CSR and Social Innovators Forum 2016

The Paia team attended the CSR and Social Innovators Forum (CSRSIF) held at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1-2 September 2016. The first joint event between Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS) and Social Innovation Park Ltd (SIP), the CSRSIF combines the fields of corporate social responsibility and social innovation with the theme “Co-creating the Future Economy through Sustainability and Innovation”.

Day one of the forum was opened by Mr Ho Ming Kiat, Vice President of GCNS, Ms Penny Low, Founder and President of Social Innovation Park, and guest-of-honour Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies. DPM Shanmugaratnam recognized the importance of ground-up initiatives in shaping intrinsic motivations. He also emphasised that while not every company has a social mission, every employer can be an inclusive employer. In response to a question from the floor on how ground-up initiatives can better partner with traditional businesses, Singapore Business Federation was identified as the intermediary to create networks for such partnerships.

Plenaries that followed had high-profile speakers from corporations, non-profit organisations, and the investment community, including Mr. Oscar Wezenbeek, Managing Director of AkzoNobel Marine Coatings, Prof. Simon Zadek, Co-Director of the Inquiry into Design Options for a Sustainable Financial System, UNEP, and Ms Yeo Lian Sim, Senior Advisor of the Singapore Exchange (SGX). They shared insights on how CSR and innovation are opportunities and adaptive measures to risks and destabilizing forces, and how collaborations can help fill gaps found in each sector. Dr. Parag Khanna, Co-Founder and Director of Hybrid Reality Institute, is an advocate of the co-creation model, and he shared how hybrid structures could strengthen the capabilities of governments.

Day two of the forum was equally engaging, with Ms Grace Fu, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth as the guest-of-honour. Ms Fu emphasized the government’s support in strengthening the social compact, including a tax deduction scheme when companies engage in volunteer work. Apart from plenaries by sector experts, delegates also had the opportunity to participate in masterclasses in smaller, more intimate group settings and interactive breakout sessions. The session ‘Design Thinking & System Change: Turning Food Waste to Gold’ led by the Strate School of Design for instance took participants through a systematic brainstorming process that generated more 6 different solutions to food wastage in 90 minutes. The closing plenary ‘Smart Nation: Top Social Innovations Changing Our World’ continued to draw many questions from the delegates – indeed, the questioning will continue beyond the forum.

The CSRSIF definitely highlighted each sector’s role in the areas of CSR and innovation, and the importance of collaborations in driving them. The right policies and regulations, from the government and from the investment community such as the SGX, can drive innovation, while initiatives from the ground and from social enterprises make the change happen. The youth was repeatedly identified as a significant player in the scene – as consumers and employees with high sustainability awareness and drive for change, we are hopeful about the future of CSR and innovation.