Through Festival for Good, social enterprises in Singapore are able to showcase their advocacies to the general public.
by Portia Ladrido
Optimising social impact alongside profitability is the definitive thrust of any social enterprise. This part of the social sector is easily confused with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and not without reason, as the mission to address social issues are what these two parties are trying to do. The vital nuance is that social enterprises aim to be self-sustaining, whereas NGOs mainly rely on donations and grant-giving bodies.
In places like Singapore, a country known to be a global financial centre, seeing the social enterprise system strive is inevitable. RaiSE, a centre that offers support and advisory services to SEs, has found that in the year 2015-16, their membership base grew by 43% and that SEs have created 205 jobs whilst helping 3,000 disadvantaged people.
However, an analysis of that year also showed that only 13% of the 2,000 people surveyed were aware of what a social enterprise is. To continuously raise awareness to the social good that these enterprises can bring to communities, raiSE has devised Festival for Good, a pop-up market with live performances and various dynamic activities, to bring social enterprises closer to the public arena.
Amy Lim and Jasmine Paul of raiSE share how their organisation set out to raise more awareness on the social enterprise communities in their country.
INKLINE: Can you tell me a little bit more about RaiSE and Festival for Good?
Amy Lim: RaiSE actually stands for Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise. It started when different agencies in the social enterprise space came together to support the social enterprise ecosystem in Singapore, and the big idea was to be able to do more together and so far it’s been a great journey.
One of the big things that we’re setting out to do is to raise awareness for social enterprises, so Festival For Good is actually our dedicated platform to do that. It’s our way of showcasing our social enterprise members to the general public. It’s one of our biggest events and last year, we ran it for the first time and there was a lot of interest, which is why we decided to make this year bigger and better than the first.
I: Can you course us through what happens during the festival?
A: This year, it’s a month-long festival. This is actually social enterprises coming together and showcasing not only their products and services but also the impact that they hope to create in the world through their businesses. What festival goers can expect to see is a pop-up market featuring a record number of social enterprises. We have over 50 social enterprises participating in the pop-up market.
We also have a forum that’s going on during the festival – it’s actually called Conversations – and this is where the social entrepreneurs get to share their stories and their vision, a space where they can talk about everything from conscious consumption to technology and innovation. We have something new this year which we call the Experience Capsule where festival-goers get to fully immerse themselves in a social enterprise by experiencing their products and services in specially curated spaces.
I: How do you guys choose these enterprises?
A: RaiSE is also a membership organisation so what we do is we have an open call and we send it to our members. We try to be as inclusive as possible and to showcase a variety of social enterprises in different business sectors that serve different social needs.
I: Why do you believe in the cause of RaiSE and why do you think that social enterprises are important?
A: I think they [social enterprises] play a very important role in the community. They help to address social needs in sustainable ways. As businesses, they also have to be competitive and they should know how to stand out, so this means that they have to be innovative and relevant whilst creating impact. An example of a social enterprise that we support is Jaga-Me, a technology-based platform that connects patients with professional caregivers so that answers the need for home-care for the elderly.
Another social enterprise within our membership base is called School of Concepts. They provide education specifically for children of lower income families. There’s also Hello Flowers; they’re florists and what they do is they address the issue of disadvantaged women by offering them training and employment within that industry.
I: What are the typical challenges that you encountered whilst preparing for the festival?
A: I think we always need more time and more resources. But perhaps the better question is: what challenges do the social enterprises face? Social enterprises are like any other businesses – they face the same type of problems. It could be competition, staying relevant, consumer acquisition and retention, etc. One big challenge that they face in this local context is awareness and that is what Festival for Good hopes to address.
We’re hoping to bring the exciting world of social enterprises to the masses and to show them that SEs do provide high-quality products and services. We also hope to show or rather help people see that they can integrate social enterprises into their day to day lives perhaps by purchasing these items and engaging with their community.
I: Your partners include big organisations like Ascott, Singtel, and Singapore Management University. How did these partnerships come about?
Jasmine Paul: The partnerships sort of came about along the way. I think it’s primarily because the festival did quite well last year, so when we started planning for the festival this year, the partners were very willing to come and be a part of the journey.
I: How would you describe the SE ecosystem now in Singapore?
J: The social enterprise ecosystem Singapore has been exciting, it’s been growing year on year. Amy mentioned earlier that it raises a membership body so if you look at just our membership, from last year to this year, you can see the number growing. And as more and more people are more aware of social issues, they’re coming up with more innovative ways to solve problems through their businesses. It’s a really exciting ecosystem to be a part of.
Social enterprises to watch our for in Festival for Good:
“Sustainable Living Lab (SL2) is a social enterprise that aims to build a Sustainable Future through community building, technology experimentation and social innovation.”
“Freedom Cups aims to get reusable menstrual cups for women. It works on a buy-1, give-1 model, where every cup purchased allows it to give one to a woman who cannot afford clean periods. This allows for a win-win situation where women in the developed world decrease their use of non-biodegradable sanitary products and women in developing communities gain access to proper sanitation for their periods.”
“Hello Flowers is a social enterprise which provides training and employment opportunities to beneficiaries (single mums with young children, and the elderly) to train them to be proficient in handling wedding florals and venue styling.”
“The LOOMs Workshops is a social enterprise that provides education and employment for women through design-driven workshops as well as the creation and sale of art-infused handcrafted fashion accessories, lifestyle products and homeware. Our self-development programme empowers women to do what they can with their hands, will what they dream with their minds and find passion for their craft with their hearts.”
“BillionBricks is a one-of-a-kind non-profit innovation studio that uses design as their primary tool to solve one of the most pressing global problems: homelessness. BillionBricks designs and provides shelter and infrastructure solutions for the homeless and vulnerable which are scalable, sustainable, and able to create opportunities for communities to emerge out of poverty.”
Portia Ladrido is a multimedia journalist specialising in social justice, culture, and the arts. She is a human rights journalism fellow at the Philippine Human Rights Information Center and the Metro Manila hub coordinator of the Solutions Journalism Network. She currently writes speeches for the Philippines’ first female socialist senator. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at CNN Philippines.