New programme to help social enterprises maximise impact

Published: 4:02 AM, October 15, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, October 16, 2013

SINGAPORE — To provide social enterprises with the business expertise they need to grow, a mentorship programme has been launched, where corporate professionals and entrepreneurs will act as mentors to selected social enterprises.

Piloted by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, it will begin in December with five social enterprises for a period of eight months.

Social enterprises are businesses that seek to advance a social cause. The programme, called the Social Enterprise Mentoring Programme, was announced by President Tony Tan at the annual conference of the Social Enterprise Association yesterday.

Dr Tan said: “Corporate executives and businessmen serving as mentors will share their professional knowledge and know-how with social enterprises. This programme aims to help social enterprises to scale up their operations and to achieve greater social impact.

“By sharing our strengths and resources, we can build a more inclusive society with a strong spirit of generosity and compassion for our people.”

The programme is administered by Empact and supported by the Social Enterprise Association.

During the programme, the mentors and social enterprises will work on specific areas, such as marketing, strategic planning as well as business development.

One of the enterprises taking part in the pilot is Bliss Restaurant, which has been in the F&B industry for the past 12 years. The company has provided jobs to persons with disabilities, ex-convicts and the needy. It recently set up a catering service, and is hoping that coaching from a corporate professional will help ease some of the hiccups it has been facing.

Said Ms Christine Low, owner of Bliss Restaurant: “A mentor coming in … to pinpoint which are the areas we are weak in, to tighten the entire outfit — that would be really great.”

Mr Peter Yang, manager of the Social Enterprise Mentoring Programme, said: “Social enterprises, being a combination of social and business, there’s a lot of challenges. You need to have the skill set to manoeuvre both the work — meaning working with your beneficiary, as well as being business savvy — to establish a sustainable business.”

The mentors of the programme are still in the process of being finalised. Besides matching skill sets, they must also be able to commit to the company they are mentoring at least once a month, to address any challenges they may have.

A review will be conducted in July next year to see if the pilot should be expanded to other social enterprises.