Social entrepreneurs flock to SIF workshop

A record number of young people from around the world have come to Singapore to attend an event that looks to make a positive impact through social entrepreneurship.

The Singapore International Foundation saw 138 young people of 18 nationalities participating in its Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme's opening workshop - the highest number since YSE began in 2010.

Mr Vinay Gurao, 25, a student and entrepreneur from India, said: "I heard about the event from my seniors in college who participated in it last year. They told us that the workshop would teach us essential skills and to be receptive to new ideas."

The four-day opening workshop, which started on Wednesday, comprises business clinics, training workshops, a dialogue session and a fireside chat.

Sixty-three teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges tomorrow as they compete for 16 places in the next phase of the programme.

This second phase includes an eight-month mentorship scheme - to run from April to October - as well as an overseas study visit and a final pitch in October for funding of up to $20,000 each for six teams.

Singapore International Foundation chairman Ong Keng Yong said: "We hope this programme will encourage young entrepreneurs to serve social causes.

"We create opportunities for people to come together to build essential skills to grow their social enterprises while developing a certain mutual understanding of social problems."

Speaking at the opening workshop yesterday, Mr Ong highlighted the need for young people to channel their energy towards generating innovative solutions to help people in need.

"Innovation is looking at something and finding a better way of doing it," he said.

"Moving forward, social enterprises will need to maintain scalability and sustainability while continuing to meet social needs."

Mr Ong also said that the programme acts as a platform for young people to connect with like-minded individuals who hail from places as far away as the United States.

"YSE aims to connect people from different backgrounds. These connections may prove to be helpful in the growth of their social enterprises in the future. Friendships forged here may also help to create points of entry into other markets," he said.

Local student and entrepreneur Esther Chan, 18, said: "Our team created an agricultural transportation device to help Vietnamese rural farmers. The connections we make at YSE will definitely help us go further as we look to expand into the South-east Asian region."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'Social entrepreneurs flock to SIF workshop'. Print Edition | Subscribe