By Cheng Su Qi
On 13 June 2017, three distinguished speakers – Eugene Tan from NTUC Income, Yeo Tiong Hui from Educare and Jed Senthil from SNCF headed a dialogue session to introduce the participants of Youth Entrepreneurship Symposium (YES) 2017 to the Co-operative Business Model. All three understood the Co-operative Business Model well and shared the abundant knowledge they had amassed from the many years of experience, working in the co-operative sector.
The theme of the dialogue session was – Doing Good Business. Mr Senthil started the ball rolling with a simple question – How many of you have a business idea that is aimed at improving the lives of others? This question encapsulated the essence of what a co-operative stands for – a regulated social enterprise, with a heart for people, aim to serve their members’ social and economic needs, while sharing profits and benefits with them. Knowing that the participants of YES 2017 do not know the inner workings of NTUC Income and Educare, of which both are extremely well-established in Singapore – Mr Tan and Mr Yeo shared more about the co-operatives they worked in.
Mr Tan gave a detailed introduction of NTUC Income and the breakdown of its revenue model, social mission and the community it serves. He shared about how NTUC Income is the first co-operative established by the NTUC Labour Movement with the foundation purpose of serving the people of Singapore through affordable, accessible and sustainable insurance.
Mr Yeo also gave an introduction of Educare – a co-operative of the Singapore Teachers’ Union (STU) which provides complementary services such as professional development and manpower provision to MOE. Mr Yeo shared many stories, one of which was regarding a late payment fee that Educare received from Russia during an economic downturn they were experiencing. He shared that due to the trust and connection established between Educare and Russia, the Co-operative understood the circumstances Russia was in and did not chase for payment. Eventually after tiding over the economic downturn, Russia paid Educare the fee it owed. It was interesting to know that Co-operatives like Educare places great importance on the revenue model, but the social mission it achieves will not be compromised. At times, the social mission might even take priority.
The panelists also elaborated on the lean social canvas business model to ensure that the participants clearly understood that co-operatives are people-centric and are set up to serve the needs of the specific community. These points were reiterated over the session, which allowed the participants to allow the idea of a co-operative to be ingrained in their minds.
After the points raised by the panelists, questions on co-operatives were directed towards the 3 panelists. All 3 backed up by their answers with personal experiences, making the dialogue session very insightful and fruitful. Meeting the objective of the dialogue, many participants understood and were inclined to the idea of a co-operative. 12 teams decided to implement the Co-operative Business Model into their quick pitch.
It was truly heartening to see many youths including a social element into their business idea, in a bid to improve the lives of their community around them. We hope that the youths of today will continue to use their creativity and heart for their community to form sustainable co-operatives around the world.
Let us strive to Do Well and Do Good.