Call For Social Enterprises to Broaden Their Focus
27 June 2017 at 8:24 am
Thought Collective founder and social entrepreneur Tong Yee has called for Australian social enterprise leaders to think outside of the box and constantly evolve to address society’s most pressing issues.
Speaking at this year’s annual Social Enterprise Conference 2017, the international guest speaker from Singapore gave some insights into how Thought Collective has evolved to shed a light on the social enterprise sector.
Since Thought Collective started in 2002 its primary aim has been to enhance Singapore’s emotional and social capital.
As a former teacher, Tong Yee says he was particularly passionate about tapping into youth’s potential.
“Thought Collective began in 2002 as a community outreach program that was working with students who were falling through the cracks,” Yee says.
More than 15 years later the School of Thought, now a fully fledged school, is one of five social enterprises in the Thought Collective.
The collective also includes restaurants, publishing and design houses and consultancy all designed to foster better community connection and encourage participants to become “thought leaders” in fields of innovation, community development, art, and environmental sustainability.
The aim of the Thought Collective, Yee says, is to rebuild community connection.
“My point is that the fact that social enterprises exist only shows that society itself is broken. We are not working as a community and looking after each other,” he says.
“There is a need to deal with society on a whole, it may not be just the beneficiary.”
Yee encourages social enterprise leaders to also look at the broader picture.
“Sometimes when we are focussed on the ground we forget about thought leadership or working with the broader society,” Yee says.
He says social enterprises are unique in that they can constantly to address society’s most pressing needs.
“I think what is interesting about social enterprises is because they are also striving for financial sustainability there is a part of them that can morph and change to address all sorts of social needs because they are essentially moving at the speed of market trends,” he says.
Yee’s advice to an Australian audience was to look at the business models in front of them.
“Social enterprises need to look at different business models available to them to find a good match. You must have a strong business strategy,” Yee says.