In this week’s Wicked Wednesday Speakers’ Series, we invited Mr Tong Yee as our guest speaker. Tong is an active social entrepreneur with a wealth of experience to share with the community. The session provided us a rare glimpse of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem and the pertinent issues that makes it relevant, sustainable and (taboo or not) rewarding.
Tong Yee co-founded the School of Thought (SOT) to promote innovation in education and civic learning in both private and public sectors. This work has since evolved to become The Thought Collective (TTC) — a group of social enterprises reputed for building social and emotional capital that are at the forefront of social innovation in Singapore.
Tong Yee also spearheaded civic initiatives such as the Stand Up for Singapore Movement, as well as leads several ground-up initiatives with youth across Singapore. Some of his current endeavours include prototyping a sustainable volunteer programme, designing thought provoking educational experiences through trail innovation, and initiating compelling social movements in the hope of creating a more gracious society.
Given that the 21st century is presenting such complex challenges, Tong Yee has actively pursued new learning over the past 10 years. He believes that the fields of Organisational Development (OD), ontological coaching, somatic training, narrative therapy, Experience Design (UX) and theatre, have profound impact in the way we can innovate our own social interventions. He hopes to challenge us in making the bold steps to pursue new ways of seeing our own challenges, and exercising the necessary leadership to move our so called mountains to achieve the outcomes that all of us desire. And sometimes doing that, require us to untie ourselves from the models that simply no longer work.
The audience was given a quick update on the affairs of social problems in Singapore and beyond. An example of one such problem raised was the ‘Ambulance Frequent Flyers’. Recalcitrant members of the public were creating an inefficiency for public services such as the ambulance emergency service with prank calls and misuse of SCDF resources. While they cannot be ignored, their mischief is not easily deterred by the law. Policies, and fines are ineffective, as the recalcitrant group is usually made up of the lowest economic class in the country who have seemingly nothing to lose. So then how can such problems be solved?
Tong elaborated on the role that social intermediaries and enterprises play in their support of the government, given their relative maneuverability and ability to tackle micro segment problems. He then challenged the audiences’ notion of sustainable social entrepreneurship and their understanding of what is social and what is economic.
All in all, the session left everyone warmed up to the concept of social entrepreneurship and had easily squashed the notion that social entrepreneurship is ‘not profitable’. While it remains technically ‘not for profit’ relative to corporations, there still lies a quagmire of balancing market interest, creating sustainable endeavors and achieving social goals.