The Awards Ceremony of the third DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia (SVCAsia) took place at the NUS University Cultural Centre on 15 September 2016. Graced by Unilever CEO Paul Polman, the finale was a fitting conclusion to the largest edition of the competition yet, which drew over a thousand applications for Asia-based social enterprises.

SVCAsia 2016 was supported by 400 partners, collaborators, judges and mentors across Asia. With the aid of knowledge partner World Bank Group, and sector champions raiSE (The Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises) and Syngenta, the challenge was able to effectively accelerate the impact of social entrepreneurship in Asia.

The Heart of the Challenge

NUS Enterprise’s director Prof Wong Poh Kam emphasised how the Challenge’s unique engagement with the community made it more than a competition. It is “a platform to catalyse engagement in social entrepreneurial activities”, he said. He credited local partners for their work in building capacity to mobilize social entrepreneurs.

Prof Wong highlighted the National University of Singapore’s determination to groom graduates with caring values, and who take action. “Take action,” the professor said, “no matter how small”. The three-time entrepreneur also emphasized that entrepreneurship is “not about making money”. Instead, its focus is economic contribution and social impact.

Chairman of DBS Foundation Ms. Euleen Goh shared how corporates can make a contribution to address issues of social concern. She explained that DBS’ heritage as a “development bank” allows it to remain committed to developing and growing with society by enabling social ventures to scale sustainably.

Keynote speaker Paul Polman encouraged the audience to “look to the interests of others” and work for the common good. He advised companies to be purposeful – to “know why they are here” – and to be use their freedom to operate responsibly, as business “clearly cannot stay at the sidelines”.

To social entrepreneurs, Mr. Polman encouraged commitment, and perseverance: “When Usain Bolt ran his 100 meters and won his third gold medal, he didn’t stop halfway, he ran the full race…You don’t go halfway, you know that, social entrepreneurs – you finish the job”. In the same vein as Prof Wong, he asked the community to take action. “The cost of inaction is higher than the cost of action,” he remarked.

Community, ownership and collective, decisive action were key themes that emerged from all three speakers. These values were certainly demonstrated by the finalists who pitched their ideas.

“Out-of-the-box” SVCAsia 2016 Finalists

“Get out of the box,” advised Prof Wong, on how to innovate effectively. “Go to where the problems are to understand the people, their aspirations, so that you can walk with them to come up with solutions that give them their respect and dignity”.

The 6 finalist social entrepreneurs exemplified this “getting-out-of-the-box” through their pitches, and innovative solutions to meet Asia’s most pressing social needs.

Watch the full Awards Ceremony, captured on Facebook livestream.

View the highlights of our Awards Ceremony here!

Arus Education (Website)

Four passionate Teach For Malaysia fellows set up Arus Education to solve Malaysia’s education inequity. Arus Education grooms innovators who “learn by making”. Arus currently runs low-cost after school programmes, with the ultimate aim of launching low-cost private schools.

engageSPARK (Website)

engageSPARK, a social enterprise based in the Philippines, enables non-tech- savvy non-profit workers to quickly build voice and SMS programs to engage the poor in developing countries.

Jeevtronics (Website)

To reduce cardiac arrest death rates in developing countries, Jeevtronics develops the world’s first hand-cranked defibrillator. It can function independently of a power source, and is an asset to remote, rural areas.

Nazava Water Filters (Website)

Nazava envisions a world where safe, affordable drinking water is available to everyone, everywhere. It assembles and distributes affordable filters which are sold through NGOs, Nazava shops, and a network of 122 resellers. These resellers, spread across 12 islands in Indonesia, educate clients on the importance of clean water, and receive an attractive margin, training, sales collateral and interest-free KIVA loans.

OurCityLove Social Enterprise Co. Ltd. (Website)

OurCityLove Social Enterprise Co. Ltd. from Taiwan is the product of technology and hospitality experts, provides accessibility solutions for cities worldwide. It maps data of accessible venues, facilities, and services on a cloud-based platform. It also offers training courses to restaurants for disability-friendly certifications, and employment training for persons with disabilities. Revenue streams come from businesses, government, and B2B2C projects.

Siam Organic (Website)

Siam Organic alleviates farmer poverty in Thailand through innovative, globally-appealing nutritious organic rice products. “Jasberry rice”, a non-GMO rice that emerged from 12 years’ research, combines the delicious taste of Jasmine rice with berries’ nutritional, antioxidant benefits.