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Singapore Government and Private Sector to Focus on Social Enterprise Scene

Singapore is more than the hardcore business environment that it seems to be—in fact, it’s also a place where charity and trade thrive at the same time. Due to the availability of more government funding, more social enterprises may look at Singapore in a new light—not just a place for making money but also for do-gooders.

Social enterprises are a much-overlooked sector of the Singapore business environment. Social enterprises are profit or non-profit organizations that make use of commercial strategies to better the lives of its beneficiaries and the environment. Popular kinds of social enterprises include co-operatives and charities.

Singapore’s social enterprise scene only blossomed during the last five years. As of the moment, around 150 social enterprises are active in Singapore. Supporting the scene is the SE (Social Enterprise) Association of Singapore, which just recently released a primer on the governance of social enterprises in Singapore.

Academic institutions and other corporate entities also support social enterprise. In fact, a polytechnic university in Singapore offers a degree program is dedicated to social enterprise.

The challenge of running a social enterprise, however, is that funding may be hard to come by. Banks are wary of granting loans to social enterprises since they want assurance that the loan will be paid. Finding willing investors may also be problematic at times as investors primarily judge new enterprises by their profitability, which in the case of social enterprises, is only a second priority (next to helping others, of course).

Thus, it is welcome news for social enterprises in Singapore to know that there is now a variety of competitions and grants from both the government and the private sector for funding them. One of these competitions is the Lien i3 Challenge, which grants over $1 million to the best social start-ups. The potential of social enterprises in boosting the region’s economy has also been given attention in the recent Impact Investment Exchange Asia conference, which aim to establish Asia’s first social exchange.