New centre to help social enterprises

New centre to help social enterprises
The launching ceremony of the Centre for Social Enterprise.

Social enterprises here can now tap into $30 million in grants and investments over the next five years.

The funding from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Tote Board will be administered by a new centre, the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE).

It was opened officially yesterday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who said it will "coordinate efforts to provide support to these enterprises to create a social impact".

Social enterprises - businesses with a social mission, such as employing former convicts - face challenges such as talent, business knowledge and funding, noted Dr Tan.

Therefore, raiSE will also provide mentorship from businesses such as DBS and Barclays, as well as business support for new social enterprises.

The new centre will take over from the ministry's ComCare Enterprise Fund, a scheme for social enterprises that train and employ the needy.

Details of other grants and investments will be announced later, but raiSE chairman Gautam Banerjee said some funds will also be directed at those who have ideas for social enterprises but are not yet at the start-up stage.

Mr Barnerjee, who was previously executive chairman of professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers Singapore, said he hoped that the 11 board members - largely from the private sector - could bring business expertise to the table.

"Social entrepreneurship is not about charity; it's about business. So we need to ensure that businesses are not only meeting the social gaps that are present but also are sustainable," he said. "There's no point starting something and then two years later you lose steam and reach a plateau and you don't know what to do."

The new centre has about 300 social enterprises as members, out of the estimated 500 here.

Mr Koh Seng Choon, executive director of social enterprise Dignity Kitchen and a raiSE member, said: "Now with all the agencies coming together, rather than going to the National Council of Social Service and Tote Board for help, I can go to raiSE."

Dignity Kitchen is Singapore's first hawker training school for the disabled and disadvantaged.

Said Dr Tan: "How advanced a society is should not be measured by just its gross domestic product, but by how it helps the less fortunate among us.

"Social enterprises take the proverbial approach of 'teaching how to fish' as opposed to 'handing over the fish'. In this way, we help the less fortunate develop dignity, self-respect and pride."

This article was first published on May 28, 2015.
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