The number of social enterprises in Singapore has been growing rapidly in the past few years and these new ventures are now offering literally everything from food and hospitality to education and souvenirs. Many of those enterprises succeed in doing both, providing benefits for society and making profits. While the goal is not profit maximisation, many are not willing to compromise it either.
What clearly benefits social enterprises in Singapore is the prevalent ecosystem which supports the sector’s growth. Three parts of the ecosystem in particular are believed to be beneficial:
1) Availability of Funding
A growing number of organizations have been set up to support and fund social entrepreneurs or grow existing social ventures. A key organisation in this context is the Social Enterprise Association which offers among other things the coordination of training and capacity building programs as well as the development of partnerships among government and enterprises.
A second organisation is the Social Innovation Park, a non-profit that incubates social entrepreneurs by offering them everything they require from information toolkits to weekend markets where they can sell their goods.
A third major source of funding is the Singaporean government itself, which provides entrepreneurial individuals with government grants.
2) Growing body of research
In Singapore, the body of research and training programs to support the social enterprise scene is growing rapidly. Today there is for example the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which focuses on research and education that benefits the practice of social entrepreneurship throughout Asia.
Further, the INSEAD business school, the Grameen Creative Lab @ NUS, the Singapore International Foundation and other organisations also provide both research and training that builds the skills, resources and information that can benefit social enterprises.
3) Innovation and enthusiasm of individuals
Several highly innovative programs have emerged recently. One of them is the Asia Impact Investment Exchange (Asia IIX), which is working towards setting up a social stock exchange. This will not only allow social enterprises to raise capital but also allow socially-minded investors to direct their capital into liquid investments.
The growth of social enterprises is further supported by Singapore President Tony Tan who announced in April that he was going to launch a new President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award to recognise innovative social enterprises that were able to make significant contributions to the disadvantaged.