YSE Global’s eight-month programme. During that time, the participants had taken part in online workshops, were coached by mentors, and attended YSE Spotlight – a series of virtual learning sessions where they were exposed to the social entrepreneurial landscapes in China, India, and ASEAN.

Twelve teams – comprising 24 changemakers from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore – then presented their social business ideas to a panel of judges. They were shortlisted from a larger pool of 41 teams, made up of 109 youths representing 16 nationalities.

Six out of the 12 teams were selected to receive up to S$20,000 each to launch or scale up their social enterprises.

The winning teams were (in alphabetical order):

  1. AKYAS Sanitation (Jordan), which provides innovative and affordable sanitation solutions to communities who lack access to safely managed sanitation
  2. Kanpur Flowercycling Private Limited (Phool.co) (India), which provides employment to marginalised women by upcycling floral wastes into handcrafted incenses and developed ways to produce vegan leather from floral and farm waste
  3. Khmer Super Plantfood (Cambodia), which aims to combat post-harvest income losses among small farming communities by using solar technology to transform unwanted fruits and nuts into nutrient-dense snack options
  4. Sojourner Brother (Singapore), a business-to-business (B2B) web app that enables employers to hire, manage, and care for their migrant workers in an efficient and compassionate way
  5. TACT Social Consulting (Thailand), which empowers youth to work with organisations and drive them to align their corporate social responsibility projects with UN Sustainable Development Goals
  6. VEMBI (India), which develops affordable assistive technology solutions for the visually impaired

Jordan-based AKYAS Sanitation is led by Co-Founders Ms Sophia Tan from Singapore and Ms Mandy Mui from Hong Kong. Ms Tan said: “Running a social enterprise comes with many challenges. It is great to know that we are part of the larger YSE network of like-minded friends whom we can count on for advice and support. We are looking forward to putting what we have learnt to good use as we pilot our service in Bangladesh and work to provide affordable sanitation solutions to communities which lack access to safely managed sanitation.”

Mr Chayut Sakunkoo, CEO at TACT Social Consulting, said: “With this grant and valuable skills gained from YSE Global, we now see many possibilities to scale our business and social impact. From our mentors’ guidance and through conversations with our fellow YSE peers, we have also gained new perspectives on approaching various challenges. These lessons are priceless and will continue guide us on our social journey.”

This year, three teams – Komerce (Indonesia), TACT Social Consulting, and Kanpur Flowercycling – won the YSE Friends’ Favourite contest on social media and were awarded Amazon gift cards valued up to S$1,000. These teams garnered the most votes from the online community.

Komerce is a social enterprise that aims to provide equal employment opportunities to village youths by providing them with e-commerce skills training, while connecting them to small and medium-sized enterprises. Its Partnership Officer, Ms Intan Maulida Lazuardini, said: “We appreciate this chance to connect with social entrepreneurs and industry players from other countries. The workshop and Spotlight sessions taught us the importance of having a global perspective in managing our social enterprise. We also met many inspiring youths from the programme, and I am proud to be part of the YSE network.”

All the YSE participants are now part of an international network of more than 1,300 changemakers of 42 nationalities and spanning 628 social enterprises.

Join YSE Global 2022 as a participant, business plan reviewer or mentor

YSE Global is an annual SIF programme that aims to inspire, equip, and enable youths around the world to launch or scale up their social enterprises in Singapore and beyond. Applications for the YSE Global 2022 are now open. Join the upcoming YSE Global 2022 - Virtual Roadshows for more information on the programme.

The programme is also on the lookout for volunteers to review business plans for the selection of participants, and mentor aspiring social entrepreneurs. If you have what it takes to help our young changemakers achieve their social business goals, apply here by 24 April 2022.