23 April 2019

Global Young Changemakers Bond Over a Shared Motivation to Make a Better World

10 years on, the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme has grown a network of over 1,000 changemakers from across the world, inspiring fresh ideas to meet global challenges.


From 20 to 23 March, 90 youths from 13 countries gathered in Singapore for the YSE 2019 Workshop. Launched in 2010, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the SIF’s signature programme, which aims to inspire, equip, and enable youth of different nationalities to start or scale up their social enterprise in Singapore and beyond.

An enduring theme of this year’s workshop was the power of friendships. Mr Manish Mandal, Indian participant and co-founder of Mealstead, shared that the international aspect of YSE enabled deeper learnings. He said, “Everyone has their own story to share about their journey in social entrepreneurship and the challenges they want to solve back home. I’ve really enjoyed learning about how they approach these issues and it’s given me many ideas for potential collaborations. This is something I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t come to Singapore and joined YSE!”

For Mr David Wong, Malaysian participant and co-founder of Generation R, the convivial atmosphere among participants came as a pleasant surprise. “It’s been a great experience learning about different cultures at YSE. I was especially amazed to see how open everyone is, because I came in thinking that it would be a very competitive environment!” he laughed. “But, as it turns out, everyone is very helpful to one another, and I’ve enjoyed making friends with everyone.”

Participants bonding at the Theory of Change session conducted by Just Cause
Participants bonding at the Theory of Change session conducted by Just Cause. Theory of Change is a planning methodology that allows impact-driven organisations to understand existing gaps in their work that are preventing them from achieving their desired goals.

Besides new friendships, the ties across cohorts of YSE participants were also palpable. Alumni involvement in this year’s workshop included a session on “How to Pitch” conducted by 2015 alumnus Mr David Pong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-Founder of WateROAM. There was also Mr Keith Tan, CEO of Wonderlabs and a self-described “proud alumnus” from the 2012 cohort. Having volunteered as a speaker and moderator for past YSE events, this year, Mr Tan returned as a judge for the first time. In addition, many of the 2019 teams shared that they had joined YSE on the encouragement of programme alumni.

“We met Super Wonder, an Indonesian alumnus from 2017, and they said that they found YSE very beneficial—that it was an opportunity to see the world and understand the mindsets of people from other countries,” explained Ms Aurora Kartika, Indonesian participant and Co-Founder of Watter. “I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the other participants aim to solve different challenges and it made me think about whether their solutions are applicable to my own city.”

This year, participants were selected from almost 500 applications—the highest ever received in YSE’s history. Befitting the stiff competition faced at the application stage, the teams underwent a comprehensive and demanding series of activities curated to nurture them. From business clinics and a dialogue session on how to use data analytics to maximise social impact, to engaging with regional Key Opinion Leaders who boast a significant online presence, the participants were kept engaged throughout.

“In Pakistan, people rarely talk about the social aspect of businesses; the emphasis tends to be on making money,” said Mr Ali Shabbar, Pakistani participant and co-founder of DeafTawk. “It’s been an incredible learning journey, from thinking about how to measure our impact to picking up presentation skills on how to pitch our social enterprise. There’s not one, but many things we will be taking back with us to Pakistan.”

The fifteen shortlisted teams representing eight countries will move on to the next phase of YSE2019
The fifteen shortlisted teams representing eight countries will move on to the next phase of YSE2019.

The four-day workshop culminated in a business presentation session where all participating teams presented their social enterprise ideas to a panel of judges. The panel included Special Advisor to the SIF Mr Rajan Raju; SIF Governor Ms Ng Shin Ein; Mr Satsheel Shrotriva, Temasek International; Ms Laetitia Lienart, Credit Suisse; Mr Keith Tan, Wonderlabs; Mr Mason Tan, Garden Impact Investment; Mr Tee Yu Jin, Asia Philanthropic Ventures; Mr Jierong Tham, raiSE; and Mr Leon Toh, Damson Capital. Together, they assessed the social enterprises’ feasibility, innovativeness, social impact, and sustainability, and shortlisted 15 out of 45 teams to advance to the next phase of the programme. Over the next eight months, they will undergo rigorous mentorship, embark on an overseas study visit, and return to Singapore in October for the Pitching for Change session to pitch for seed funding of up to S$20,000 each.

The shortlisted teams are, in alphabetical order: 4ALL (Thailand), Agrireach (Singapore), CAMBO BIO GREEN (Cambodia), DeafTawk (Pakistan), Dishue (Indonesia), Generation R (Malaysia), HATCH (Singapore), Laister (Bangladesh), The Licht (Cambodia), Native (Malaysia), Nyampah Corporation (Indonesia), Parched Foodworks (India), Tactopus Learning Solutions Pvt Ltd (India), WATTER (Indonesia), and Ubuntu Micro Irrigation (India). Click here for their profiles.

Stay tuned for updates on YSE10 and the teams’ YSE journey on Facebook and Instagram, and check out our hashtags on social media #SIFYSE and #YSE10!