Reflections of Emmaus’ First with the Social Enterprise Summit
It’s a wrap for Emmaus’ first in participating in the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Summit and the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Networking Event.
It had been an amazing experience and if I can sum it up with a few keywords, it would be potential, purpose, people, practice and pride.
I have to admit that, before this event, I have a somewhat limited view of scale of work social enterprises (SEs) can be involved in. Maybe it’s was because I had not been exposed much to the world of social enterprises. But after hearing stories after stories of the work of social enterprises, be it waste management, providing employment for underprivileged populations, providing clean drinking water to rural communities, I have come to realize SEs can indeed be involved in large scale and global work. But regardless of the scale of work, I’m also reminded that every SE have their unique battles to fight. So, our “worth” as a SE is not a matter of the scale of your operations or the revenue. It is the matter of cause and impact, big or small. Everyone has a potential for good.
Peppered throughout the whole summit is the reminder of how important purpose is to SEs; it is the very heartbeat of SEs and why they started doing what they do.
I was particularly inspired by the work of David Pong and his team at WateRoam. His sharing during the panel about how the group tussled for at least 6 months, when offered the irresistible business opportunity to change markets, reminds me about the need to stay true to the spirit behind our SEs. So, when I heard that they eventually decided against the easy route of taking their technology to the hiking and military markets, away from the intended rural communities, I was really glad and inspired. In fact, I myself started to critically think about and define the spirit and cause advocated by Emmaus and remind myself to remain true to it.
What was even more inspiring was reading about how it was burnout that drove David to begin the journey with WateRoam (https://www.google.com.sg/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2018/04/22/wateroam-southeast-asia-clean-water-entrepreneur-driven-by-burnout.html). This further cement my belief that burnout can be a powerful gamechanger for our lives. Such is the power of purpose.
Another clear theme I see throughout the summit is also the focus on people as the reason for the work of SEs. It is not about the product; it is ultimately about the people who will be impacted by the product or service offered by the SE. The summit has also afforded me, this introvert, the opportunity to meet many like-minded and idealistic social entrepreneurs. Through many a cocktail table talks, we hear one another as we exchanged pointers and hear the heartbeat and story behind each and every SE.
If there is one thing that I have also gained for Emmaus, it is clarity. The summit has provided me much opportunity to practice my elevator speech about the offerings of Emmaus; not just as a pitch, but more importantly, a strengthening of my conviction of the work we are doing in Emmaus. It allows me to be clear what Emmaus stands for; the living out of the Christian conviction to “fuel good”; to help individuals, non-profits and communities living out the versions of themselves they are meant to be.
Lastly, as I reflect on where I am currently, I’m glad to be a Social Entrepreneur. Even though it is not something I envisaged being when I graduated from Social Work, I’m now proud to be part of a community of change makers who sees needs and gaps and who are both idealistic, courageous and yet ingenious enough to develop sustainable business strategies to meet these very needs and plug the gaps. While I still have a long way to go in growing as a Social Entrepreneur, I’m still glad I’m one.
Thank you, DBS Foundation, raiSE, President’s Challenge and all the many backstage heroes who made all these possible.
James is the Lead Thrive-Synergist & Founder of Emmaus Strategies; a social enterprise that “fuels good”. It does this through Mental Well-Being programmes for individuals and organizations, as well as Strategic Volunteer Partnerships consultancy and training for non-profits.