A small but mighty team of six, Solve n+1 was started three years ago by Kenneth Heng, and believes in serving the vulnerable, whether abroad or locally.
While Solve n+1 first started out by serving overseas in Southeast and Central Asia, Covid-19 travel restrictions have spurred the startup to shift their focus to vulnerable communities here in Singapore.
OPEN HOME NETWORK
One of the projects of Solve n+1 is the Open Home Network. The project was started during last year’s Circuit Breaker in response to the increasing number of individuals who were displaced from their homes. Partners of this project include Homeless Hearts of Singapore, and the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (PEERS) Network by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
This project aims to create a network of host families and befrienders to provide safe spaces and temporary refuge for their beneficiaries. Solve n+1 created an onboarding toolkit as a system to ensure host families were well-equipped to support these beneficiaries, which also allowed those involved to get to know each other before committing to hosting. Over a hundred families signed up, and thus far there have been six successful matches. Many have also come on board as befrienders.
Meanwhile, Open Home Network 2.0 explores the possibility of working with families in one to two-room flats, as the team of Solve n+1 noticed that these families tend to be more familiar with what the beneficiaries might experience, and are more willing to open up their homes.
“Just offering yourself to be available doesn’t take much, but you can, and when people come on board to form the network of care I think it really helps,” said Lewin.
ALLIANCE FOR ACTION PROJECT FOR LOWER-WAGE WORKERS
This is another project by Solve n+1.
“What it does is to bring together individuals from both the private, public and people sector to address a couple of focus areas.” Lewin explained.
The focus area that Lewin was involved in was that of rest areas, as lower-wage workers may not have designated spaces to rest during their breaks. A report by LabourBeat in 2019 found that many of these workers tend to take their breaks in makeshift areas.
The project focused on three things:
First, they sought to learn and understand best practices with regard to existing areas for lower-wage workers, and come to an understanding of what constitutes a good rest area.
“Microwaves. We tend to take microwaves as a given but for lower-wage workers, this is so, so essential.” Lewin said as he gave an example of what the team learnt. As the team spoke to the lower-wage workers, they realised that some workers worked in places such as malls or in the Central Business District area, where the food may be less affordable. Many workers pack food from home in order to save money, however, without a microwave, they end up eating their food cold.
Next, the team worked with mall developers and owners to implement improvements.
“It was very fulfilling just to see how the lessons that we had learnt were translated to work on the ground, and to see it being used by the lower-wage workers.”
Solve n+1 made the effort to engage the lower-wage workers and listen to their opinions, and later translated these to more suggestions for the developer.
Finally, the team then went on to develop a guidebook for anybody interested to provide rest areas for their workers, detailing the processes that need to be undertaken, as well as the stakeholders and equipment to be considered. This guidebook enables more people to come on board and make rest areas accessible for lower-wage workers.
SOLVE N+1’S SERVICES
Solve n+1 is a Community-based Management Consultancy. They not only help companies strategise, but also go on the ground to run pilots to come up with a proof of concept and scale it up afterwards. Organisations can come to them with any problems, and they co-create solutions before implementing them together.
COLLABORATION WITH INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANISATIONS
Individuals interested in starting a project can come to solve n+1, who will help to scope its parameters. It can be especially daunting for individuals who are embarking on a project, and that is where Solve n+1 comes in to provide a bouncing board, a safe space to bounce off ideas in order to better the initiative. Essentially, Solve N+1 strives to provide individuals with a safe space to innovate in a low-risk environment.
Solve n+1 also specialises in ideation and conducting pilot-runs of projects with non-profits.
Lewin shared about Feed 52, a project that they embarked on with a non-profit organisation. Feed 52 is a project that aims to promote social integration through tech-assisted skills acquisition for people with autism. The project equips people with autism with the ability to cook food using a thermomix. They were equipped with the skills to make food such as ice-cream, mushroom soup and even beehoon. The feedback received from this pilot was overwhelming! The participants were more engaged in lessons and job coaches could also sense a difference in the mood of the class. Feed 52 is currently in the next phase of piloting.
Lastly, Solve n+1 works closely with businesses that want to improve their CSR strategy. Solve n+1 worked with Vigil Technologies, a fin-tech startup specialising in machine learning for quantitative models for key financial markets. Solve N+1 worked with them to understand their business model and supported them by structuring their services and processes. Solve N+1 also consulted to design their business development strategy.
Solve n+1 offers a suite of services to different groups of people. Drop Solve n+1 an email or contact them through their website to engage them!
BENEATH THE RUG
While talking about the background of Beneath The Rug, Lewin noted that those in the social impact sector were very involved, while those who are not have no clue about it. The care sector is also unfortunately overburdened, which results in burnout within it.
“Imagine 15,000 (social service practitioners) supporting a population of about 4 million residents. It’s a small number that supports a huge and big population,” said Lewin.
Beneath The Rug was started to get more people on board to support the community. Lewin also mentioned how as a social worker or social service practitioner, it is hard to share about the work that they do beyond our work setting due to strict confidentiality rules. This creates a lack of information, which results in another issue: Not enough being said and heard about the social impact sector.
Lewin was completely unsure how Beneath The Rug would have taken shape. “Instead of telling our interviewees what to write about, we gave them free rein. We said ‘Tell us what you feel the public ought to and should know.’”
“So long as you are willing to provide a platform to help and listen, you can do it and it doesn't in a sense, take “professional certification. There is a space for people without domain expertise, just to listen, which is important.”
So why should you get a copy of this book? According to Lewin, it is a book that provides us with different perspectives of people in the social impact sector.
“What it aims to do is for us to start conversation. We may not necessarily agree with all that’s said and all that’s expressed, but it’s okay. It’s a safe space for us to learn about what they go through, but it’s also a safe space for us to then check on our friends in the sector because this would broaden our perspectives.”
In his conclusion, Lewin hoped that reading these stories will inspire more people to join the sector and become changemakers in the communities. He also wishes that Beneath The Rug will spark more meaningful volunteerism, and encourage more corporates to rethink and reimagine what corporate social responsibility looks like.
“More so, we hope that Beneath The Rug will inspire and birth more social enterprises to emerge, and through that, help to support our community in Singapore.”
FINAL WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Lewin believes that we all have to do it together – societal issues cannot be solved on our own. Rather, it takes a whole-of-society approach where everyone plays to their own strengths. By tapping on each other’s areas of expertise, we would be able to create and amplify change. Whether you are a company, non-profit, or individual who believes in making change, do email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can partner with Solve n+1 to do good, better.
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