Singapore

‘Growing wave of empathy’ for the larger community

‘Growing wave of empathy’ for the larger community
Mr Jeremy Au (left) and Mr Kwok Jia Chuan say Singaporeans have many great ideas and lots of energy that need a constructive avenue. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong
Conjunct Consulting connects people, companies and social organisations using volunteers, the Internet and kaya toast
Published: 4:02 AM, August 9, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, August 10, 2013
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SINGAPORE — There is a recurring theme behind the success of Conjunct Consulting, the first pro-bono consulting firm in Asia for non-profit organisations and social enterprises: Kaya toast and coffee.

Its co-founders, Mr Kwok Jia Chuan and Mr Jeremy Au, who are both 25, are kaya toast aficionados who would have opened coffee shops together as an alternative business.

We were concerned about what people are going through, about being real with each other, being real about the community

Mr Jeremy Au

Three things they hope to change in S’pore
- More chances for passionate Singaporeans to volunteer
- Greater collaboration between individuals, organisations and across sectors
- Stronger focus on social impact for social enterprises

Conjunct was set up over countless meetings between the pair over kaya toast and coffee. And to welcome volunteers, they serve (what else) kaya toast and coffee made by the company’s executive committee members themselves.

However, it was because of poetry — their interest as teenagers — that their paths crossed about a decade ago. They met at a creative arts camp in secondary school and have kept in touch since. “We were teenagers, and we wrote poetry,” Mr Au recalls. The pair also found that they were bunkmates during Basic Military Training.

Looking back, they say it was their shared sense of community and the belief in “being real” that formed the basis of their friendship and, later, business partnership.

“From day one, we were concerned about what people are going through, about being real with each other, being real about the community,” says Mr Au, who is with an international consultancy firm.

The inspiration for Conjunct can be traced back to his undergraduate days at the University of California, Berkeley. Then, he led The Berkeley Group, a student organisation providing pro-bono consulting services for non-profit organisations in the United States.

In 2011, the pair mulled over finding a suitable avenue to apply their skills and passion in serving the community. They met several times over kaya toast and coffee to talk about this.

“When we couldn’t find the volunteering opportunity that we wanted, we decided to make one,” says Mr Kwok, who is also a civil servant.

This month marks the second anniversary of their social enterprise. The report card looks impressive: Conjunct has successfully worked on 23 projects with a variety of 19 non-profit organisations — from a three-man start-up to a 200-strong group — in various sectors.

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