WITH ASIA Pacific now seen as an important region in the global economic landscape, Singapore International Foundation (SIF) has set its heart on strengthening regional integration through its flagship programme, Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE), according to SIF executives.
Ong Keng Yong, chairman of SIF, told a public meeting with Asean youth fellows last week that the global network of more than 900 young entrepreneurs from 29 different countries would help shape the future of the region as a whole.
“It is inspiring to me that many of our youth today care so deeply about making a positive contribution to society. Many of your missions are aligned with several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals such as ending hunger [and] poverty, and reducing inequality,” he said.
“At SIF, our role is to bring world communities together to collaborate and effect positive change. We are proud to have been able to bring our youth together and to help turn their ideas for social impact into reality.”
Since its launch in 2010, the programme has nurtured a total of 909 social entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are from 17 Asia Pacific countries -– Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen. It has also trained young entrepreneurs from Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Sudan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Ong is confident that the entrepreneurs have gained both professional and personal networks, built during rigorous training sessions and from shared encounters with each other and their mentors.
At the YSE 2018 workshop held in Singapore in March, 98 young social entrepreneurs from 12 countries presented 47 projects. Among them, 16 teams comprising 38 youths from eight countries – including five Asean nations – were selected to continue on an eight-month training programme led by McKinsey & Company, Temasek International and experienced entrepreneurs. Shree Ann Mathavan, senior manager of SIF, told a group of Asean journalists who joined the organisation’s multilateral journalist visit programme that YSE nurtures social entrepreneurs to enrich lives and ensure positive changes for a better world.
“The participants have a chance to learn from leading social entrepreneurs and business people and to interact with other youths who are keen on innovation,” she said. “They usually have opportunities for partnerships for sustainable growth of their businesses.” Next year marks the 10th anniversary of YSE, and the SIF will commemorate the growth of the programme as well as the success of its international alumni. The programme encourages aspiring young change-makers aged between 18 and 30 from all parts the world, including Myanmar and Thailand, to participate, she added.
Shah Jahan Tajudeen, manager of SIF, said the eight-month programme brings participants to a four-day workshop, a mentorship scheme, overseas study visits, regular business clinics, YSE alumni network activities and a final pitch-for-seed funding session in Singapore.
“A lot of our works are on a socio-cultural basis. We bring Singaporeans to the world community, and the world community to Singapore. This is what we essentially do,” he said.
To him, the organisation attempts to connect the community to enable collaborations in the region. In this respect, SIF’s programmes are usually aligned with what Singapore can contribute to other Asean countries, with a major focus on five areas – education, healthcare, arts and culture, environment, and business and livelihood. YSE is part of the organisation’s successful programmes, he said.
“When people from different parts of the world work together, they gain insights that bridge cultural divides and the sharing of ideas, skills and experiences inspire actions and enable collaborations for good,” said Tajudeen.