Keynote Address by SM Tharman Shanmugaratnam and the Fireside Chat with raiSE Chairman Mr Gautam Banerjee at The PurpoSE Agenda

The PurpoSE Agenda is not just an agenda for each of us – whether in businesses, government, social agencies, community bodies. It is a collective purpose agenda, because the challenges we face will require much deeper collaboration. We are not going to build a more inclusive society, and we are not going to have a more sustainable world, without much deeper collaboration amongst us.

It essentially means that we’ve got to broaden the intersections between our individual missions. We each have important individual missions: businesses must aim to make a profit to be sustainable; social sector agencies must be focused on achieving social outcomes; community bodies look to strengthen bonds – each have their social missions. But there is an intersection between those missions. We’ve got to grow that intersection – the intersection between making a profit on a sustainable basis and doing good for the environment and for society. The missions are intrinsically dependent on each other.

We have to take ‘doing well by doing good’ to the next level in Singapore. We are off to a good start, still some ways to go, and we have to take it to the next level. Catalysing this intersection of business purpose with social and environmental purpose – in Singapore as well as across the region. We should think of Singapore’s collective purpose in regional terms, think of opportunities across the region to uplift people. Singapore will do well if we are in a region where everyone is being uplifted. That has always been the case. But that’s not just about the state or government policies. It is about businesses, and it is for Singaporeans as individuals wanting to do good in Singapore and around the region. There is huge opportunity for that.

Three initiatives that you have now embarked on, all very helpful.

First on catalysing finance itself – the social impact bonds that you have launched, aimed at providing jobs as well as retention in jobs for persons in recovery from mental health issues. I think that’s a very good example. It involves social enterprises: the project manager, which is Social Venture Partnerships and the service provider, Findjobs. NCSS and its partners were deeply involved – IMH, Singapore Association of Mental Health, and Singapore Anglican Community Services – they all worked together to shape the design of this programme, and also to help refer people to the job agency. And the providers of capital – Johnson & Johnson, a key investor, AP ventures which is a philanthropy venture, and C Plus V Foundation, which came through SymAsia, the Credit Suisse philanthropy platform. And raiSE came in as an outcome funder – funding based on outcomes. A good melding of expertise, different risk orientations, bringing both capital and purpose together.

A second initiative is building capabilities for social enterprise. raiSE has partnered with Quest Ventures, which is an established VC player in Singapore. raiSE provides the seed and early-stage grants, and Quest puts the enterprises on its accelerator programme, which means providing the curriculum, the tools and very importantly, giving them access to a network of investors so there is the potential for further funding.

Third initiative, talent, and developing the skills and aptitudes required for social enterprise. raiSE has partnered here with Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), ideally chosen, to develop those instincts and skills when people are in school. Many SUSS students are in fact working adults who already have some experience. So, they come with experience, skills, but the programme is providing them with deeper immersion – traineeships that involve immersion in education, health, and wellness ventures – a range of ventures both here in Singapore, as well as the region.

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