The Straits Times
Monday, Nov 05, 2012
SINGAPORE - Partnerships with the public and private sectors can help social enterprises with mentorships, contacts and resources.
Food-service provider Select Group, for instance, helps Community Kitchen Cooperative with its business strategy, development and expansion.
These are skills the Bukit Panjang catering kitchen, which trains the long-term unemployed, would find difficult to acquire on its own.
"We're familiar with catering, and really involved. It's more meaningful than just donating money," said Select Group managing director Vincent Tan, 48, explaining the mutual benefit.
Such cooperation was one of the topics discussed at Friday's Social Collab 2012 conference. In its second year, the conference, run by the Social Enterprise Association, brought together stakeholders from the social enterprise, business and government sectors.
During the closing speech, guest of honour and Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing expressed his hope that more businesses could take the lead in working with social enterprises, in addition to the "broad-based support" the Government provides.
Currently, the Government supports social enterprises through the ComCare Enterprise Fund, the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Programme for Schools and the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award.
Social enterprises are also important for enhancing social safety nets, Mr Chan explained, and they are a key priority of his ministry, which was officially formed on Thursday.
One fledgling member of the Social Enterprise Association, 90s The Candy Studio, has benefited from a partnership with the private sector.
Three students from Nanyang Polytechnic - Ms Siti Khairunissa Suhaimi, Mr Robin Goh and Ms Lim Yi Jun, all now 20 - opened the 1990s-themed candy shop in August, which employs the disabled.
Partnering retailers who encouraged entrepreneurship through their school, they received preferential rates in Bugis Street and *Scape, paying only for utilities.
So far, they have three workers who are disabled, employed through the Singapore Association for the Deaf.
The founders noted that the employees sometimes outshone the entrepreneurs themselves, such as by making better candy bouquets.
Said Ms Siti, now a student at the Singapore Institute of Management: "It's a two-way learning experience. We learn from them and they learn from us."
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