Championing Social Entrepreneurship
Championing Social Entrepreneurship
As a corporate foundation in Asia solely dedicated to championing social entrepreneurship, DBS Foundation contributes towards building a more inclusive society in the region so that those at society’s margins can enjoy productive and rewarding lives. DBS Foundation works with Social Enterprises and Social Entrepreneurs in Singapore, India, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong with programmes ranging from venture challenges, learning forums, grant support, financing and skilled volunteer mentoring.
DBS Foundation works towards:
• Building awareness and advocacy for social enterprises through initiatives such as the Social Venture Challenge Asia, bootcamps, workshops and learning forums. Developing the ecosystem to support businesses with a dual bottom-line – which align profit and social impact.
• Nurturing promising social enterprises through grant funding, capacity building and mentorship.
• Growing high potential SEs through customised support, advisory and integrating them into the bank’s culture and operations.
Our journey began when our Institutional banking colleagues became aware of what social enterprises (SE) are and learnt more about how SEs offer sustainable solutions to bridging the gap of inequality by generating both financial and social returns.
We spoke with partners on the ground and realized that we could meet the fundamental banking need of SEs. Hence the Social Enterprise Banking Package (SE package) was introduced which was the first cash transaction banking account customized for SEs in Singapore and in Asia.
DBS made the first step to engage with SEs in volunteering programmes and engaging students in Hong Kong which is a mature market for social enterprises.
Being a bank born and bred in Asia, we understood the growing problem faced by societies in a new Asia. As Asia grows, businesses need to be increasingly aware of their social responsibilities, and do their part to build a better and more inclusive Asia for the future.
We increased our footprint in traditional philanthropy and volunteerism, as evident by our focus on Children and Learning through Project Happy Ever Asia. However, we were searching for a sustainable platform that also played to the strengths of our business.
We reflected on our heritage: DBS was born of the Economic Development Board to finance the development of Singapore, and known as the former Development Bank of Singapore. Over the years, we rolled out many firsts, and supported the nation on its road to Industrialisation. Entrepreneurship is a part of DBS’ DNA and we always believed that small medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Asian economies.
Having worked closely with the SMEs space since 2008, it made good reason that we champion social entrepreneurship as it plays to our lineage and strengths. We announced our official CSR mandate to champion social entrepreneurship and started dipping our feet in a number of initiatives to drive awareness.
Senior management came together to strategize our social responsibility efforts and put together a 3-pronged framework, which presents a holistic approach to our support for SEs. The three prongs are:
• Increase awareness of social enterprises (SEs) and the social entrepreneurship sector; we work closely with like-minded academic institutions, government bodies, industry associations, sector developers and the media.
• Support social enterprises through seed funding, mentorship and volunteerism.
• Walk the talk and integrate the support of social enterprises into our culture and operations through special banking packages, procuring goods and services from SEs and encouraging our employees to volunteer at various SE-related initiatives.
We further enhanced the DBS SE package to allow a zero minimum balance, allowing SEs to enjoy more flexibility.
The SE package was rolled out to the other 5 markets we operate in: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and Indonesia, giving more SEs to access to virtually free banking services. A business loan component was added to the banking package in Singapore which offered loans to SEs at half the market rate providing the much needed capital support.
Subsequently programmes for supporting SEs were rolled out in India, China, Indonesia and Taiwan with partners in the space.
DBS Foundation was announced in February with a SGD 50M fund ahead of but in conjunction with Singapore's 50th year as a nation. This was to signal our serious commitment to addressing the region’s evolving social needs.
“At DBS, we are of the view that we share a symbiotic relationship with the societies and communities which we operate in. We believe in being a force for good. Apart from creating long-term economic value, we also seek to positively benefit the communities we are present in, and deliver social value. The DBS Foundation will enable us to be a further catalyst of change”. – Piyush Gupta, CEO, DBS Bank
Having progressed over the years with the nation, the bank believes that the DBS Foundation will enable it to further contribute to the success of Singapore, and play a bigger role in the future of Asia.
DBS Foundation chalked out several programmes to help social enterprises in various stages of their growth journey. Apart from grant support, programmes range from venture challenges, learning forums, intensive incubation, financing and skilled volunteer mentoring. The “Reach & Engage” programmes support the early stage social enterprises and help build awareness and advocacy for this sector. The “Innovate & Incubate” programmes keep with changing social needs and nurture the mid stage social enterprises on their social innovation journey. Through “Grow & Scale” programmes, the Foundation will develop and hothouse high potential social enterprises and enable their success on a regional scale.
To increase awareness of social enterprises in Asia, the foundation has launched an exclusive digital platform “Asiaforgood.com” that provides shareable, lifestyle oriented content that appeals to public and encourages on socially conscious choices. AsiaForGood is also an attempt to connect social enterprises across Asia with a wider global community and generate business opportunities for them.
DBS Foundation works to further embed itself as a growth partner of social enterprises across Asia and truly champion social entrepreneurship.
DBS Foundation’s programmes are getting stronger and well defined to champion social entrepreneurship. The DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia is fast becoming a powerful platform to identify and celebrate up and coming social enterprises from the region. The programme has witnessed many entrepreneurs who not only are passionate about addressing social issues – but who are also innovative and savvy with the use of technology. In 2016, we saw 1027 entries from 32 countries participate and awarded S$ 175,000 as prize money.
Getting the social enterprise community together through our Annual DBS Foundation SE Summit has helped start those crucial conversations, make those relevant connections and initiate the necessary strategic thinking to build resilience in our social heroes. In 2016, over 200 social enterprises from across Asia with 35 expert speakers from 13 countries participated at the inaugural summit.
Our Social Enterprise Grant Programme in 2016 saw 12 social enterprises from Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, Indonesia and Taiwan being awarded grants to grow and develop their initiatives in areas such as healthcare, education and environmental sustainability. The grants are enabling these enterprises to test prototypes, improve existing processes or scale up their existing business for greater social impact. S$ 1 Million are given in Grants annually with grant amounts ranging from S$50,000 to S$180,000.
Our Social Enterprise Grant Programme saw 14 social enterprises from Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Taiwan being awarded grants totaling to S$1.1 million. The grants will help them grow and develop their initiatives in areas such as employment generation for the marginalised, environment protection, waste management solutions, and food sustainability.
Over 99 SEs were nurtured through senior management mentoring, skills-based volunteering and capacity building programmes in 2017.
We received 1080 entries in 2017 from 31 countries for DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia. A total of 13 awards were given to interesting and innovative social enterprises with a prize money totalling to $180,000.
DBS Foundation’s second Social Enterprise Summit, held for the first time in Jakarta, was based on the theme of ‘Innovate for Impact’ and brought together changemakers to discuss their challenges and triumphs in pursuing their social innovations. Over 300 participants comprising social entrepreneurs – existing and potential, capacity-builders, impact investors from across the region, gathered to discuss strategies on keeping their ventures innovative and relevant in the age of disruption.
In 2018, we reached the mark of 100 social enterprises (SEs) receiving grants and over 300 SEs nurtured by us.
We awarded SGD 1.25 million to 12 SEs from Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Taiwan to encourage them to deploy social innovations in areas such as social inclusion, employment and income generation for the marginalised, environment protection and waste management solutions, as well as food sustainability.
A total of S$135,000 in cash prizes was awarded to five winning teams at the 2018 DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia (SVC Asia). 870 entries were submitted from 42 countries - the highest number of participating countries for this competition, evidencing the growing interest in social entrepreneurship across the region.
We partnered the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) to organise the Social Enterprise Week. The week-long festivities brought together impactful events to benefit Singapore’s Social Enterprise sector such as the DBSF Social Enterprise Summit centred on the theme of ‘Social Impact + Profit: Can boundaries be blurred?’, President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Corporate Networking and the Festival For Good - Asia’s largest celebration of social enterprises. The week was marked with competitions, retail marketplace, conversations and workshops bringing close to 9,000 people to participate in the programmes. In Taiwan, DBS was a key partner in organising the first Asia-Pacific Social Enterprise Summit along with the government and our sector partner - Social Enterprise Insights. The summit, consisting of a conference along with an exhibition, brought together over 3,000 participants.
Social enterprises are emerging as the promising “middle” sector between the traditional worlds of government, non-profits and business. They help to address social concerns and play a critical role in solving social problems. Social enterprises seek to be financially sustainable through business models. As social challenges become increasingly complex in light of shrinking government budgets and rapidly evolving communities, social enterprises are emerging as self-sustaining businesses with effective methods of meeting social needs.
With commercially sustainable solutions, they provide income, goods and services where they are needed and build up inclusive communities. Such an approach is aligned to the roots of DBS Foundation and DBS Bank as the former development bank of Singapore, and our strengths in serving the SME sector.
By championing social entrepreneurship, the Foundation focuses on building a more inclusive society so that those at society’s margins can enjoy productive and rewarding lives.
By also supporting businesses which practice a dual bottom-line of aligning their profit and social impact goals, we are striving towards a better world where businesses become a force for good and provide sustainable outcomes.
We demonstrate commitment to social enterprises by providing banking solutions tailored to their specific needs as well as engaging them as our business partners for events and activities.
The DBS Social Enterprise Package presents social enterprises with access to virtually free banking services. Social enterprises can open an account with a zero-minimum balance, enjoy free transactions and fee waivers allowing more flexibility. A business loan component was also added to the banking package, offering unsecured loans to social enterprises at preferential rate, providing the much-needed capital support.
DBS also walks the talk by procuring goods and services from social enterprises and encouraging our employees to volunteer at various SE-related initiatives. Skills-based volunteering is another way we make a meaningful difference to social enterprises by helping them on key business challenges by matching them with our staff possessing relevant skills to work alongside.
Click here to see a video on how we use our staff’s problem-solving skills to solve real business challenges of social enterprises.