Number of social enterprise members rising

More people are setting up social enterprises, and awareness of the sector has grown, according to the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise's (raiSE) first annual report released yesterday.

Its membership base has grown by 43 per cent since May last year to more than 300 members, with many of the newly-registered ones being set up by young people.

Social enterprises generally channel their profits towards furthering social causes.

Those that are set up by millennials also make up a significant portion of the members. Nearly four in 10 of the social enterprises are founded by people aged below 35.

Mr Alfie Othman, executive director of raiSE, also told The Straits Times that awareness of social enterprises has "more than tripled" since 2010.

That year, the first public perception survey - commissioned by the Social Enterprise Association, which merged with SE Hub to form raiSE - showed only 13 per cent of the 2,000 people polled were aware of social enterprises.

More detailed findings from the second such survey, commissioned by raiSE, will be released at a conference on Oct 26.

Launched in May 2015, raiSE is the national advocate for the sector and offers support, such as funding and advisory services, to social enterprises. The inaugural annual report is for the financial year ending in March 2016 .

Funding of $8.6 million from raiSE has also supported social enterprises in creating 205 jobs and helping close to 3,000 disadvantaged people.

For instance, the centre invested $1 million in Bliss Group in April last year to fund its expansion plans from a food business to an events management company with catering and restaurant operations.

"The growing support for the social enterprise sector here has been encouraging, and this allows even the more established social enterprises like ours to keep seeking out new opportunities and deepening our impact," said Bliss founder Christine Low.

The number of grant applications has also quadrupled to 162 in the centre's first year of operations, though only 27 of these were approved.

Mr Alfie said this was still "a decent number", and noted that raiSE will work with rejected applicants to strengthen their model and sustainability.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Number of social enterprise members rising'. Print Edition | Subscribe