Young Changemakers Of The SIF’S 2018 YSE Programme Gain Keen Insights Into Singapore’s Social Entrepreneurship Scene Ahead Of Their Final Pitching Session In October
This year marks the first time shortlisted participants were brought on a study visit to Singapore, and they received no less of an enriching experience than their alumni peers who had gone to Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur in previous years.
From 25 to 29 June 2018, 19 teams, including the 16 YSE 2018 shortlisted teams and three YSE 2017 overseas workshop winners, comprising 40 youths from eight nationalities, underwent a week-long boot camp of rigorous workshops, group mentorship sessions, and visits to Singaporean social enterprises. The workshops, which covered topics on financial modelling and entrepreneurial resilience, were conducted by key players from across the Singaporean social entrepreneurial landscape.
Sherab Dorji, Bhutanese participant and founder of Khemdro Dairy, shared that before the financial modelling workshop with Unframed, a training academy for social entrepreneurs, he had not paid much attention to this facet of his social enterprise. “I realised the importance in assessing how our businesses are performing on a regular basis. That is, by looking at the numbers and not by a gut feeling,” said Sherab. “I’m excited to go back to Bhutan and see how I can come up with an improved financial model!”
The participants also attended group mentorship sessions on entrepreneurship and business modelling with representatives from Temasek International and McKinsey & Company, where they discussed challenges specific to their social business plans.
Nicholas Lim, Singaporean participant and co-founder of TreeDots Enterprise, said, “Most of the people we have met are very established in their organisations. They are contacts whom we won’t get to reach out to on a regular basis. The YSE study visit has been a good platform to network with the right people who can make a difference in our business.” With their mentors’ depth of professional experience, he added that TreeDots Enterprise could now run business hypotheses by them for feedback and advice, thus saving the team time from testing out ideas on their own.
Apart from the intensive knowledge-sharing sessions, the YSEs also got to discover how Singaporean social enterprises – including Bettr Barista, Pope Jai Thai and Comcrop – tackle various social issues sustainably through their ventures. They also gained insights on the cultural landscape of the island nation through walking tours at Tiong Bahru and Geylang districts.
“I gained a completely new cultural perspective when we went on the Geylang Adventures tour and saw the efforts put in place to accommodate the marginalised communities there,” shared Nikhil Mukkawar, a participant from India and co-founder of The Kisan Union.
During the study visit, the youths, who came from different parts of the world, soon found commonality, and later encouragement, from each other through discussing their experiences running social enterprises. Bicky Nguyen from Vietnam and co-founder of Cricket One said, “Being an entrepreneur is hard, but being a social entrepreneur is even more difficult. It’s motivating to sit down and share your difficulties with people from other countries during this programme.”
The network of support did not only come from batchmates and mentors but also with fellow YSE alumni. This year, YSE 2014 winner Society Staples – a Singaporean social enterprise that aims to empower persons with disabilities through fitness – showed their support by conducting their Blind and Deaf Dragons training for this year’s participants. Held at the Marina Reservoir, the three-hour session comprised dragon boating activities which included “blind paddling” where the youths had to communicate through the beating of paddles against the boat while blindfolded.
“It’s always refreshing to see new faces in the scene. It energises us to know that we have budding social entrepreneurs pushing alongside with us, trying to make the world a better place,” said Ryan Ng, co-founder of Society Staples.
The YSE is an eight-month long incubation programme that seeks to inspire, equip and enable youths from around the world to become successful agents of change. Now, enriched by the study visit and strengthened by the support of new found friends, the teams will be gearing up for the upcoming Pitching for Change session in October where they will pitch for an opportunity to receive seed funding of up to S$20,000 to help grow their social enterprise.
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