One works in the public sector as a manager with South East CDC (Community Development Council) that covers neighbourhoods spanning the eastern coast of Singapore. The other is an account manager at Expedia Group whose job is to provide travel solutions and manage partnerships.
Yet for a span of 12 sessions from May to Sept last year, Ms Audrey Gabrielle Liew, 37, and Ms Shannon Kong, 28, wore a different hat — as Fellows under the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s (NPVC) Company of Good Fellowship programme — and focused on their respective passion projects to do good for others.
Collaborating for the greater good
Following the five-month talent development programme, Ms Liew has kickstarted a giving initiative involving not just her employer, but two other private companies — personal care company Shiseido and professional services firm EY. These were partnerships formed from Ms Liew's connections with the Fellows who were representing these companies in the same intake.
By harnessing these organisations’ common desire to do good for the community, Ms Liew created synergy among the trio to maximise social impact. In Jan this year, South East CDC partnered with Shiseido and EY to prepare 23 special needs youth from Mountbatten Vocational School for the workforce.
EY facilitators taught the students how to write and polish their resumes for a better chance at securing job interviews. Shiseido donated various makeup and sunblock items to help them look and feel more confident in professional settings.
“When planning projects, if you have two companies who want to partner a community agency to do good, we can tap on their expertise and collaborate for greater outcomes,” says Ms Liew.
“From the Company of Good Fellowship, I learnt to be intentional, strategic, sustainable in looking at corporate giving initiatives and how community needs can be addressed. It is paramount that when one puts in place a giving initiative, one also needs to be mindful of any unintended consequences and mitigate risks so that the initiative will be truly beneficial for all in the ecosystem,” she adds.
Apart from the work readiness programme for special needs students, another project Ms Liew spearheaded post-Fellowship was a collaboration with Preschool Market, a company which does preschool consultancy work. Preschool Market was also represented at the same Fellowship cohort as Ms Liew.
South East CDC and Preschool Market linked up with social service hub Community Link @ Kembangan-Chai Chee to conduct a series of three workshops for children who lived in rental blocks. Some 14 children had the opportunity to be exposed to art and robotics, activities they would otherwise not have been able to participate in due to financial difficulties.
Such partnerships were possible through the Company of Good Fellowship programme, which enabled Ms Liew to meet people from Preschool Market and other like-minded companies keen to explore collaborations to effect positive change in society.
“Besides networking opportunities, we were immersed in poverty-simulated situations that gave us different perspectives to consider when we implement community projects,” she adds.
First introduced by the NVPC in 2017, the Company of Good Fellowship programme is aimed at equipping corporate leaders with the skills needed to catalyse change for business and society. The goal is to build a Singapore where individuals, organisations and business leaders come together to give their best for the community.
It has since groomed 107 Fellows representing 79 organisations across different sectors and industries. These like-minded individuals are primed to lead their organisations in making advancements as corporate citizens.
Like the two Company of Good Fellowship intakes before them, Ms Liew and Ms Kong met and networked with senior leaders across business, government, and civil society groups who were invested in doing good.
Those mentorship and dialogue sessions enabled them to develop insights on the giving landscape and gain new ideas on how to harness untapped opportunities for businesses in the community. They also picked up knowledge and skills on designing corporate social responsibility strategies that meet business and community needs.
Inspiring the next generation
Post-Fellowship, Ms Kong is using her skills and connections to create an even bigger social impact.
In Jan this year, the account manager at online travel company Expedia Group helped host over 45 students and professionals from Singapore Management University (SMU) at her office. She shared with them the needs and challenges faced by charities, the social gaps in today’s society as well as the various initiatives organised by her company to alleviate those needs.
Thereafter, the students were tasked to help increase its employees’ engagement by designing their own social impact projects and pitching it to Expedia Group. This was a win-win partnership for both sides: The students got to be involved in real-world scenarios as part of their learning curriculum, and Expedia Group received productive ideas and recommendations that could be implemented in the company in the future so as to have more engaged employees.
The result? Many good ideas were generated, such as gamifying volunteering activities and creating an environment for colleagues passionate about similar causes to connect. By planting seeds of philanthropy in the young minds, Ms Kong’s actions not only have an immediate real-world impact on the community, but could also potentially reap a multiplier effect in future.
“Being a part of this community of leaders reminds me to actively focus on the things I can control and impact, and have the humility and grit to see things through even in difficult times,” she says.
Another key takeaway from the Company of Good Fellowship for Ms Kong was learning strategies and tools on how to influence key stakeholders for greater good by understanding their needs and motivations.
For instance, she was able to get the buy-in of leaders in the office to support two recurring programmes — lunchtime awareness talks with non-profit organisations and social enterprises, and donation drives of clothes and household items. Once employees understood the importance of these programmes endorsed by the office, they were more motivated to join in and contribute to them.
Ms Kong says: “Influencing internally was exceptionally crucial in making sure that the initiatives are supported by key stakeholders so as to drive volunteerism.
“I hope to inspire my colleagues to champion a cause that they are passionate about and rally other volunteers to participate.”