Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award Networking Event

Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim,

Sr Parliamentary Secretary, MSF and MOE

 

Mr Gautam Banerjee,

Chairman, raiSE, Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise

 

Mr Chew Hock Yong, Co-chair, President’s Challenge Steering Committee and Permanent Secretary, MSF

 

Distinguished Guests,

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Good Evening

 

I am indeed very happy to be here tonight for this year’s President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Networking Event. Since 2015, the President’s Challenge has worked closely with raiSE to confer awards to outstanding Social Enterprises. Tonight, we come together to celebrate the passion and creativity of all Social Enterprises.

             Let me begin by thanking raiSE for its strong support in developing the social enterprise sector in Singapore. In the past three years, social enterprises supported by raiSE have cumulatively employed over 850 beneficiaries and served about 150,000 others, across interventions such as the Provision of Education, Skills Development, Health and Social Care Products and Services.

 This week, as part of the Social Enterprise Week, raiSE, in collaboration with DBS Foundation, NUS and President’s Challenge, hosted the largest celebration of social entrepreneurship in Asia. Through the event, raiSE has reinforced the importance of social enterprises, not just in Singapore, but also in the region.  The event is an exemplary model of Singapore’s 3-P Partnerships, involving the public, private and people sectors. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all foreign delegates. This is a good forum for all of us to exchange ideas and jumpstart social entrepreneurship. 

            The social enterprise ecosystem in Singapore has been growing and gaining momentum. But like all other industries, social enterprises cannot rest on their laurels and need to constantly adapt to today’s disruptive economy. To stay relevant, social enterprises need to switch business practices or adopt new technologies quickly to respond to the changing dynamics of business today. I am heartened that many social enterprises recognise this challenge.  In fact, many social enterprises are leading the way in this new economy. One example is Homage, the joint-winner of the 2017 President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Start-up of the Year Award. Homage taps on technology to connect caregivers with those in need of care, exemplifying the model of the sharing economy. Their app is user-friendly and effective – as all apps should be. They have successfully raised US$4.15 million in private funding this year, which can help enhance their care programmes and their reach, and generate more positive impact on society. Like Homage, many other social enterprises are “going digital” and rising to the challenges of the new economy.

             Corporates have traditionally given money to charitable causes, provided volunteers, and offered their expertise and resources. The partnership between corporates and social enterprises is a new way of social giving.  Corporate leaders can give sustainable support through investments and acquisitions, incorporating social enterprises into your operations, or simply by procuring from them.

             I thank corporates that have begun this journey and certainly hope your efforts are a bellwether of things to come. Multi-national companies did not start big. Just like social enterprises, they also started on a small scale. Hence they need support from big firms in order to thrive. Tonight, we celebrate your good work in establishing positive partnerships with social enterprises. Regardless of which sector your business falls under, companies need the entire value-chain. And social enterprises can definitely contribute to this value-chain. I hope your example will encourage more SMEs and MNCs to explore new and innovative ways to contribute to the development of the social enterprise sector. I also invite you to join me in actively participating in tonight’s panel discussions which also celebrates the growing importance of women in the corporate world and the social enterprise sector. Women are dynamic and provide ideas and energy to the corporate world. They bring about balance as well as a different perspective to the things they do.

             The journey to support social enterprises cannot be focused on the efforts of corporates alone. We also need to look into what individuals can do. Businesses depend on their customer base to survive. Procuring goods and services from social enterprises is a simple way for individuals to make a positive contribution. Every individual can vote with their dollar to help drive social change in a sustainable manner. If all consumers became conscious consumers, we might even dare to imagine that all businesses would become social enterprises in the long-run.

             Well, thank you very much for joining me here tonight. I look forward to exploring new opportunities to create a more caring and inclusive society with you. All the best for your social entrepreneurship journey ahead. All the best in the discussions that you are involved in.