First President's Challenge networking event brings companies, social enterprises together

First President's Challenge networking event brings companies, social enterprises together

SINGAPORE - The first President's Challenge networking event that brought together companies and social enterprises to see how they can work together for the social good went underway on Friday.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is the speech by President Dr Tony Tan at the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Corporte Networking event at the Grand Copthorne Hotel:

Mr Seah Kian Peng Deputy Speaker and Co-Chairman of the Social Enterprise Association

His Excellency Antony Phillipson High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Singapore

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon. It is indeed a pleasure for me to join you at the opening of the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Corporate Networking Event.

In 2012, I started the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award to recognise social enterprises that made impactful contributions to our society. Through the award, the President's Challenge aims to inspire more individuals, particularly our youths, to develop business ventures that also serve social causes.

Social enterprises provide avenues for Singaporeans to address the special needs of disadvantaged groups or to address a social issue proactively. By tapping on the innovative energies, passion and initiative of entrepreneurs, new services addressing social needs can surface through social enterprises.

As businesses set up to serve social causes on a financially sustainable basis, social enterprises complement the Government's social safety nets and the services of voluntary welfare organisations to create a more inclusive society.

Over the last two years, the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award received nominations from around 80 social enterprises. The recognition provided by the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award has encouraged the award recipients and given them the confidence to grow. Take for example Eighteen Chefs, which engages youths-at-risk and ex-offenders who make up around one-third of its staff. A recipient of the 2012 President's Challenge Social Enterprise of the Year award, Eighteen Chefs grew from three outlets in 2012 to five outlets in two years and is now looking to expand out of Singapore.

It is an immense challenge to set up and manage a business; even more so a business with a social mission. In my visits to social enterprises over the last few years, I was encouraged by the passion and commitment they demonstrated to their causes. The social enterprise sector in Singapore is in its nascent stage. Beyond giving recognition to good social enterprises, it is important that we develop a support system to help more of our social enterprises, especially newly established ones, grow as businesses so that they can create greater social impact on a wider scale.

I believe that corporations have important roles to play in an ecosystem to help nurture more impactful social enterprises. Corporations have competencies in areas such as finance, marketing and branding which they may provide as management advice to budding social entrepreneurs. Beyond advisory services, corporates can share their networks with social enterprises by linking them to potential clients, investors or suppliers. Last year, the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award winners were matched with corporate partners who could provide commercial and professional expertise to help social enterprises grow further. Several corporations such as Bain & Company, DBS, Keppel Corporation, Credit Suisse, Pro Bono Law Society and Philosophy Brand Consultants stepped in to contribute their time and resources to support the winners.

This afternoon, I am pleased to see a group of like-minded corporations which have volunteered to lend support to and partner with social enterprises. For example, Saatchi & Saatchi is contributing their branding skills and know-how by partnering the Social Enterprise Association to conduct branding workshops and one-on-one advisory sessions to help local social enterprises build up their brands among mainstream consumers. Other corporations such as Uniqlo, Ben & Jerry's and the Banyan Tree Global Foundation Limited will also be sharing their experiences during sessions later in the day.

I am also encouraged that more businesses are seeking to improve the lives of the community even as they pursue their commercial interests. They engage in various activities, such as setting up foundations with social objectives, collaborating with non-profit organisations, supporting social enterprises or transforming business models to address social causes.

Olswang LLP, for example, has designed its staff performance appraisal to include a significant portion on corporate social responsibility. Its employees are annually assessed on how they also bring about positive social changes to the community. Olswang's initiative has led to higher staff engagement, better client relationships and potential sales leads.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today's President's Challenge Social Enterprise Corporate Networking Event, which is organised by the Social Enterprise Association and the Ministry of Social and Family Development with the support of the British Chamber of Commerce, is an excellent example of our corporations and non-profit organisations coming together to make a difference to our community. I thank all of you for your participation and hope that at today's event you will benefit from the sharing of best practices and ideas, and forge new and valuable partnerships to make a bigger social impact together.

I wish all of you an enjoyable and fruitful afternoon.

Thank you very much.

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