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Flour Power (above) is a social enterprise bakery which trains people with special needs in baking and other functions.

Sustainable Living Lab is a social innovation lab that aims to build a sustainable future through community building, technology experimentation and social innovation.

The business of doing good

The inaugural FestivalForGood aims to raise awareness of the growing number of social enterprises here and the causes they support.
Jul 29, 2016 5:50 AM

MAKING a living doesn't need to come at the cost of society. Rather, the two can be combined into what's known as a social enterprise so you're not just making money, but also helping the people who need it.

Singapore's inaugural social enterprise festival, the aptly titled FestivalForGood, will showcase more than 40 social enterprises to better explain their products and services, and to raise awareness of the growing community here.

Amy Lim, project lead for FestivalForGood, says: "The Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) was set up in May 2015, and since then, we've been greatly encouraged by the rapid growth of the sector - not just in numbers, but also in terms of the areas of impact and the diversity of industries in which the social enterprises operate."

The more than 40 enterprises taking part include brands such as Dialogue in the Dark, which aims to raise awareness about the visually impaired; Flour Power, a social enterprise bakery which trains people with special needs in baking and other functions; and Sustainable Living Lab, a social innovation lab that aims to build a sustainable future through community building, technology experimentation and social innovation.

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Ms Lim notes: "Given the dynamic nature of the sector, there really isn't a one-size-fits-all definition as to what a social enterprise is. We define it as a business entity that is set up with clear social goals, where resources are allocated to fulfil its social objectives."

For example, Dialogue in the Dark runs experiential tours, corporate and educational workshops, meals in the dark and educational talks in schools so people can better understand the trials that visually impaired people go through. As part of the festival, they will be offering an experiential tour in complete darkness for a brief insight into what it means to be visually impaired.

In contrast, Circus in Motion equips youths at risk with life skills through the use of circus arts and will offer a workshop to the public teaching some circus tricks, including how to use a diabolo, a traditional Chinese circus prop.

She adds: "The Singapore social enterprise sector is leading the way in the region towards a new economic model that is compelling and well worth supporting, one that is not only dynamic and robust, but also mindful of the larger impact on society."

The two-day festival will take place at JTC Launchpad, Timbre+, ACE Ideation Centre, and across social enterprises island-wide.

One of its highlights will be the pop-up market featuring merchandise by socially conscious companies, clothing, accessories, food, and tech gadgets. Other festival activities include live performances, interactive workshops and services like manicures and pedicures.

"There are so many meaningful ways for every Singaporean to get involved, so we wanted to put everything together in an engaging festival that can do justice to the vibrancy and diversity of the community itself. There really will be something for everybody," says Ms Lim.

The idea for the festival was first conceptualised in 2015, and putting it all together came with its own host of challenges.

Ms Lim explains: "Reaching out to engage the public on such a massive scale meant that raiSE had to start the planning, programming, publicity, logistical coordination and execution from scratch."

But through it all, she says, "we met new partners and ended up with an immensely supportive extended family".

She adds: "In that sense, FestivalForGood serves as an example of how different sectors of society, from individuals to corporations, can all come together to make a difference and be part of the good."

While raiSE isn't sure about how many attendees they will be seeing this year, they are hopeful about making FestivalForGood a yearly initiative.

Ms Lim says: "We hope that visitors will walk away seeing that there are many ways for them to join the #partofthegood movement by supporting social enterprises. From simply enjoying a meal to purchasing a fashion accessory, there will hopefully be a better understanding of the depth and breadth of the work social enterprises put in on a daily basis."