ThinkFest 2010

Last week, I attended the launch of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation’s Social Space Publication. The event was called ThinkFest and it was part of the SIX and the City conference.

For the Keynote speaker, they had Geoff Mulgan, Director of the Young Foundation. His concise and timely speech included the work of Young Foundation and the areas which government help can come into play for social enterprises. They included;
  • Proper Resources. Equivalent research spending on social issues as technology. 
  • Space. Space to try projects and failure. Social labs. Social test beds. Social innovation camps
  • Governance. To back, commit and support. Grow successful prototypes. 

After the keynote, the program featured a talkshow (moderated by Laurence Lien) involving three key figures on the social entrepreneurship scene. Before the Q+A session, each speaker was given some air time to share about their own experiences

Claire Chiang | Banyan Tree Global Foundation

  • Corporate social integration. 
  • Don’t wait for governments. 
  • CSR mindset in all employees, then management then organizational structure. 
  • Institutionalize giving
  • Companies to set up foundation to have no risk 
  • We will prob see more female entrepreneurs in Asia. 
  • It’s about empowerment, dignity and enlightenment. Not business plans, etc ..

Runa Khan | Friendship

  • Going to the needy
  • Hospital ships
  • Goal of bringing health to the communities. 
  • Stakeholders increased over time as impact increased. 
  • Identifying gaps in the system
  • Start with pilot models then improving. 
  • Innovation is just a tool not the end. 

Yong Teck Meng | Habitat for Humanity, Singapore

  • Being poor is just a symptom of an underlying social issue. 
  • We live in instant noodle society
  • The purist idea for change. 
  • Singapore is complicated ecosystem to navigate change. 

The Social Space 2010 publication has many great stories of social innovators and their impacts on society. It gives a good insight to their passion, dreams, difficulties and the re-telling of their journeys.


After reflecting, I felt there were two take-home points. The first is the dark side of social innovation. When one looses focus of the original intentions, there will be an effect on the social innovators. Is it about the people or your own lifestyle? Social innovations must also complement the mainstream and not be seen as a challenging force.

Secondly, is the rise of social innovation a sign of a failing government?? Is this the reason why social innovation is not so free flowing in Singapore as with other nations, even our developed counterparts?

My hope is to develop opportunities for social impact through science and technology. Anyone else wants to contribute to this think-tank?


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