The Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme kicked off its 2020 edition as a digital experience, undeterred by restrictions imposed by the pandemic to continue nurturing young global changemakers. 109 youths from 19 countries gathered virtually for the YSE Workshop from 3 July to 29 August.
This year, the 11th cohort presented social business ideas ranging from leveraging new technologies for a more inclusive society and proposing alternative means to save the environment, to empowering vulnerable communities through education and job training. In spite of the diverse impact areas and cultural backgrounds, all teams shared the common goal of bringing about sustainable change in the communities in which they operate.
The YSE Workshop comprised an intensive series of webinars and business clinics led by social entrepreneurs, thought leaders and business strategists. Participants gained knowledge to become effective social entrepreneurs including sessions on finance, marketing, and impact measurement. They also got to interact with like-minded peers of different nationalities, gaining a deeper cross-cultural understanding to make new friends and forge professional relationships. In the end, 54 teams presented their business plans to a panel of judges and 15 teams were shortlisted to proceed to the next phase of the YSE programme.
The shortlisted teams, comprising 29 young changemakers representing nine nationalities, were chosen for further grooming because their business ideas held the potential for significant social impact, promise for sustainability, and scalability of the business model. Four teams representing India are part of the 15 teams moving on to the next phase of the programme – Built Empathy, Canfem, International Changemaker Olympiad and Shoonya Environmental Solutions. These India-based social enterprises are offering sustainable solutions in areas of urban design, healthcare, as well as education and training.
Over the next six months, the shortlisted teams will be mentored by leading business consultants from McKinsey & Company and Temasek International and established entrepreneurs relevant to their sectors. The teams will have the opportunity to hone their business acumen, broaden their cultural perspectives and tap on a global YSE alumni network of over 1,200 members. In March 2021, all teams will reconvene at the YSE Pitching for Change event. They will present their refined business plans to a panel of judges for a chance to receive seed funding of up to S$20,000.
Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman, said, “At the SIF, we believe in bringing people of different cultures together to inspire ideas and action for good. While we are unable to have the YSE participants physically in Singapore this year, the digital platform offers new opportunities to nurture the energy, innovative spirit, and passion of young changemakers driven by a strong sense of social purpose. In current times of great economic, climate, and global health challenges, it is even more important that we accelerate the pace of social innovation.”
The shortlisted participants were encouraged by the Workshop and are looking forward to their YSE journey. “It has been an eye-opening experience and I am grateful to be a part of the YSE programme. It is great to connect with like-minded individuals from all around the world who are also looking to carve a path towards social change. My team and I look forward to working with our mentors in the coming months to learn how we might take our social enterprise idea to the next level,” said Rahul Milan Paleja, co-founder of Heirloom from Singapore.
Bhavya Singh, the founder of Built Empathy from India, also shared her thoughts on the experience. “Through the YSE programme, we were exposed to the social enterprise landscape outside of India. We were introduced to market players from Singapore and around the world and gained valuable insights into managing a social enterprise. This has been an enriching journey for me, and I hope to achieve great things in the coming months as I work with my mentors.”
Since 2010, the YSE programme has enabled youths from around the globe to change the world. They learn new skills that empower them to shape and strengthen their business model while establishing professional networks for potential collaboration and sustainable growth. This SIF signature YSE programme has since nurtured more than 1,200 alumni across 39 nationalities, and a network of 525 social enterprises in Singapore and beyond. Based on an impact study conducted on its 10th year, 75 per cent of social enterprises grew from seed stage to start-up stage and beyond after joining the YSE programme, with 70 per cent of shortlisted YSE alumni still active in creating positive social impact and 86 per cent of funded teams still in operation.
List of YSE 2020 shortlisted Indian team profiles
Built Empathy (India) – Built Empathy, headed by Indian Bhavya Singh, improves liveability in Indian cities by making the community and public spaces safer, sustainable, and more inclusive. With a practice rooted in human-centred design, they bring the design to the communities that need it most.
Canfem (India) – Canfem, headed by Indian Akriti Gupta, enables breast cancer survivors to have a better quality of life by manufacturing and marketing unique and affordable product-service solutions. Their external breast prosthesis and mastectomy brassier help survivors get back into society with dignity and improve their physical and mental health. Their pilot, completed on over 3,200 patients, had shown a 93 per cent satisfaction rate.\
International Changemaker Olympiad (India) – International Changemaker Olympiad, headed by Indians Rahul Adhikari and P Sai Sindhu, provides a platform for children in schools to identify social and environmental problems around them, and launch initiatives to tackle them. Through their programme, students participate in teams to identify real-world problems, develop solutions, and implement them over a span of five months. They aim to develop children into empathetic, conscious citizens of the world with an action-oriented mindset
Shoonya Environmental Solutions Pvt Ltd (India) – Headed by Indian Manik Dhingra, Shoonya Environmental Solutions’ vision is to enable zero waste human settlements across the world. They are presently engaged with the scientific disposal of non-recyclable plastics across 20 states in India and aim to be an organisation with the capability of designing an entire ecosystem which is ecologically wise, socially inclusive, and economically sustainable