The idea of a social business has been around for ages, but the concept only received a proper title in the recent decades. In essence, social entrepreneurship relates to doing good, smart. Groundbreakers like Professor Muhammad Yunus and Bill Drayton have already laid credible foundations for impact to be sustainable financially and socially. By challenging the status quo, they were able to bridge entrenched gaps and encourage communities-in-need to be part of something more.
To quote the godfather of social enterprises, Bill Drayton, social entrepreneurs are "not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionised the fishing industry."
Following efforts to anchor the landscape, Singapore has been witnessing numerous newborn social enterprises within a short span of time. Our team at Make The Change has been actively holding the doors open so that more can stand together with us in the quest for sustainable social good.
Through workshops and introductory programmes such as Social Entrepreneurship 101, we strive to reduce and destroy any barrier to entry by providing relevant information and insights from our 4-year journey thus far. The more the merrier; for many hands make light work :)
If you have been sitting on the fence and wondering if social entrepreneurship is for you, here are 3 reasons why it is time for you to stop tearing yourself apart and follow your heart to take the plunge.
1. The Singaporean web of social good is getting stronger than ever
According to the Singapore Centre For Social Enterprises (raiSE) in 2017, Singapore is home to 401 social enterprises to date. The mushrooming growth can be attributed to the support hearteningly bolstered by the public and private sector. Other than government grants and funding opportunities, the private sector has also been giving tight bear hugs to promising social entrepreneurs by providing mentorship and incubation programmes. Asia For Good by the DBS Foundation is one such example.
On top of this, educational institutions such as the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Lien Centre for Social innovation at Singapore Management University (SMU) contributed to the research needful to anticipate growth and future direction.
With such a collaborative ecosystem, there is little wonder how Singapore carries the potential to become a regional hub for social entrepreneurship. In 2016, Deutsche Bank and its partners supported the Thomson Reuters Foundation to uncover the best countries to be a social entrepreneur. The research polled more than 900 experts in 44 countries, and our little red dot came in fourth after US, Canada and the UK.
2. Collaboration makes more sense than competition
When you align yourself with social goals like alleviating poverty and providing quality education (take the UN sustainable development goals for example), there is a constant need to remind and refresh organisational perspectives to collaborate and not compete.
Having said that, the social enterprise model is so versatile that everyone can have their own take on the methods and ways to strive for social impact. For example, a social enterprise can choose to focus on advocacy and raising awareness across public domains while others strategise to impact and change lives for good, one at a time. Be it in-breath or in-depth, there are a myriad of ways in which social impact can be attained. Given the relatively petite sizes of social enterprises, it also makes a lot of sense for us to see how we can complement one another for the sustainable, long haul.
A lot of social enterprises have been looking at collaborations locally, and many are more than happy to welcome volunteers and interns to join their crew. Who knows, we might even scale out to Southeast Asia or the Asian region in the coming days.
3. Our generation is looking for a higher purpose
People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
– Simon Sinek
Be it in a career or as a consumer mindset, there is a significant increase in people looking for purpose. As Mark Zuckerberg puts it in his recent Harvard speech, he shared on three ways to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. The first one is by taking on big meaningful projects together, second by redefining equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose. Lastly, through the building of community across the world".
What do you know, a social entrepreneur would have hit all three. If you have been looking for a reason or place in the world today, why not try starting in a place with purpose?
People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
To conclude, there are many variations of social businesses out there right now, and there is no one perfect solution to the world's intertwining complex issues. Often, you get to hit multiple pins with a single bowl. Providing training opportunities to a disadvantaged mother gifts her with a higher purpose in life, returns her dignity to earn her open keep and pay for her daughter's tuition fees in elementary school.
We have so much to share on social entrepreneurship, and we envision to come to a day where the category of "social enterprises" cease to exist. When every business has a social angle, the world will truly become a better place.
Useful links and references