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Growing the social enterprise sector

People walk along the Esplanade Bridge, back-dropped by the skyline of the Central Business District (CBD), as an SBS bus passes by on Nov 29, 2013.
People walk along the Esplanade Bridge, back-dropped by the skyline of the Central Business District (CBD), as an SBS bus passes by on Nov 29, 2013. PHOTO: ST FILE

The editorial on Dec 27 last year ("Balancing trade and charity") rightly pointed out that as social enterprises grow, many would naturally evolve as businesses and require the expertise of corporate professionals with deep experience in the respective industries.

This is an encouraging trend, as it shows that more top talent are keen to join social enterprises to help further deepen their social impact. After all, talent is key to the success of any business, and we see this as a positive indication of growing social awareness that will contribute to the next stage of Singapore's journey as a nation.

As social enterprises can attest, to deliver and grow social value optimally, social enterprises need to succeed commercially and generate financial value. Thus, both grow hand in hand, and it is important to enable social enterprises to develop both aspects as much as possible, without placing undue constraints on their growth trajectories and capacity to innovate.

Admittedly, it can be difficult for consumers to determine which businesses are social enterprises and which are not. This is why, as the central membership body and facilitator for the social enterprise sector here, the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) aims to promote greater awareness of social enterprise models, so that consumers can better appreciate the social enterprises' viability as businesses and the social impact they seek to achieve. raiSE also regularly engages social enterprises and other local stakeholders, including academia, to listen to their inputs and address the evolving needs of the nascent sector.

In the long run, as social enterprises become more established in Singapore, raiSE will look to provide a better form of recognition for local social enterprises, potentially through the introduction of a light-touch certification framework that serves as a benchmark.

As Singapore maps out its economic future, social needs will feature as a key consideration. Within the business landscape, social enterprises set themselves apart by putting social impact as the overriding end objective and employing innovative, agile business thinking and processes to meet those social needs, rather than relying solely on donations and philanthropy. In this way, social enterprises will continue to serve as a critical and sustainable complement across Singapore's social and economic spheres.

Chloe Huang (Ms)

Head (Strategy and Research)

Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'Growing the social enterprise sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe