DBS Foundation announces funding, business advice for aspiring social enterpreneurs

SINGAPORE - The DBS Foundation is rolling out new initiatives for 2016 through its grant programme and competition to help aspiring social entrepreneurs with business advice and funding.

The Foundation has also commissioned two research studies on alternative funding methods for social enterprises, and on how to work with social incubators to support the enterprises.

Announcing the plans on Thursday (June 16), Foundation chairman Euleen Goh said social entreprises face "similiar if not greater challenges than traditional for-profit organisations as the sector is still nascent and little understood by funders".

"As a champion for social enterpreneurship, DBS can also learn from these entrepreneurs and their needs, so as to better support them," she said.

Ms Goh was speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural DBS Foundation 2016 Social Enterprise Summit "Hard Truths & Honest Conversations".

The two-day summit, held at the Marina Bay Financial Centre, features social enterprise practitioners to discuss the realities of different market and communities, social enterprise management, skills and know-how, and social impact.

The 2016 programme will allow aspirants to sign up for the grant programme for either prototype, organisational or scale-up grant, depending on the stage of development of the enterprise and the grant amount.

Eleven applicants were awarded the grant last year - which was also the inaugural year of the programme - including Bettr Barista, a local social enterprise that trains disadvantaged youth and women to work in the specialty coffee industry.

For 2016, the application window will open on June 30. Applicants will then be selected by the DBS team in charge of the programme, which will assess the social enterprises on the viability of their business models and their potential impact on the social need they are championing.

Aspirants were also allowed gain access to DBS' grants through the DBS-NUS social venture challenge Asia, a competition initiated by both DBS and the National University of Singapore (NUS) since 2014. DBS received over 1,000 entries from over 25 countries for over $175,000 in seed funding which will be awarded to the top teams, with special prizes conferred to sector champions.

Applications for this channel closed in May, and 120 enterprises have been shortlisted during the preliminary round of judging by more than 250 judges. An expert panel will pick the final 12 to compete in the finals in Singapore in September.

In addition to these, DBS also announced two ongoing researches on hybrid financing instruments and social incubators, by conducted by Eden Strategy Institute and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network respectively. These researches serve as a starting point to better facilitate DBS' understanding on how to come up with alternative financing plans for social enterprises, and how to work with social incubators to help new social enterprises.

"Social enterprises, essentially commercial organisations with a social purpose, need financing to start up and grow. We have found that the lack of access to capital and capabilities to scale up their impact continue to be the biggest obstacles," said Ms Patsian Low, Head of DBS Foundation.

"Creating hybrid constructs that truly meet the growth needs of social enterprises will be groundbreaking," she said.