Speech By Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, At The Young Social Entrepreneurs 10th Anniversary Celebration At Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

Good evening. Welcome to the SIF's Young Social Entrepreneurs (or the YSE's) 10th anniversary celebration!

When we first started the programme in 2010, not many knew the term social entrepreneurship. A public awareness survey conducted by the then-Social Enterprise Association (predecessor of Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise or raiSE) in 2010 found that only 13 percent of Singaporeans had heard of social enterprises. Not surprisingly, SIF’s first bootcamp to teach social entrepreneurship attracted only 25 participants forming seven teams from a few Asian countries! Today, for each run of YSE, we regularly receive close to 500 applications from about 30 countries, and shortlist 50 teams to join the programme.

Our three-day programme to teach the basics of starting a social enterprise has also grown tremendously over the years. Today, YSE is an eight-month long incubation programme comprising a workshop, an overseas study visit, rigorous mentorship from leading industry experts, and funding opportunities. In 2016, we took the programme overseas. We brought YSE workshops directly to cities in Indonesia, India and China to engage aspiring changemakers and expand the network of youth interested in social entrepreneurship.

With these developments, the YSE network swelled. Today, we have 1,106 alumni comprising over 30 nationalities and representing 525 social enterprises. The ecosystem to support them in their journey as a social entrepreneur has also grown — they have a global network of peers and mentors and over 150 institutional partners to tap on for guidance and support.

Beyond programme growth and reach, to better capture YSE’s impact and sustainability, the SIF commissioned an impact study earlier this year. Conducted by PwC, it looked into if the programme had delivered on its stated goals, what was effective and where we could improve. Let me share some top line findings:

  • Today, 85.7 percent of our winning social enterprises remain in business;
  • The average increase in revenue of operational social enterprises per year (over a three-year period) is 268 percent;
  • The average increase in income of YSE participants per year (over a three-year period) is 190 percent.

Take for example, Local Alike, a YSE 2014 alumnus which seeks to preserve local culture and generate income for rural communities through impact travel. They have created more than 2,000 part-time jobs through their social enterprise, generating over USD900,000 for 70 villages in 30 provinces in Thailand.

The value of social capital is another outcome the programme prides itself in building. By this I mean the interpersonal relationships forged, the shared understanding, purpose, values, trust and cooperation of an impact network. According to the study, 90 percent of participants acknowledged that the YSE programme had expanded their networks. And the friendships forged between participants have lasted long after the programme, with 86 percent of alumni staying in touch three years post YSE.

And what is the benefit of such social capital or network? One example is YSE alumni Kandama from the Philippines and NOMAD from Singapore, who met on the YSE 2016 programme. Finding affinity in each other’s missions, the two teams collaborated on a line of fashion products in 2017 to empower indigenous Ifugao weavers in the Philippines. The result: a beautiful blend of traditional Filipino weaves in leather bags handcrafted by artisans in India. The impact: providing livelihood and preserving culture, sustainably.

You will hear more from our alumni on their key takeaways from the YSE connection, in a commemorative video we will screen shortly. The many individuals and organisations who have enabled our work over the decade will also share their reflections on the programme. We thank each and every one of you—volunteer mentors and judges, donors, sponsors and programme partners—for enabling our work and that of our young changemakers. We will also recognise the work of three outstanding alumni later tonight with the DBSF x SIF Social Impact Prize. Karen Ngui from DBS Foundation, also a former Governor of SIF, will share more with you about the 10th anniversary award.

In closing, what can you expect in the next 10 years of YSE? The international social enterprise sector has taken off, and the SIF is proud to be a trailblazer in the Singapore landscape. I was especially heartened to come across a report by the Financial Times in 2018, which shared that almost half of all new businesses launched globally are committed to a social cause, not just commercial aims. The report further noted that this movement towards cause-based ventures was largely led by the youth.

Yet, the global challenges we faced 10 years ago remain intractable – hunger, inequality, access to education, and healthcare, to name a few.  We have made progress in some areas, such as extreme poverty reduction, decrease in child mortality rates and increase in people’s access to water and sanitation, according to the UNSDG. But, we’re not on track to end poverty by 2030 and more than more than five million children still die before their fifth birthday each year. And climate change is now affecting every country and every continent, disrupting economies and destroying lives .

We have our work cut out for us. The YSE programme is just one example of the SIF’s mission to connect communities and enable collaborations to make this world a better place. Our vision for YSE is that one day, all business will be good business. That business owners and leaders will measure success by how their businesses have also improve the world at scale. On SIF’s part, we will remain committed to inspiring, equipping, and enabling young changemakers, to start or scale up their social enterprise in Singapore and beyond. And with this, a better world will happen, one youth, one business, one community at a time.   

Once again, thank you to our wonderful alumni, partners, donors, and the Good Business Team at the SIF—for your steadfast support in this journey. We look forward to building on our partnerships for another 10 impactful years!



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