Over 500 people attended an interactive exhibition in Singapore showcasing social enterprise. The Saturday event was organized by Ad.vo.ca.se (pronounced advocacy) to explain the concept of social enterprise and spread awareness of local social enterprises among youth.
Ad.vo.ca.se is a project by Jillian Goh, Brenda Xie, April Tan, and Christabel Reena David, four final year students at Nanyang Technological University.
“We are all graduating students and for our final year, we were required to pursue a project of our interest,” said David. “At that time (about nine months ago), three out of the four of us had no idea what a social enterprise was and it was our group-mate Jillian who first brought it up during our brainstorming session, so we did our research and increasingly became inspired by the work that many local social entrepreneurs were doing.”
The team members found that a lot was being done in Singapore to promote social enterprises to local corporations but youths were largely left out of the equation.
“So we decided our campaign would target youths, many of whom did not even know about the social issues faced in our country and had even less an idea on what a social enterprise was.”
A total of 15 social enterprises participated in the event: Aii, Art With A Heart, Bliss, Bettr Barista, Breakthrough Café, Beat’ A Box, Edible Gardens, EO Horizons, Inclusive Arts Movement, NutriVille, PeopleWorks Beauty, Project Overturned Closet, Stirring Hearts, Saught, and 8 Fahrenheit.
A post-event survey of 100 respondents between the ages of 18 and 25 was conducted and found that the event helped raise awareness. Ninety-seven percent of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that they have a better understanding of social enterprise.
An equally overwhelming majority strongly agreed and agreed (71 percent and 27 percent respectively) that they were introduced to new social enterprises they never knew of before.
But when asked about whether they would consider working in a social enterprise, respondents did not have an overpowering consensus. Only 28 percent strongly agreed and 37 percent agreed.
Forty-two percent of respondents cited “low salary” and “lack of career progression” as major reasons why they would not consider working in a social enterprise. They also demonstrated cynicism towards social enterprise, and wondered: Do they really plough back profit into the company? Are they a social enterprise for the sake of the label or to really do “good”? Do they simply want to garner sympathy and increase patronage?
“I think the current social enterprise state in Singapore is still in its early ages of growth. The problems of low salary and lack of career progression are possible issues that might surface when one joins a startup or any small company,” said David. “I don’t think it would be fair to assume it is a problem unique to social enterprises.”
“There are social enterprises in Singapore that have become sustainable and begun to see some extent of success: Eighteen Chefs, Aii Candy, and Breakthrough Café,” David adds.
The exhibition by Ad.vo.ca.se was made possible with the support of DBS Bank and SCAPE.
“We are also looking to amplify the reach of the Ad.vo.ca.se campaign by working with other groups so it stays sustainable for the next few years,” said David.
Social Enterprise Buzz is a media company dedicated to covering social enterprise news from around the world. We publish a range of stories from startups to entrepreneurship, innovation, and finance, which showcase business making the world a better place. Read more.