By Jyl Leann De Jesus Caneda, Edited by Sng Ler Jun
When running a social enterprise, how do you balance between making profits and doing social good? That was the question that set me thinking when I watched the three-part, mini reality series Creathon 2022. Organised by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF), Creathon 2022 brings ambitious youths, aged 17 to 35, together to discover whether their business ideas can make the difference in society.
Not many know what a co-operative is, or even heard about the term co-operative. For the uninitiated, a co-operative is a membership-based entity that operates on the principles of self-help and mutual assistance. As a fellow youth, watching Creathon 2022 deepens my love for the co-operative movement. Not only does the show highlights the synergy between members within each participating team and impacts young changemakers can do for our future, it also brings on board inclusive sports co-operative Runninghour to shed light on how co-operatives do good for the community.
What inspired me the most was how the participants were equally inspirational to courageously tackle some of the social issues, such as fashion wastage and migrant workers, head-on. The show journeys with three teams with bold personalities, bright minds, and a heart of gold for people.
After three days of mentally and physically challenging activities, Team HeartBid emerged victorious as winners of Creathon. Desiring to be Singapore’s first online fundraising auction site, their solution aids non-profit organisations who struggle to accumulate sufficient funds and sell pre-treasured donated items. Team HeartBid’s passion to support charities and bring better value to once-loved goods from in-need communities catapulted them to persevere despite falling short and coming in last in the earlier parts of the competition.
Mr Brandon Ong, leader behind Team HeartBid, said, “It was a challenging three days. We were nervous because we were also up against very good teams. However, we remained resilient and kept positive throughout our experience”.
On how the team utilised the $5,000 prize money, he added, “We used the prize money to fund our monthly auction site. The team is also looking towards partnering more organisations and bringing in more clients to support the platform.” Since filming ended, Team Heartbid has conducted two successful monthly auctions. They remain dedicated and committed to keeping the online charity auction relevant and progressive, so it may soon be recognised as a nationwide donation platform.
Social enterprises and co-operatives both benefit communities albeit on different wavelengths; the latter focuses on promoting its members’ welfare and in doing so, empower them to do good or serve the greater community. “Previously, our basic understanding of co-operatives was just NTUC FairPrice. However, going through Creathon helped us understand and appreciate the business model more. Co-operatives value self-help and mutual assistance, this is very inspirational,” said Ms Joanna Ang, the IT expert behind HeartBid.
When asked about the reason behind the team’s motivation to do good, Ms Esther Chan, a young advocator and marketer of HeartBid said, “We are the next generation of leaders. We have the ideas, strength, and the capacity to make a change in our world. It is our responsibility to create the world we want to live in.”, And that’s what Creathon 2022 is all about – to harness the power of youths to shape an ideal future for subsequent generations.
Mr John See Toh, the Chairman and Founder of Runninghour Co-operative who participated as a guest judge in the show, provided his insights on the team’s success, “Team HeartBid has a very workable solution, and it could even possibly start a new culture, especially for fundraising efforts. I believe if they can find the right people and tap on considerable resources, their platform would be extremely valuable and beneficial to many vulnerable groups.”
Mr See Toh is confident about the potential youths of tomorrow hold. “I’m quite happy that there are still many young people who are very enthusiastic about doing good. I hope people in the right places continue to nurture this group. The future will be bright by having good leaders with good hearts.”
How do you ensure business sustainability then? Mr See Toh, an experienced judge who has been exposed to multiple entrepreneurship competitions, suggested budding social entrepreneurs to go the extra mile and stand out through doing thorough groundwork. One way to gain experience is to talk to stakeholders. Doing so encourages an exchange of ideas and allows entrepreneurs to expand their ideas or workflow, while also discovering more resources to tap on.
Future teams, he added, can impress judges by honing their entrepreneurial chops. “Go for a crash course or start by building your networks. You can even start by asking questions to the public through a market survey or creating a balance sheet,” said Mr See Toh. These tactics will showcase a team’s critical thinking and are telling of the business’ scalability and progressiveness in the long run.
Being in the co-operative industry for nearly 13 years with Runninghour, Mr See Toh acknowledged the challenges of running a co-operative. To him, co-operatives have firm guiding principles that set his business in the right direction. “We live in a society where complaining is the norm. To all young people, if you have an aspiration for the kind of future you want, take up ownership and co-create it,” he added. Co-operatives, he posited, can be one of the platforms to craft an impactful future, whether it’s “getting like-minded people together and doing something about it.”
The winners of Creathon also provided their final notes of encouragement to youths who aspire to transform the world for social good.
Joanna: Understand yourself and the causes you are passionate about. From there you will be able to find the people to compliment you and do amazing things with.
Esther: To find your purpose, you need the right mindset to push on against adversity. Be open to trying and exploring.
Brandon: If you want to make a change, be present, be participative, and be involved. Start talking to stakeholders, look beyond the bigger picture and get your hands dirty. You will be surprised by the potential you can help others around you.
Mr See Toh and Team HeartBid have been great inspirations for me to start my co-operative journey. Youths, like myself, have been praised as ‘stewards of change’ and I’d like to see more likeminded youths come together, envision a brighter future, and proactively create the change we wish to see by helping one another.
After all, that is the essence of what co-operatives are.
Jyl Leann De Jesus Caneda is an intern for the Singapore National Co-operative Federation. She is presently pursuing a diploma in Community Development at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She relishes volunteering and enjoys meeting new people. Her proactive contributions to the social and co-operative sector are driven by her desire for social good.