Opening Remarks by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman, at the Young Social Entrepreneurs 2017 Dialogue at *SCAPE The Tree Top

Good afternoon. Welcome to the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) 2017 dialogue.

The topic of today’s discussion is “Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals”. Partnerships – collaboration is extremely important if we are serious about resolving shared social challenges. Some of these challenges identified under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) include climate change, inequality and poverty. Goal 17, in particular, identifies global partnerships as key to sustainable development. This means that the public, private and people sectors need to work together – to share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources to unlock the transformative power of partnerships and deliver sustainable solutions to global ills. This is something that we, at the SIF, intentionally foster through the YSE network of young changemakers, established social entrepreneurs, business consultants, investors and policy makers. 

As you know, social enterprises are businesses that seek to solve unmet social needs through innovative, sustainable and cost-effective solutions. They represent a shift towards partnerships that align business growth objectives with social imperatives. To ensure significant social impact, social entrepreneurs often join forces with civil society, private companies and/or government. They appreciate the value of building collaborative partnerships and leveraging multi-sectorial networks for systemic and scalable change.

An example is YSE 2014 alumni, Social Development Initiative (SDI) Academy – a social enterprise that empowers migrant workers in Singapore - through its English language, vocational and computer courses. Its co-founders – a youth trio from Singapore and India – asked themselves, how can they bring greater value to their beneficiaries and the community while sustainably scaling their venture. The answer, they found, lies in collaborating with other government agencies and stakeholders to achieve a win-win situation. For instance, their Befrienders Programme connects Singaporeans with migrant workers, promoting mutual understanding over food and games. In 2016, SDI Academy worked with the Bangladesh High Commission in Singapore to raise awareness about their programmes among the Bangladeshi workers community. Through such joint efforts, SDI Academy has delivered over 10,000 hours of lessons to 1,000 workers. Many of their trainees went from not being able to speaking English to understanding lessons conducted in English on important issues such as work safety and productivity.

Another example is YSE 2015 alumni, WateROAM – a social enterprise co-founded by three youths including Mr Vincent Loka, one of our panellists today. WateROAM came up with a simple, portable and affordable water filtration system to resolve the issue of lack of access to water sources at disaster-stricken sites. Early in their enterprise, they realised they could not work alone to achieve their social mission and actively built networks of support to drive greater impact. In 2015, WateROAM partnered with international humanitarian NGO World Vision to alleviate the post-flood situation in Kelantan, Malaysia. World Vision mobilised their networks to dispatch their water filters to 1000 beneficiaries and educated them in sanitation and hygiene tips. Back in Singapore, WateROAM is collaborating with our national water agency PUB to test their water filters’ performance for long-term durability. By incorporating cross-sector partnerships in their social business model, their water filters have been able to benefit more than 15,000 people in Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vanuatu.  

Today’s dialogue will further explore and examine how governments, people and corporations can collaborate for social impact and support the achievement of the SDGs.  Our friends on the panel – World Vision, Unilever and Tsinghua University – are here today to share with you their valuable lessons on collaborations that have been instrumental in scaling social innovation.

I encourage all YSE participants to also share your insights on partnerships that have worked for you or failed you. You are now part of a YSE network of over 500 global changemakers, with access to over 100 institutional partners across nine international cities. This growth of the YSE programme since 2010 reflects the value of connections that have enabled collaborations for positive change. We, at the SIF, are proud to play a significant role in inspiring, equipping and enabling youth from around the world to embark on social enterprises.

I shall now hand you over to our moderator Mr Wilson Ang, Executive Director of Global Compact Network Singapore, to lead us in an engaging dialogue. I wish you all an engaging session ahead.




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