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Recent ProjectS



Youth Model ASEAN

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation facilitated a tri-sector workshop as part of the Youth Model ASEAN Conference on 6 Oct 2015. YMAC is an annual inter-polytechnic event that draws 250 student delegates from local and ASEAN tertiary institutions to debate and discuss critical issues related to ASEAN’s development and progress in separate committees. as part of the workshop, we developed an interactive game called Innovation at the Intersection, to enable participants to ideate new ways of addressing pressing regional issues.

A Tri-Sector Conversation: Promoting Disaster Resilience and Collective Action in ASEAN

The objectives of this conversation, facilitated by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation on 11 Aug 2015, were to provide a forum where selected representatives from each public, private and civil society sector can begin the process of building new relationships, as well as to provide a platform for all three sectors to explore existing collaboration and collective action initiatives particularly in the area of disaster management and risk reduction in the ASEAN region. This conversation was followed by the Post-2015 ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Strategic Policy Dialogue on 2 Nov 2015, which was attended by more than 70 representatives from the public, private and people sectors in the Asia-Pacific region. See more about the Tri-Sector Conversation here.

Singapore+Acumen chapter

The Lien Centre has commenced an ongoing partnership with Singapore+Acumen, a volunteer-run chapter of the Acumen Fund, to run Acumen’s courses within the SMU Labs space in Singapore Management University.

There was a good response for the initial 27 Jun 2015 course on Social Leadership, with engaged and active audience who demonstrated a desire to learn the Acumen model for working with social enterprises which are geared towards alleviating poverty.

Possible future courses include Human-Centred Design and Measuring Social Impact.


Completed Projects

Social iConPartner ConferencesThinkFestCoursesWorkshopsRoundtablesCompetitionsSocial ConversationsAshoka Fellow seminarsSocial finance seminarsSpeaking engagements

Social iCon

Social iCon (short for social innovation conference) is the Lien Centre’s flagship event, held every few years.

Social iCon 2014SOCIAL ICON 2016: Change Generation (11 Nov 2016)

Social iCon 2016 was organised in partnership with the Ashoka Foundation. The event was focused on catalysing youth leadership for positive social change, and brought together leading young changemakers from all over the world, including 11 Ashoka Fellows -- some of the most decorated youth empowerment social innovators. Attendees shared, discussed and learnt how to create seismic shifts in thought and action in the effort ot prepare the next generation for constant change, complex problem-solving, creativity, moral imagination and empathy. The day included high-level panel discussions, breakout sessions, strategic conversations and workships with leaders from various sectors, and focused on why self-directedness, community linkages and starting young matter.


Social iCon 2014Social iCon 2014: A Gathering of Social Innovation Practitioners (7-10 Oct 2014)

Social iCon 2014 saw a pan-Asian gathering of practitioners and intermediaries engagaed in Social Innovation Labs (SI Labs). Our goal was to raise awareness about SI Labs as a key pathway for social innovation, as well as create a community of practice for emerging and existing SI Labs in Asia.



socialiconSocial iCon 2011: The League of Extraordinary People (9 Nov 2011)

In increasingly turbulent times the critical needs of society demand attention from people in all sectors – government, business and social. It will take out-of-the ordinary, innovative efforts to find new ways of addressing emerging challenges. The 2011 edition of Social iCon, the Lien Centre for Social Innovation’s biennial flagship event, brought together leading global practitioners to share insights on why and how cross-sector collaboration must work. It invited 270+ representatives of businesses, civil society organisations, the public sector and all interested changemakers to “Connect, Collaborate and Co-Create”.

socialicon2009Social iCon 2009 (23 Oct 2009)

The social innovation adventure of the year. An experiential immersion in ideas and insights on what it takes to change the world. Nearly 50 speakers from a wide range of sectors and disciplines, including several of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, successful businessmen, thought leaders, captains of the social sector, and some of Asia’s very own innovators, came together for this event.

Partner Conferences

pathfinder3Pathfinder Singapore (10-11 Nov 2011)

The Lien Centre partnered with the Global Innovation Academy, a new and pioneering initiative of the Young Foundation, to bring their Pathfinder programme to Singapore. GIA was developed in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, NESTA in the UK, and many others around the world in the social innovation field. Its mission is to provide unique learning experiences to support the spread of effective social innovation methods that can tackle the most pressing global issues we face. Programme faculty included Geoff Mulgan, former Head of Policy to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chief Executive Officer of NESTA; Christian Bason, Director of MindLab and a leading thinker in public sector innovation; and Charlie Leadbeater, a leading authority on innovation and creativity. They were joined by Sarah Schulman & Chris Vanstone, design thinkers from InWithFor and the Australian Centre for Social Innovation. During an intensive two-day programme, 50 regional participants were immersed in a highly collaborative learning journey, designed to enable them to adapt and implement cutting-edge methods of social innovation in their respective contexts.


AVPN2Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Roadshow (12 October 2011)

Leading venture philanthropy practitioners from the US, Europe and Asia marked the launch of the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network at this seminar.. Nat Sloane from Impetus Trust and Shruti Sehra from New Profit Inc presented the latest developments in their markets followed by a panel session and Q&A with Asian based venture philanthropy leaders. This is the first of more Social Conversations on social finance to be hosted by the Lien Centre. The seminar was followed by a networking drinks reception for the diverse groups that make up the VP community – to include private equity funds, foundations, family offices, high net worth individuals, the broader financial community, professional service firms and Universities. Lien Centre for Social Innovation subsequently went to host AVPN for their 2013 and 2014 Conferences.


sixsummerschool1SIX Summer School 2010 (15-17 Sep 2010)

As part of the Steering Group Committee of SIX, the Lien Centre successfully hosted the annual Summer School by the Social Innovation Exchange. There were 80 international participants representing the social innovation industry globally, who used this opportunity to learn about the state of social innovation around the world, as well as to foster collaborations with each other. Photos of the event can be found here. The SIX Summer School brought together many of the leading practitioners of social innovation from all parts of the world, whether from business, government or the non-profit sector. This summer’s theme was SIX and the City, looking in particular at how cities can harness the energy, knowledge and creativity of its inhabitants to speed up their ability to respond to the climate change, chronic disease and ageing populations.


ThinkFest2013ThinkFest 2013 (11 Nov 2013)

Speakers: Viswa Sadasivan, CEO, Strategic Moves; Assoc Prof John Donaldson, SMU School of Social Sciences; Dr Mary Ann Tsao, Chairman, Tsao Foundation; Lee Poh Wah, CEO, Lien Foundation; moderated by Dr Tan Chi Chiu, Chairman, Lien Centre for Social Innovation.

Synopsis: Our esteemed panelists addressed the following questions: What needs changing in the way we address social issues in Singapore?What ideas do you have to radically propel social innovation in Singapore? What have you learned about transforming ideas into social change?


thinkfest2011bThinkFest 2011: Enlightened Marketplace, Savvy Advocacy & New Social Models (19 Oct 2011)

Speakers: Vincent Wijeysingha, TWC2; Tay Kheng Soon, Akitek Tenggara; Stefan Jacob, BOP Hub; Jacqueline Loh, Lien Centre.
Synopsis: For 2011’s Think-Fest, we convened a forum for leading minds from the business and social fields to be bold, pioneering and forward-thinking in these challenging times. We asked our speakers to consider what we should leverage on now to expedite positive social change, what capital or business is missing from the ecosystem and what are the risks involved in pushing for change.


thinkfest2010aThinkFest 2010: Role of Government, Corporations and Citizens in Enabling Social Innovation (16 Sep 2010)


Speakers: Geoff Mulgan, Director, Young Foundation; Claire Chiang, Chairperson, Banyan Tree Global Foundation; Yong Teck Meng, National Director, Habitat for Humanity Singapore; Runa Khan, Executive Director, Friendship; moderated by Laurence Lien, CEO, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre
Synopsis: ThinkFest 2010 marks the release of Social Space 2010, the third issue of our professional magazine for community leaders, social thinkers and practitioners. We asked our speakers to consider how we can develop a more empowered, liberal and creative civil society sector and citizenry to plant the seed of social innovation. This was followed by the launch of our new book, The World that Changes the World, a mapping of the social ecosystem in 21 chapters.

of Habitat for Humanity Singapore, part of the international Christian charity focusing on poverty-housing elimination. Mr Yong was the founder-Chairman of Habitat Singapore and took on a full-time role in response to the Tsunami disaster. He led his team to complete 1,800 houses in Meulaboh, Indonesia. Habitat Singapore has been involved in low cost housing projects in Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, and many other countries.


thinkfestThinkFest 2009: Emerging Trends, Drivers and Models in the Social Space (7 Oct 2009)


Synopsis: It was an evening of wit, humour and candid thoughts as the Social Space 2009 writers and audience reflected on emerging trends and their bold visions for the social sector. Kickstarting the conversation was Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman of SMU Board of Trustees and Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree who shared his 8 dream measures in a bid to remodel society. In jest, Mr. Ho suggested rewriting business textbooks, imposing an investment banker’s levy, introducing National Service for females and removing the ban on chewing gum. These measures may seem far-fetched but there is an underlying concern on 2 main fronts.

The first front is a question of rebalancing social values and this starts with character-building efforts amongst youths. Some suggestions include community service within the region and “survival pay” for youths who would like to take time-out for a year to discover themselves. The second front is a concern with the role of business in society and the need to shape business philosophy. Discussions centred on the corporatisation of social purposes and the support system and structures required for this purpose. Vice versa, Social Space writers and audience also discussed the socialisation of commercial pursuits in a return to what good businesses should be. Social Space 09 writers offered their thoughts on the above. The panel summed up the discussion with their wish for a vibrant social sector that is less regulated by the government, a return to basics in business values, the importance of conscience and honesty in the individual and a desire for more sharing of thoughts and actions on the moving forward of the social space.

Speakers: Ngiam Tong Dow, former senior civil servant & Kevin Teo, Director and Co-Founder, Volans Ventures & Eugene Tan, Assistant Professor, SMU School of Law & Ivy Singh-Lim, Founder, Bollywood Veggies & Tan Chi Chiu, Chief Editor, Social Space 2009.



A professional education course for non-profit leaders and senior executives. Working with SMU faculty as well as experienced practitioners from the social sector, the course builds skills in effective non-profit organisational management, cross-sector collaboration and the implementation of sustainable social models. iLEAP is designed for participants from various parts of the nonprofit and charity sector including social and health-related services, community development, education, the arts and the environment. See here for the iLEAP 2014 course information. The course is no longer being offered by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, and an impact assessment of the 5 years of the iLEAP course has been completed, and can be found at this link.

SI Tools for Social ChangeSocial Innovation: Tools for Social Change (January-April 2015)

As part of Lien Centre for Social Innovation’s engagement efforts with the university, we supported an undergraduate course from the SMU School of Social Sciences. The course was facilitated by Dr Chung Wai Keung, Assistant Professor of Sociology, with content support from Jonathan Chang and Jared Tham of the Lien Centre. The course provided a broad overview of social innovation methodology and case studies, and covered the following modules: Social Innovation Safari, Engaging Government, Design Thinking, Social Enterprise Thinking, Strategies for Addressing Poverty, Poverty Advocacy, Gender implications of policies, laws & practices, Economic empowerment of women, Eldercare issues and Elderly workforce.


ADDMERworkshopA Tri-Sector Conversation: Promoting Disaster Resilience and Collective Action in ASEAN

The objectives of this conversation, facilitated by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation on 11 Aug 2015, were to provide a forum where selected representatives from each public, private and civil society sector can begin the process of building new relationships, as well as to provide a platform for all three sectors to explore existing collaboration and collective action initiatives particularly in the area of disaster management and risk reduction in the ASEAN region. This conversation was followed by the Post-2015 ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Strategic Policy Dialogue on 2 Nov 2015, which was attended by more than 70 representatives

UBS2020UBS 20/20 Social Impact Leaders workshop (3 July 2015)

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation hosted and shared on two occasions (August 2013 and July 2015) with the UBS 20/20 Social Impact Leaders Group. This unique workshop brought together emerging next generation leaders who are passionate about philanthropy and social investment for joint discussion, exploration and collaboration. The majority of the Group’s members are between the ages of 25-35, many either 2nd or 3rd generation family members, who have all been exposed to philanthropy in varying degrees. Several of them are already actively involved with social enterprise, impact investing and charities.


Case Stories Workshops1AWWA Case Stories Workshops (29 Jul-24 August 2013)

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation adapted a research methodology involving the collection of case stories and collaborated with AWWA to conduct a case story research project. This project trained AWWA staff over the course of 4 workshops in techniques such as case story collection, documentation design, content design and theme selection. These techniques were used in AWWA’s own case stories project with its beneficiaries.

SMU_holdupjpgHold Up @ SMU (26 June 2013)

The Lien Centre collaborated with the Asia chapter of Make Sense to do crowdsourced consultancy for two Singapore social enterprises: Adrenalin Events and Fundamental Cents.


designthinking1Design Thinking for NPOs (26 Aug 2011)

Event Partner: Syinc
Speakers: Bernise Ang & Shaun Koh, Syinc
Synopsis: Prevailing wisdom suggests that great organisations are customer focused, and that means conducting “customer surveys” and “focus groups” – which involve someone telling you what they want. The trouble is, they often can’t tell you what they really need . That’s where Design Thinking can help. “Design Thinking” is an innovation methodology that adapts creative processes and tools of designers to solve a broader array of product and service-oriented problems. Driven by empathy, this enables a thorough understanding of customers’ needs, desires & context on a deeply fundamental level. Adopted by progressive large corporations (P&G), government ministries (MOM) and nimble startups (d.light, embrace) alike, Design Thinking process (and tools) have proven to be highly adaptable – and especially relevant to non-profit organisations & social enterprises seeking new ways to address human-centric problems, such as providing robust low-cost healthcare and education. This session gave participants a hands-on introduction to the tools and philosophy behind design thinking, and empower them to apply them to strategic planning for new programmes.

blueoceanBlue Ocean Strategy for NPOs (16 Feb 2011)

Event Supporters: Blue Ocean Strategy Regional Office
Synopsis: “Blue Oceans” are new untapped markets ripe for growth where pricing power replaces pricing pressure, margins are high rather than low, and market leaders swim in the clear blue, far from the bloody red ocean of rivals, fighting over a shrinking pool of profit. Through a systematic process called “Value Innovation”, organisations can identify their own “blue ocean”, and create the products or services that define the new market space. The application of these business strategies is especially critical to non-profit sector, who increasingly find themselves in “red oceans” of competition for volunteers, funding and mindshare. This workshop gave various non-profit organisations the opportunity to understand Blue Ocean Strategy and apply some of the basic principles to their mission focus.
Speaker: Lai Fong is the co-founder of the UCSI Blue Ocean Strategy Regional Centre Singapore Office. As a Blue Ocean Strategy practitioner, she actively participates in promoting and advocating the adoption of Blue Ocean Strategy in Singapore. She also co-founded Coachnetworks, a company which focuses on professional and personal development, coaching people to hone life skills in bridging relationships, attaining work-life integration and champion community services and social entrepreneurship. She is a qualified Master Coach and Trainer. Lai Fong provides consultancy and coaching services to leadership team of TOUCH Community Services, on systems and management planning processes. She is also a freelance speaker and consultant for TOUCH, Focus on the Familly (Family Services), and the Employer’s Alliance(Work-Life Harmony).


Lean Thinking in the Non-Profit Sector (25 Mar 2010)

Synopsis: Non-profits have perhaps even a more critical need than For-profits for a high degree of effectiveness in everything they do. Constantly faced with limited budgets, constrained manpower and sporadic donations, Non-profits need to be able to More with Less. Presenter John Hamalian gave participants an overview of the various aspects of Lean thinking, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, and others which have been utilised by successful companies. He helped them explore the various ways in which they could apply Lean thinking to their organisation, such as through understanding what the 8 Wastes were (Waiting, Material or Information Movement, Overprocessing, Inventory, Motion, Correctin, Over-Producing, and Unutilised Human Potential. He also used Value Stream Mapping to help them arrive at a visual representation of all processes in both the physical and information flows, and ended with a couple of case studies on how non-profits like Big Brothers Big Sisters in the US have successfully employed Lean thinking in their management. Download the presentation here.

Speaker: John Hamalian, Audit Committee Chairman, Transient Workers Count Too
John Hamalian has been working in Global 50 automotive and IT companies for over 23 years, currently as Asia Regional Director of Business Excellence. He is also an active supporter of several non-profits, including a role as Chairman of the Audit Committee of a Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), and the leader for his company’s Singapore Community Outreach team. Having lived in the US , China , South Korea and now Singapore , with long stints in Germany and India , John endeavors to have a global perspective with a focus on Asia . With a total of (44) countries visited, John is a published writer and photographer in the areas of international travel and global commentary. He is also an active member of several professional organisations, including the Singapore Productivity Association.

iglocaliGlocal: Student Volunteering 2.0 (26 May 2010)

Project Partners: National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, United World College of South East Asia

Synopsis: There is an opportunity to catalyse Student Volunteerism 2.0 – we believe that social service-related volunteerism could be brought up to the next level which will give student experiences that let them see social service not just as a CIP requirement, but as a way of life. iGlocal is an initiative to give Singapore secondary schools access to the deep experience of the United World College of South East Asia’s highly successful Global Concerns volunteerism programme for secondary schools. It is a joint initiative between UWCSEA, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre and the Lien Centre for Social Innovation.

This pilot effort was guided and mentored by Anthony Skillicorn, who has over 25 years of creating meaningful social service and service learning opportunities for thousands of UWCSEA students. Participation in this project will enable them to learn about best practices that can be transferred into the context of the social service volunteer initiatives of local Singapore schools. Teachers and students from 6 schools were invited for a workshop on 23 Jan 2010, where they were facilitated on techniques for community service projects. They were Dunman High, St. Hilda’s Secondary, St. Anthony’s Canossian Secondary, NorthLight School, International School of Singapore and Global Indian International School.

Following this workshop, students formulated more detailed plans to realise their project objectives and have these plans reviewed by their teachers. The students’ projects were carried out over a 4-month period, and ended on 26 May 2010 with a showcase of their experiences and projects at a Social Conversation in SMU. Other secondary schools were invited to this session. Click on the photos below to view a video of each school from the 26 May event. Read here for coverage on iGlocal in Today newspaper and Tabla! newspaper.


Development and Social InnovationDevelopment and Social Innovation (1 April 2014)

This roundtable invited both academics as well as practitioners, on both sides of the development and social innovation debate. Its discussion informed a Social Space article by John Donaldson, Victoria Gerrard and Sanushka Mudaliar, entitled Social Innovation in Development.


Together for Street ChildrenPromoting and Protecting the rights of children working and/or living in the street (10-11 December 2013)

Through the power of social media, over one million people were looking on and supporting pioneering talks in South East Asia on how we can protect and promote the rights of children living and/or working on the street.

The talks drew expert stakeholders from business, NGOs, UN and international agencies, academia and government officials from Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, and was hosted by Singapore’s Lien Centre for Social Innovation. The meeting was opened by Singapore’s Representative to the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children. The voice of street-connected children was also present in the room through video clips of documentary interviews.

The regional roundtable (anchored by the tri-sector partnership of Aviva Asia, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and international NGO Consortium for Street Children) eventually resulted in a April 2014 General Comment on Children in Street Situations by the United Nations Committee of the Rights of the Child.

Discussion and action points of the inclusive roundtable
Social Space article on the process by Aviva Asia


povertyroundtablePoverty in Singapore Roundtable (21 August 2013)


The Lien Centre for Social Innovation, together with Dr John Donaldson (Associate Professor of Political Science, Singapore Management University) and also representing Mr Yeoh Lam Keong (Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Policy Studies) hosted a focus group discussion on poverty in Singapore. This discussion was a part of our research project that seeks to explore suitable methods of assessing poverty in the Singapore context, with a view of supporting the Caritas Singapore’s Poverty Initiative campaign. The focus group discussion brought together twenty practitioners from the local non-profit sector and multiple academics. Some issues that were debated about include:

  • The nature of poverty in Singapore
  • Should Singapore works towards defining a poverty line, and why
  • Merits and pitfalls of applying international poverty measures in Singapore context
  • Potential factors that contribute to one’s susceptibility to poverty
  • Understanding and assessing the needs of five specific vulnerable groups in Singapore

The participants from the focus group discussion reaffirmed the importance of the poverty research effort and were keen to support it. The high quality of analysis derived from the discussion will be incorporated into the research.


roundtableRoundtable on Impact Assessment (10 May 2011)

Event Supporters: National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. This session was co-facilitated by Patsian Low, NVPC and Jared Tham, Lien Centre
Synopsis: Most charities in Singapore have moved beyond simple measurements of outputs, to more sophisticated outcomes-driven systems. Impact assessment represents a new horizon in helping such organisations attract donors through informed giving and strategic philanthropy. Charity analysis will play an integral role in helping charities to better quantify their work for such social investors. This invite-only roundtable brought together actors from various sectors in the social space to discuss how Impact Assessment plays a role in the growth of the sector, from the viewpoint of policy-makers, funders, capacity-builders, and NPOs. One of the initiatives for discussion was NVPC’s pilot project, Independent Charity Analysis, which aims to promote informed giving. The analysis covers not just financial health but also leadership, governance, programmes, and the charity’s relevance to the community. NVPC will work with the charities analysed to publish the reports, so as to highlight charities that do good well. The pilot is in progress and NVPC is currently fine-tuning the initiative based on pilot feedback. Please find here the Notes of Meeting for the roundtable and a presentation on Overview of developments in Impact Assessment.


Create4Good (Annual, 2016-2021) 

The Create4Good Challenge, which is open to the undergraduates of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and the Singapore Management University, brings students from the two universities together and integrates their technological and entrepreneurial expertise to create real innovative solutions for a smart and sustainable nation.

The Challenge will run annually for five years and requires students from both universities to work together in teams of up to seven members. The teams will propose solutions that leverage SUTD’s brand and culture of research innovations that are multidisciplinary and technically grounded, while drawing on SMU’s business expertise and out-of-the-box thinking, to create a positive impact on people and society. Areas of focus may include, but are not limited to, accessibility for the elderly or physically disabled, education, palliative care and environmental sustainability. With the stipulated timeframe and funds provided, shortlisted teams are expected to push their ideas through from concept to fruition.

At the inaugural Create4Good Challenge Prize Presentation Ceremony at SUTD on 20 May 2016, Team Homage was announced winner of the Challenge after five months of hard work. Their idea – an online platform to deliver certified care professionals to meet the demand for in-house nonmedical care services for the elderly – beat 22 other teams and won over the judges. With Singapore’s ageing population, the judges felt that their idea, an innovation that could shake up the elderly care industry, was timely and revolutionary. Team Homage received the prize money of S$50,000 to form a start-up to commercialise their solution. Mentorship from industry and business executives was provided along the way. In November 2016, Homage was announced as one of 12 awardees of the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme.

Lien i3 Challenge (January 2009)

The Lien i3 Challenge, an initiative of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, sought to catalyse innovation for the benefit of communities in Asia. SGD $1 million (US$ 667,000) was set aside for organisations or individuals to implement innovative, impactful and implementable ideas in the social space. This initiative was supported by The Straits Times, Ashoka and Social Innovation Exchange.

The Challenge was launched in 8 January 2009. The response was overwhelming. Altogether 648 proposals were received from 15 countries. They came in all shapes and hues, but all reflecting a keen desire to make a difference to society.

A panel of judges comprising of leaders from the social and business sector then shortlisted these entries to 12 for further consideration in May 2009. In dealing with the volume and quality of entries, the judges had to raise the bar in determining those that can effectively marry innovation (providing an insight or angle of intervention that is not commonly thought of), impact (strategic and scaled outcomes) and implementation (practical, cost-effective results with manageable risks). From the 12 shortlisted candidates, 8 were finally chosen as winners and announced at Social iCon on 23 October 2009.

Find out about the winners in this 11-page Straits Times spread, as well as in this progress report. You can also read about the development of the Singapore Justice Training Centre, which was started by International Bridges to Justice and seed funded through the i3 Challenge, at this link.


IS480Lien Award for IS480 Final Year Project

From late 2011 to early 2015, the Lien Centre for Social Innovation provide small cash award for students from the School of Informations Systems doing their IS480 Final Year Project, to support projects which worked with charities and social enterprises.

Social Conversations

Ssocialconversationocial Conversations provide a platform for thought leaders in the social space to share their work with a wider audience. The format of the session varies between seminars, workshops and roundtables, and incorporates different conversation formats such as World Cafe and smaller evening conversations. Regular speakers at our Social Conversations include Ashoka Fellows and other social entrepreneurs, fellow academics in the social space, and non-profit professionals doing innovative work.




Understanding the Challenges Faced by Low Income

Single-Parent Headed Households in Singapore (12 November 2014)

Speakers: John Donaldson, Associate Professor of Political Science, SMU School of Social Sciences; Sanushka Mudaliar, Senior Manager, LCSI; Balambigai Balakrishnan, Research Associate, LCSI; Mumtaz binte Mohamed Kadir; Assistant Manager, LCSI
Synopsis: A group of SMU undergraduates from the School of Social Sciences (SoSS) has been researching on single parenthood in Singapore through a public policy task force module. The task force, facilitated by Associate Professor John Donaldson, takes a more nuanced view of understanding the situation, challenges, unmet needs and experiences of single parents from their perspectives. This research examines various aspects of challenges faced by single parent households through extensive literature review and interviews with experts, including 30 single parents as well as various academics and social service practitioners. The task force presented their findings with a focus on unmet needs and myths in our understanding of single parents, which was followed by an interactive discussion.


Working Together to Meet Social Needs – InWithForward with Sarah Schulman (13 October 2014)

Speakers: Sarah is a sociologist who likes to split her time between living rooms and state houses. She’s worked with governments in 6 countries to try and change how policy is made and evaluated. From 2010-2012, she co-ran InWithForward and worked with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation to launch 3 new social solutions, including the award-winning Family by Family. She’s got a Doctorate in Social Policy from Oxford University, and a Masters in Education from Stanford University.
Synopsis: What distinguishes ‘social innovation’ from other efforts to address social problems? Is it the way to find new and better ways to deal with ‘wicked problems’ to work together across silo’s and communities? Why should the answer matter to anyone genuinely interested in social change? Following the publication of the latest edition of Social Space which focuses on Engagement and Innovation, we invite you to a Social Conversation with Sarah Schulman to discuss new approaches and share practical experiences from her work.



elderlysocialconversationThrough the Eyes of the Elderly: Understanding the Unmet Social Needs of Senior Citizens in Ang Mo Kio (2 July 2014)

Speakers: John Donaldson, Associate Professor of Political Science, SMU School of Social Sciences; Sanushka Mudaliar, Senior Manager, LCSI; Balambigai Balakrishnan, Research Associate, LCSI; Mumtaz binte Mohamed Kadir; Assistant Manager, LCSI
Synopsis: It is estimated that the number of citizens aged 65 and above in Singapore will triple by 2030. According to SingStat, in 2012 there were approximately 6 citizens of working age for every citizen aged 65 and above. By 2030 this ratio will be approximately 2:1. This demographic transition has wide-ranging implications for society. Family support, which has been a key pillar of social policies addressing wellbeing of the elderly until now, will need to be supplemented by additional social support mechanisms to those available today. With a view to contributing to the on-going policy discussion on this issue, the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, with the support of AWWA’s Elderly Services Centre and students from SMU, conducted in-depth interviews with 100 elderly residents living in 8 HDB blocks in Ang Mo Kio. The target area was chosen by social workers who wanted to test the hypothesis that elderly residents of these HDB blocks were experiencing social isolation. On 2 July, the Lien Centre’s team presented an overview of their findings, followed by an interactive discussion on the unmet social needs of elderly citizens in Singapore. Participants were then asked to contribute their views on these issues, as well as comment on the research methodology and findings.


fdc2Cross-sector Partnerships for Development (15 Feb 2012)

Event Partner: Foundation for Development Cooperation
Speaker: Sean Rooney, Executive Director, Foundation for Development Cooperation
Synopsis: The resolving complex sustainable development challenges, such as alleviating poverty or responding to climate change, can only be achieved through effectively harnessing and focusing the knowledge, expertise and passion of individuals and organisations across government, business, civil society and academia. Working together across sectors is not a quick fix or easy option and requires patience and determination. However there is evidence that cross-sector collaboration can be highly effective and sustainable when it is designed, developed and managed in a systematic way. Sean Rooney’s presentation examined what makes cross-sector partnerships successful and how the benefits can outweigh the challenges faced along the way. The presentation drew upon leading research, and practitioner tools, and showcased examples drawn from case studies on sustainable development partnerships on projects in Asia, Pacific and Australia.


fightingpovertyFighting Poverty with Cross-Sector Approaches (22 Aug 2011)

Speaker: Aneel G. Karnani, Associate Professor of Strategy, University of Michigan
Synopsis: Despite the tremendous economic growth around the world in the last thirty years, the number of people living in poverty has gone up. While economic growth is necessary for poverty reduction, it is obviously not enough. Prosperity has not “trickled down” to the poor. Policies and actions directed at reducing poverty have not been effective. In Fighting Poverty Together, Aneel Karnani demonstrates what is wrong with today’s approaches to reducing poverty. He then proposes an eclectic resolution to poverty reduction in which business, government and civil society all have an important role, arguing for a paradigm shift to focus on the poor as producers. The primary emphasis, he argues, must be on creating employment opportunities for the poor, and increasing their productive capacities by ensuring basic public services. Developing an effective way forward requires analysis of current strategies and the generation of new ideas. Karnani does that here using concepts from the fields of business, economics and development. Using studies from business, government and civil society, he illustrates how his argument can be put into practice and bring about real results.

SOT4Information Session for a New Social Innovation Centre (27 Jul 2011)


Event Partner: School of Thought
Speaker: Tong Yee, Founding Partner & Company Director, School Of Thought
Synopsis: This session will detail the vision and operation of The Thought Collective’s new social innovation centre launching in 2012. This is an opportunity to gather people who are currently already serving in the youth, social and community development sectors, to have an evening where we can share visions, insights and hopefully discover avenues for collaboration or partnership. As yet, the social innovation centre plans to operate as a social enterprise. It will provide a public education programme that it believes will be cutting-edge, in introducing learning that can greatly augment our growing youth and social sectors. Key features of this centre also include a SE incubator, community animators skilled in possibility creation, and systems that measure and hold accountable the “social profit” that the centre and partners create.

impactSocial Conversation-Impact Chat on Impact Assessment (6 Jun 2011)

Event Partner: Impact Investment Exchange Asia
Speakers: Durreen Shahnaz, Founder and Chairman, Impact Investment Exchange Asia and Jeremy Nicholls, Chief Executive, SROI Network
Synopsis: Jeremy Nicholls, who considers himself “chief anorak” of the impact assesment scene, showed how the extent of current practice of impact assessment is currently a drop in the ocean, compared to mainstream investment. Although corporate governance standards are catching up, with the advent of sustainability accountability, there is still a long way to go. He talked about how although there are many impact assessment tools in use, they are to some extent influenced by the assumptions that we make, and is therefore more important to understand the context for the decisions that are made. The decision on what is material evidence may differ from person to person, and value is therefore in the eye of the beholder. Principles come before tools, and the calculations that come with the audting process are easy, compared to the reasoning of what should be measured and how. Although the SROI Network has 800 members spread across 18 countries, impact assessment itself remains a topic than is “not so sexy” as other topics like social entrepreneurship, and there is therefore a need to make it relevant and digestible for stakeholders. Durreen illustrated the importance of context through the example of Bangladesh, where there is a real dearth of understanding about the country, and where perception is much stronger than reality. Asking Bangladeshis to think about the environment is a challenge in a land where one-fith of the country is under water due to the effects of climate change. And any discussion about whether there is wheelchair access is irrelevant considering that in certain parts of rural Bangladesh the concept of wheelchairs might not exist.


elkingtonThe Evolving Social Innovation Agenda: What’s In It For Asia? (20 Jan 2011)

Event Supporters: Volans
Speaker: John Elkington, Volans
Synopsis: The social innovation movement is one borne of an emerging global consensus – that given the magnitude of social issues that need to addressed, world-changing ideas need to be catalysed, developed, accelerated and scaled. The second decade of the new century will present new challenges, and much more needs to be done if we are to achieve the Vision 2050 projections by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Eminent speaker and thinker John Elkington critically examined the progress that CSR has made, and show how social innovation provides solutions which CSR has not adequately provided. He shared insights about the mindsets of the emerging leadership of the new social innovation movement, and provided a global snapshot of how various clusters and hubs are innovating for social change. In particular, he highlighted the work that Volans is doing in the social innovation realm – through its work on the Phoenix Economy, and its experiences in cross-sector collaboration across the public, private, people sectors and academia, and how initiatives can be scaled through their Pathways to Scale programme.

sheena1Cause Raising: a Uniform Approach (11 Oct 2010)

Event Supporters: Qi Global
Speaker: Sheena Matheiken, The Uniform Project
Synopsis: Irish born, Indian raised, and New York based, Sheena Matheiken founded the Uniform Project – an online creative platform that uses fashion as a vehicle to propagate sustainability and social responsibility in consumer culture. In May 2009, Sheena took on an unusual challenge by pledging to wear the same dress for a whole year to raise money for the education of underprivileged children in India. Her challenge was to re-invent this dress daily with only reused, vintage, pre-owned or donated accessories as a way to freshen up the dialogue of sustainability in fashion. By the end of the project, the U.P raised over $100,000 in funds for the kids and was featured in news publications, fashion magazines, blogs and TV shows around the world. Prior to U.P, Sheena worked as a creative director in advertising with over a decade of experience in design and technology, which was instrumental to the viral success of the Uniform Project. Following her yearlong challenge, Sheena was named one of Elle Magazine’s Women of the Year 2009.

LOHASLOHAS: The Next Consumer Swarm? (15 Jul 2010)

Speakers: Adam Horler, President, Asia-Pacific LOHAS and Tay Lai Hock, Founder, Ground-Up Initiative
Synopsis: LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability , a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice. It describes an estimated global US$350 billion marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living. The consumers attracted to this market represent a growing demographic group in Asia. The LOHAS market is split into 6 sectors: Personal Health (Health), Natural Lifestyles (Lifestyle), Green Building (Building), Alternative Transportation (Transport), Eco-Tourism, and Alternative Energy (Energy). At first glance, it may appear that the six LOHAS sectors have little in common. For example, a manufacturer of recycled plastics or one of the automakers that is working on next-generation, energy-efficient vehicles may not appear to have much in common with an eco-tour operator or a retailer of organic clothing. But a growing segment of consumers believe there is commonality that transcends any operational and structural differences. LOHAS describes a way of living that is “conscious”. See here for an article about the session by Knowledge@SMU.

fredrikGood Ideas – Generating and sustaining creative ideas to take non-profits to the next level (3 Dec 2009)


Speaker: Fredrik Härén, Founder, The Interesting Organization
Synopsis: Creativity expert Fredrik Haren enthralled his audience from the non-profit and social enterprise sector, with anecdotes about the real state (and potential) of creativity. For example, while 98% of all people say creativity is important, regardless of industry of nationality, only 45% will say they are creative, and only 2% actually think their organisations are creative. He also expounded on the differences in the Asian way of thinking, which is seen as not creative when compared to Leonardo da Vinci. To show how adults how adults have grown into predictable modes of thinking, he asked the audience to name 10 things that are impossible, then showed that not only was he able to predict 7 out of the 10 things mentioned, but that things that were impossible when we were born, are now possible. “We are extreme animals of habit. And to make things worse, you go to school.” What we want is people who can do things in a way we haven’t seen before. For example, Apple and Google are always mentioned among the top 5 most creative companies in the world, yet they didn’t really invent anything, just took existing inventions from other companies and combined it in a new and exciting way. “Westerners are obsessed about copyright. But it’s actually about copying right.” He then made the case for how the automobile industry has often failed to innovate because they often recruit from other car companies, and how this parallels the development of the non-profit sector, who really need to recruit the most creative people. Companies need a creative recruitment process – for example, asking interviewees how many ways they can think of using a brick for. See here for an article on the seminar by Knowledge @ SMU.

roleoflawThe Role of Law in the Non-Profit Scene (25 Aug 2009)


Event Partner : U.S. Embassy Singapore
Speakers: Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice; Mahdev Mohan, Co-founder and Director, Access to Justice Asia LLP; moderated by Eugene Tan, Assistant Professor of Law, SMU
Synopsis: One of the roles of non-profits is to seek justice for the constituents they represent, and legal representation and legal advocacy are key levers in accessing justice for the disadvantaged. Participants learnt from our panelists about how the increasingly complex role of law in the non-profit has evolved in various countries, and hear from their personal experiences.

futureofThe Future of the Non-Profit Sector (8 Jul 2009)


Synopsis : The non-profit sector in Singapore is becoming increasingly vibrant and complex, with new organisations being formed each year to address emerging issues. Expectations from the public and various stakeholders have also increased over the years. What will the future hold for the non-profit sector? And is predicting the future the best way to prepare for it? Join us for an open discussion on this topic.
Speakers: Tan Chi Chiu, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Gleneagles Medical Centre & Aaron Maniam, Deputy Director, Strategic Policy Office, Public Service Division & Alvin Lim, CEO, Bizlink Centre Singapore Limited & Martin Tan, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Halogen Foundation Singapore

tehtarikSocial Innovation Teh Tarik (26 Mar 2009)


Synopsis : Renowned social entrepreneurs Kenny Low, Sarah Mavrinac and Jack Sim shared their experiences on how they have made their new ideas really sedap (Malay for delicious). They were joined by Lien i3 Challenge applicants, who used this opportunity to bounce their ideas off them.

Speakers : Kenny Low, Founder, O School and CHEC & Jack Sim, Founder, World Toilet Organization & Sarah Mavrinac, President, aidha

youthprojectsSocially Innovative Youth Projects (6 Mar 2009)


Synopsis : The projects featured included a Microfinance goat project in the Philippines , where the project provided rural families with an additional source of livelihood through goat rearing and the sale of goat meat; while also addressing children’s education needs; and creating an awareness of the dangers of children working in plantations and to encourage parents to take them out of such work. Overall, the project aimed at a sustainable way of helping the community fight against child labour and to advocate children’s rights and welfare.

NUS Fights Climate Change was a project that influenced policy decision from the level of the University President and Provost offices right through to the students in creating awareness and action on environmental consciousness while at university. Another local project was from NP which focused on re-looking at Singaporeans’ attitudes towards migrant workers and ways of integrating them into our society, with more graciousness and acceptance.

The Initiative for Peace progamme aimed to reduce prejudice and promote understanding and reconciliation amongst youth in the conflict area of Timor Leste. Timorese participants and UWCSEA facilitators lived together and participated in activities, reflecting and question their own and others’ perceptions of the situation in Timor Leste. The programme aimed to encourage its participants to return to Timor Leste as passionate, empowered and active youths who can become positive members of the nation-building process.

UWC-SEA has been involved with HIV/AIDS issues for 10 years, over which time a group of students has visited the Patient Care Centre at the Communicable Diseases Centre every week during the academic year. The project HIV/AIDS Activities in UWCSEA featured the biennial AIDS Conferences in Singapore as well as attending the workshops and lectures. The team also shared how in October 2008 a group of 6 students and 2 staff worked at two orphanages in South India , one of which housed 25 HIV+ children. 3 students are going there next month for project week, and a visit is planned in July 2009.

A suggestion from the floor was if Lien Centre could facilitate a mentorship programme to encourage more student groups to continue their volunteer efforts overseas. There was an interested pool of students keeping the session alive with their questions and the evening featured some inspirational stories for all.

Speakers : A sharing of projects done by students overseas and locally took place at Settlers Café on Friday, March 6, 2009. The projects were by students from SMU, two team from the United World College of Southeast Asia (UWCSEA), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP).

shergold1The Uncertain Future of CSR in a Time of Global Crisis (24 Feb 2009)

Event Partner: Civil Service College
Synopsis : As the global financial crisis metamorphoses into a long slump in economic growth, many are now questioning the depth and persistence of CSR commitment. To critics, both the causes of the financial instability and the response to its consequences, expose CSR as an empty and illusory notion. To enthusiasts, in contrast, the crisis represents an unprecedented opportunity for CSR to meet the public mood for greater state intervention and regulatory control. Corporate belts might need to be tightened but CSR will become an even more important vehicle to exhibit a socially-responsible business reputation. Underlying this important debate sits a more profound question: How deeply embedded in CSR is the business strategy of the corporate world? These issues were addressed in a Social Conversation in a lecture by Prof Peter Shergold as he examines not only the economic rationale for the manifold activities undertaken as CSR but also the extent to which the goals of corporate responsibility are reflected in the operating ethos of business. He was then joined in a panel discussion with Ms Esther An, Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs, of City Developments Ltd.

Speakers: Prof Peter Shergold, Macquarie Group Foundation Chair, Centre for Social Impact; Esther An, Head, CSR, City Developments Limited; moderated by Robert Chew, Honorary Centre Director, Lien Centre for Social Innovation

World Café on CSR (28 Jan 2009)

Event Partner : Facilitators Network Singapore
Facilitator : Janice Lua, Co-Founder, Facilitators Network Singapore
Synopsis : Lien Centre and the Facilitators Network Singapore jointly organised a participant-driven World Café on 28 January 2009, attended by 65 participants. The conversation centred around 3 questions:

• What is your perspective/experience on CSR in Asia ?
• What are the distinct attributes/practices of CSR in Asia ?
• How can we (individuals, groups within & outside of corporate sector) better foster CSR practices to achieve greater societal impact?

What is World Café? As a conversational process , the World Café is an innovative yet simple methodology for hosting conversations about questions that matter. These conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas, and discover new insights into the questions or issues that are most important in their life, work, or community. ( )

Open Everything (15 Sep 2008)


Speakers: Mark Surman, Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow in South Africa & Richard Fuchs, IDRC & Joeri Gianotten, ammado & Lee Poh Wah, Lien Foundation & Ivan Chew, Gahmen Bloggers & Gary Kwong, Mozilla open source community & Giorgios Cheliotis, Creative Commons. Leading the discussion was Mark Surman, Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow in South Africa . A community technology activist for almost 20 years, Mark is currently inventing new ways to apply Open Source thinking to social innovation.

Synopsis : Open Everything was a tasty cocktail of an event: talks (about 5 in one hour), unconferency conversations and great refreshments all mixed up together. We explored how open technologies and collaboration are changing the face of not-for-profit engagement and citizen activism for the better. This event was part of the “Open Everything” series of conversations happening worldwide. Conversations have taken place in Toronto , Cape Town and Cortes Island .

promiseofseThe Promise of Social Entrepreneurship (14 Sep 2008)

Event Partner: UBS Philanthropy Services
Speakers: Olivier de Guerre, Founder, PhiTrust & David Dror, Founder, Micro Insurance Academy & Alvaro Rodriguez Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Ignia & Arthur Wood, Director, Social Financial Services, Ashoka USA & Kimy Tsukamoto, Director and Regional Representative, Ashoka Brazil & Karen Tse, Founder and CEO, International Bridges to Justice

Synopsis: The Lien Centre for Social Innovation is pleased to partner with UBS Philanthropy Services to host a Panel Discussion on ‘The Promise of Social Entrepreneurhsip in Asia’. This session is a side event held in conjunction with the Global UBS Philanthropy Forum 2008. The Panel Discussion will enable Forum speakers to share their insights in a focused session that aims to generate ideas and discussion on the Social Entrepreneurship scene in Asia. Around the world, social entreprenuers find new ways to solve social problems, improving the prospects of large portions of the population via strategic use of Market mechanisms. Their solutions aim to be innovative, effective, efficient, scalable and replicable. What are the most exciting emerging opportunitites in the space? Which support ecosystem best helps them to flourish? And what is the promise of social entrepreneurship for Asia ?

Solar Power – The Under-Utilised Alternative (25 Feb 2008)

Speaker: Christophe Inglin, Managing Director, Phoenix Solar Pte Ltd
Synopsis: The three big players of alternative energy are solar energy, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage. Solar energy is a very clean, available and renewable resource, and does not harm the environment. It may be the only renewable energy that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Solar or photovoltaic cells convert light energy into electricity without any chemical or mechanical action. The conversion process is noiseless, suffers no wear and tear and does not release any pollutants. The amount of solar energy that strikes our surface on an average day is over 2,500 times our daily electricity consumption. Despite this potential, solar power is far behind other renewables in utilisation.

Corporate Social Responsibility – The TNT Approach (9 October 2007)

Synopsis: CSR is how business takes into account of its economic, social and environmental impact in the way it operates. It is business’ contribution to sustainable development. Sustainable development creates the foundation for a more productive, competitive, knowledge-based economy. Mainstreaming CSR, ie integrating CSR into the way business is done, is central to maximizing its contribution to business success and achieving sustainable development goals. TNT NV is incorporated in the Netherlands and is a publicly quoted company with revenues of Euros 10 billion in 2006, its core competence is in delivery and network management. The company, cognizant of its impact on the environment, utilizes its core competency admirably in its CSR program. Dow Jones recently ranked TNT first in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in 2007.

Speaker: Michael Drake is Managing Director of TNT Greater China, and has more than 20 years experience in the express and logistics industry spanning Asia, Europe and the USA . He has been instrumental in driving several CSR initiatives for TNT, such as Walk the World for the World Food Program.

From Dependency to Dignity (24 Sep 2007)

Speaker: Yeoh Eng Seng, Co-founder, Care Channels International
Synopsis: Today, CCI works in 72 slums, provides livelihood, and has raised the living conditions of over 200 families through the establishment of their unique social enterprise model. CCI is also in China , East Timor, Indonesia, Pakistan , Philippines and Thailand. CCI, a non profit organization, believes that the poor have the potential to move out of poverty if given the opportunity and training and that a hand-up and not a hand-out is the way to become self-sufficient and independent. Poverty is a vicious cycle and CCI takes a holistic approach as it helps the poor, using a multi-prong method of education sponsorship, health-care programmes, micro-enterprise development, and promoting information technology.

bracDistinguished Speaker Event (22 Aug 2007)


Speaker: Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairman, BRAC
Synopsis: Dr Abed addressed the topic ‘Social Entrepreneurship – its Promises and Challenges – the BRAC Approach’. He laid down the BRAC approach of achieving development. He emphasized achieving effectiveness through small pilot projects, efficiency, a strong HR which can recruit volunteers, a monitoring department to monitor quality, an audit department, research and evaluation to gauge performance and development of management to handle a larger programme. his approach has led to the development of a BRAC culture based on superior work ethic, continuous training of staff and hard work. Dr. Abed, the leader of BRAC is confident that BRAC is the most hardworking organization one can find. Is it any surprise that they have transformed millions of lives?

prog_070523_01Social Innovation – Meeting Unmet Needs (23 May 2007)

Synopsis: Social innovation encompasses new ideas and ways to improve the capacity of organizations and societies to address social challenges. Social challenges do not disappear with economic development. In fact, these challenges become more difficult to solve because of the diverse interests of many groups involved. It is hence critical to find creative, innovative solutions and establish new paradigms to address these challenges.

Speaker: Geoff Mulgan is director of the Young Foundation, Centre for Social Innovation in London and was founder and director of think-tank, Demos, which the Economist magazine described as the most influential think-tank in the UK. He was also Director of Policy at 10 Downing Street under Prime Minister Tony Blair, Director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, as well as Chief Advisor to Gordon Brown MP, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. Geoff lectures regularly and advises governments around the world on policy and strategy relating to social innovation, he was most recently invited by the South Australian government on their Thinker in Residence program. He writes extensively in journals and has written several books, including Communication and Control : Networks and the New Economies of Communications, Good and Bad Power : The Ideals and Betrayals of Government.

Business and Climate Change (18 April 2007)

Event Partner: CSR Asia
Speakers: John Frey, Hewlett Packard’s Corporate Environmental Strategies Group, Nadeem Shafi heads Asia Pacific Climate Control Program Development at the WWF
Synopsis: Businesses have an impact on climate change and the environment, and the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%.Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas produced by human activities, primarily through combustion of fossil fuels, and its concentration in the earth’s atmosphere has risen by more than 30% since the Industrial Revolution. The Kyoto Protocol is one measure to help reduce green house gas emissions, but more can be done on the ground level to mitigate the production of greenhouse gases and its impact on the environment.

prog_070323_01Corporate Social Responsibility – Dialoguing with Stakeholders (23 March 2007)

Event Partner: CSR Asia
Speaker: Richard Welford, Director at CSR Asia & Professor and Deputy Director of the Corporate Environmental Governance Program at Hong Kong University
Synopsis: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept where organisations, especially corporations, have an obligation to consider the interests of stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations, in all aspects of their operations. Corporations should dialogue with stakeholders as this is an important part of good business practice. It is a way of gathering important information and ideas, anticipating and managing potential conflicts, improving decision making processes and building trust and consensus amongst diverse stakeholders. It strengthens relationships and enhances a corporation’s reputation, brand and image. Richard Welford will provide practical advice for identifying and prioritizing stakeholders using a 6-stage methodology developed by CSR Asia.

Ashoka Fellow seminars

scalingbopScaling the Bottom of the Pyramid (31 January 2012)

Event Partner: Ashoka
Speaker: Allen Hammond, Senior Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Ashoka
Synopsis: Ashoka is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs -some 3,000 Fellows in more than 60 countries and local networks to support those Fellows and other activities in many geographies. Many Ashoka Fellows and parts of the global program are engaged with market-oriented activities in the Base of the Pyramid, like low-income housing in India, Colombia, and Egypt; small-scale agricultural producers in Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa; healthcare in dozens of countries. The result is a wealth of BOP experience, insights, and access to useful information – which we hope to share with this audience. In this session, speaker Allen Hammond shared about his BOP work in the healthcare sector, as well as share generally about the state of BOP initiatives across Asia. From the corporate angle, this session will explore the oft-cited view that BOP efforts are said to be financially viable but insufficiently profitable to motivate significant corporate involvement.


jacknkhengsoonRethinking Education & Sanitation (10 Nov 2010)

Event Supporters: Kampung Temasek & World Toilet Organization

Synopsis: Kampung Temasek, also called The School Of Doing, is an Open Source Educational Platform in Ulu Tiram, Johor Bahru, that allows passionate people to create exciting curriculum and programs alongside with Nature and Sustainable Technologies. The objective is to equip our future leaders with 5Cs: Courage, Curiosity, Creativity, Compassion and Collaborative mindset. It has been designed using concepts of Rurbanisation.

The documentary, World Toilet Crisis, was also shown. In this episode of Vanguard , Adam Yamaguchi travels to India , Singapore and Indonesia to understand why people don’t use toilets and what’s being done to end the practice of open defecation. When human waste isn’t contained or flushed down the toilet, it’s everywhere — in streets, open fields and, most dangerously, in the very water people drink. Adam investigates how countries are trying to solve an epidemic that few people want to talk about — the world’s toilet crisis.

bandhanEngaging Women at the Bottom of the Pyramid (6 May 2010)


Speaker: Chandra Shekhar Ghosh is a Senior Ashoka Fellow who is the Founder Chairman of Bandhan Financial Services.
Synopsis: Bandhan is a leading example of creating a market at the bottom of the pyramid. It is one of the leading MFIs in India, and was ranked 2nd in the world by Forbes magazine. Bandhan is operating in 14 states in India through a network of over 1,000 branches with a workforce of over 6,000 employees servicing over 2 million poor women. Bandhan has a repayment track record of 99.91%. In a short period of time, Bandhan has received recognition by the Pro Poor Innovation Challenge Award by CGAP, Skoch Challenger award for financial inclusion and the Micro Finance India Award 2009 under the category of ‘Institution of the Year’.

Mr Ghosh showed that through a combination of disciplined action and standardisation, Bandhan was able to achieve a very high level of efficiency in its operations, enabling the organisation to grow at a rate of 100,000 customers a month. The tremendous rate of growth has in part due to the transformation of Bandhan from a non-profit entity to a for-profit company. This change has enabled them to also attract loans from mainstream banks. Click here to read an article about Unitus and Bandhan from Knowledge@SMU.

SONY DSCPattern Changing in the Social World (6 Apr 2010)

Event Partners: Ashoka & Singapore International Foundation
Speakers: Preeyanan Lorsermvattana, Thai Medical Error Network (presentation); Joyce Djaelani Gordon, founder, Yakita (presentation); Rama Rao and Padmanabha Rao, directors of RIVER, (presentation)

Synopsis: Today, everyone is trying to change the world. We are in a remarkable point in time where people from all walks of life are getting deeply involved with all sorts of social issues, from climate change to education and rural development. Increasingly, businesses, social sector groups, media and governments are collaborating for social change. Yet what is at the heart of this growing global movement is the desire for CHANGE. Effective social innovators realise that, in order to have lasting impact, we must change the systems, behaviours, and social patterns that have kept society mired in the same problems for decades. The practical challenge is how to be able to respond to the immediate needs of affected communities and work towards more systemic change and long-term impact. At this Social Conversation, Ashoka Fellows Preeyanan, Joyce and Padmanabha, three highly experienced social entrepreneurs from Thailand, Indonesia and India, shared about they have introduced successful systemic reforms in the areas of medical malpractice, consumer rights, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and education.


spitiEco-tourism and Rural Development: My Green Journey (3 Dec 2009)


Speaker: Ishita Khanna, Founder of Ecosphere and Ashoka Fellow
Synopsis: Ishita Khanna, Founder of Ecosphere and Ashoka Fellow shared her work and challenges in linking development, economic empowerment and conservation for the 10,000 people in ecologically-fragile Spiti. Eco-tourism according to Ishita, is a double-edged sword. It provides a source of income for the local economy but tourists’ presence and activities invite haphazard infrastructure, mushrooming of guesthouses with high levels of water consumption and improper management of waste. Increased tourist rate cannot be avoided. But it can be managed into a purposeful means of revenue for the local villagers. Ecosphere does this through agricultural management, installations that are contextual to the local environment (improved greenhouses, solar passive houses and promotion of renewable energy) and through the planning and inculcation of responsible tourism.

Ecosphere starts from the available resources in the community and leverages on existing technology and market mechanisms to give it economic value. Assigning economic value is important, according to Ishita, as it inculcates a sense of ownership amongst the villagers and urges them towards responsible harvesting of prize crops. Citing the example of the seabuckthorn plant that grows in the cold deserts of the trans-Himalayas, Ishita highlighted the background work that Ecosphere did in determining the market value and demand for the product before organizing sustainable forms of farming amongst the locals. Once the locals were rewarded for their bounty, they were motivated to harvest the plants. Convincing the locals to be part of this movement was not an easy task. The locals have been dependent on government subsidies and Ishita was not local. It helped that the village council leader believed in the project and paved the way for the locals’ take-up and participation.

Community-Owned Hydropower: A Social Enterprise that Works (14 Aug 2008)

Speaker: Tri Mumpuni, Ashoka fellow & Executive Director, IBEKA


prog_070306_01The Business of Social Investing – Financing the Social Sector (06 March 2007)

Synopsis: Ashoka is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1980 on the basis that the most effective way to promote positive social change is to invest in social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions that are sustainable and replicable, both nationally and globally. Ashoka’s programs select, launch and foster collaborations among social entrepreneurs around the world.

Speaker: Arthur Wood heads the Social Financial Services (SFS) at Ashoka, and engages global financial service firms to invest in the social sector. SFS gives strategies and insight into how investors can increase the flow and efficiency in financing the social sector. Prior to joining Ashoka, Arthur worked with several banks, creating product models and services that have been widely accepted and replicated across the sector. At Coutts, the UK ‘s most prestigious private bank, Arthur conceptualized and managed the innovative use of Offshore Insurance products which has been adopted across the private banking industry as a key planning tool. At Kleinwort Benson Private Bank, Arthur headed Product Development across the entire range of financial instruments, the group was voted the most innovative in an award by Private Asset Management magazine. He attended the London School of Economics, HEC in France, and Bocconi School of Management in Italy.

Social Finance seminars

indianmicrofinanceInnovations in Indian Microfinance (8 Aug 2013)

Event Partner: Rang De and Milaap
Speaker: Ramakrishna NK, Co-founder and CEO, Rang De and Sourabh Sharma, Co-founder and Business Development, Milaap
Synopsis: This Social Conversation will feature 2 organisations who are pioneering microfinance initiatives in India: Rang De and Milaap. Rang De is a web-based social initiative that support rural entrepreneurs with cost-effective microcredit for business and education. Through an online portal, Rang De enables individuals to become social investors and lend small sums of money to borrowers from low income households listed on the website. The social investors get back their money with a nominal financial return and a tangible social return. Milaap is an online platform that enables you to lend to India’s working poor so they can get access to education, clean water, energy and more. It’s a loan, not a donation. This means you get your full loan amount back once your borrower repays it. The idea for Milaap was born when Anoj, one of our co-founders, saw what a difference solar lighting made to underprivileged households in Orissa while working at SKS Microfinance. He realised that one of the reasons such products failed to make a bigger impact was because loans for these were unavailable at low interest rates. He teamed up with Sourabh (who having sold the product of his first startup was looking to build a consumer-facing internet startup for social impact) and Mayukh (who was trying to build loan programs for small scale retailers and kirana shop owners selling lighting products in rural Uttar Pradesh) and started Milaap in June 2010.


Donor Raising: the Changing Face of Fundraising (17 Aug 2010)

Synopsis: There are more choices than ever in making charitable gifts and donors are becoming increasingly discerning. Beware of the dreaded gap between a donor’s expectations and a charity’s ability to deliver meaningful engagement with its cause. Donors are more than just ATM machines; they are central to your organisation’s needs in more ways than one. Participants at this Social Conversation found out how best to attract donors and keep them giving to their cause, by learning about the emerging best practice on donor engagement in the UK and US, and how they could tap on professional intermediaries such as community foundations. See here for an SALT article on the seminar.

Speakers: Anne Boyd, Chair, Scottish Community Foundation; Robert Edgar, VP Donor Relations, New York Community Trust; Clare Brooks, Director of Philanthropy, Community Foundation Network, UK; Terrence Chee, Deputy CEO, Community Foundation Singapore

MicrofinanceMicrofinance in Asia (17 Mar 2009)


Event Partner: The Foundation for Development Cooperation & The Banking with the Poor Network
Speakers : Executive Committee, Banking With The Poor Network, comprising Chandula Abeywickrema, Deputy General Manager, Personal Banking & Network Management, Hatton National Bank, Sri Lanka; Nhan Phan Cu, Director of International Co-operation Department, Vietnam Bank for Social Policies; Nimal Mamaduwa, General Manager/CEO, SANASA Dev elopment Bank Limited, Sri Lanka; Syeda Obaida Haque, Director, Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women, Bangladesh; Md. Abdul Awal, Director, Credit and Development Forum, Bangladesh.
Synopsis: The challenges for the microfinance sector have been brought into sharp relief by the global financial crisis which has seen funds for microfinance reduced from international and private sector sources. However, crisis in the international financial sector has also provided the opportunity for microfinance to demonstrate how risk is overcome in microfinance through the use of methodologies specially designed to facilitate lending to the poor and those without collateral.


venturephilanthropySocial Conversation on Venture Philanthropy (27 Nov 2008)

Event Partners: Institute of Policy Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS and HP Alumni
Speaker : Ruth Jones, Executive Director of Social Venture Partners (SVP) International
Synopsis : Around 80 persons joined Ruth and the team for an afternoon workshop to explore in greater depth the ‘how-to’s’ of catalysing an SVP group in Singapore . To better address societal challenges, leading thinkers in the business and nonprofit worlds are working together on new social models that combine charitable missions, corporate know-how and social consciousness in ways that transcend traditional business and philanthropy. One example of this new generation of hybrid organisations is Venture Philanthropy, a grant making model designed to augment traditional philanthropic practices and methods. Venture Philanthropy takes concepts and techniques from the Venture Capital funding model and applies them to achieving philanthropic goals. It eschews once-off giving in favour of a long term relationship between a grant recipient and a funder who provides both expertise and capital. Fundamental to the SVP model is engagement , meaning that SVP partners get intimately involved in helping organisations they have chosen to invest in, in order to build up their organisational capacity. Partners also find the engagement of value to their personal development as it broadens their understanding of societal issues that their recipients seek to address. For a copy of Ruth Jones’s presentation, please click here.


Innovations in Philanthropy (3 January 2008)

Speaker: Jackie Khor, Impact Investing, Rockefeller Foundation
Synopsis: Innovation is not a 21 st century phenomenon. The Rockefeller Foundation was established in 1913 and philanthropy at the time was an innovation in itself. Over the time line of the development of philanthropy, Philanthropy version 1.0 started in the early 20 th century, led by John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, termed Scientific Philanthropy. The example of Scientific Philanthropy given was the then problem of Malaria in the US , and how the solution involved building a whole system around the problem, e.g. research institutes to study the disease and develop vaccines. This later led to the creation of the public health system. Version 2.0 came after World War II in a period of turmoil and involved the reorganization of institutions and the development of the NGO sector. The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations led the way in the development of a global network of research institutes and that provided scientific research and solutions to issues. Version 2.0 was a time of institution and capacity building and formed the bedrock of where we are today at Version 3.0

Version 3.0, aka the philanthro-capitalist model is shaped by the forces of globalization, capital markets and technology; and led by the billionaire entrepreneurs from Google, Microsoft and Ebay and the like, and has turned the traditional philanthropic model on its head. The disruptive business models that led to their business success are being adapted in the new philanthropy to address social problems. Technology & innovation and capital markets are the major factors in Version 3.0. Jackie cited the importance of partnerships and collaborations going beyond that of the traditional government and non profit sectors to include many new partners in the private sector, bringing in different disciplines using technological and process innovations to create solutions. She gave the example of Innocentive, that uses the internet to broadcast social problems in one location around the world that gives access to multiple and hence the best solution.

At the Rockefeller Foundation, The Innovation for Development initiative actively looks for private sector partnerships to experiment and test solutions for viability, create the alternative innovation/business models, promote it and then apply it into the non profit and other sectors. Jackie touches on the models used in the Initiative – the Collaborative Competition Model and the User Centred Model. In the Collaborative Competition Model, groups compete to arrive at an idea and the winning group is awarded prize money to implement the model. An example of that model is how the group Changemakers works. The User-Centred Model is where beneficiaries are closely consulted in the solution process as they would be the best people to understand the environment.


prog_071121Social Venture Funds & Social Entrepreneurship (21-22 Nov 2007)

Speaker: Vineet Rai, Founder and CEO, Aavishkaar Management
Synopsis: Vineet shared that his motivation behind Aavishkaar Management was from having witnessed extreme poverty up close, and after realizing that it was impossible for a high risk venture such as a pilot social entrepreneurship program to secure loans from banks, Aaavishkaar Management was set up to address this gap. Social entrepreneurship in a for-profit setting, according to Vineet, is a business intervention that has commercial significance, and social impact that has multiplier scale-up possibilities. Vineet also believes that not every social intervention needs to have a business model, and that some things are best left to voluntary welfare organizations.

The social entrepreneurship zone of opportunity lies at the intersection between government, nongovernmental organizations and the business zone. The social entrepreneurship ecosystem pivots around the man with an idea. Institutional support and scouting provides the initial foothold for starting, while mentorship and incubation provides the opportunity for a sustainable and scalable business. The intervention goes beyond the financial bottomline. Vineet cautioned that a social business is complex as it tries to interact and integrate the community into the value chain and at the same time, work with government agencies, and at the same time, position itself with competitors, customers and NGO’s.

A clear model is required to carry a new idea through innovative intervention, strong leadership and scale opportunities. To highlight these key components of social entrepreneurship, Vineet went through some case studies. For instance, Vaatsalya Healthcare addresses the financially devastating problem of major illness on an individual in India . It adopts the hub and spoke model, with pharmaceutical, laboratory and insurance partners to provide easily accessible healthcare to rural areas at affordable prices.

Vineet also touched on the importance of technology in scaling, and cited the example of Drishtree Networks, which is helping to connect the 600,000 villages across India to information, services and networks. Microfinance is crucial in supporting social enterprises in India . Despite the rapid growth in Indian microfinance, there is still a vast gap between demand and supply. Vineet gave the example of Globefunder, which uses the internet to link potential individual lenders all over the world to rural borrowers.


Venture Philanthropy: A practitioner’s view of the venture capital model to philanthropy (09 March 2007)

Speaker: Mr Frank Levinson

Social Entrepreneurism: Sustainable Solutions for Social Impact (28 February 2007)

Synopsis: What is social entrepreneurism and what are the key trends? Hear about Kevin’s crossover from the corporate world into the nonprofit sector and how Elim balances her social mission with her commercial pursuits.
Speakers: Kevin Teo, Senior Project Manager, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and Global Leadership Fellow at the World Economic Forum; and Elim Chew, founder and president of 77th Street (S) Pte. Ltd.


Speaking engagements


As part of our contribution to capacity building, Lien Centre staff are engaged in a wide variety of fora as speaker, facilitators and moderators. See here for a recent sampling of our speaking engagements:

University of Gadjah Mada – a judge and speaker at its inauguration of ASEAN Young Socialpreneuers business plan competition

Sankalp Southeast Asia Summit – panel speaker on Developing Public-Private-Partnership Models for Inclusive Business

MaGIC Malaysia – speaker at its Social Entrepreneurship conference

Thai Social Enterprise Office – speaker at its Social Entrepreneurship Week

Kathmandu University – guest lecturer and speaker at an event on entrepreneurship, funded by UNICEF and Microsoft

Hong Kong
Chivas Regal – launch of $1m social entrepreneurship fund

Unilever – Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneur Award



Last updated on 24 Mar 2017 .