NUS students co-create solutions with Singapore social enterprise to reach out to at-risk youths with culinary apprenticeship

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Business solutions presented at the second edition of “Crossing the Chasm Challenge” help enrich and stimulate creativity in identifying scalable models for greater impact

Three National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduates, Li Xin Yi, Victor Zhu and Kaitlyn Ho, beat 10 other teams to become winners in the Local Category of the Crossing the Chasm Challenge 2017.

Dubbed Team Hatch, the students paired with Singapore social enterprise E&I Food Concepts (E&I) to increase public awareness about its social cause and expand its current patronage for their restaurant Garcon Nosh, which serves affordable French fare. Since their inception in 2014, E&I has trained 25 ex-offenders and at-risk youths in French cuisine and cooking techniques, while providing them with both full-time employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

The students worked closely with E&I, and mentors Mr Ow Tai Zhi and Mr Noel Lee, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operation Officer respectively from AutoWealth, to develop lean and sustainable marketing solutions for the restaurant. Recommendations include a “Pay as You Feel” campaign and corporate catering services to expand the business, as well as student promotions to broaden patronage.

Team Hatch also clinched the Tanoto Foundation – People’s Choice award, where audiences voted during the event for the best team presentation.

Organised by the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP) at NUS Business School, with support from the Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme, the Challenge aims to grow student empathy and intrapreneurship while narrowing a gap in social enterprises’ development to equip them to become investment-ready. Besides outreach to social enterprises, this year’s objective was to broaden outreach to the student community, whilst building rapport and collaboration between students of different institutions.

Associate Professor Lam Swee Sum, Director of ACSEP, NUS Business School, said, “We want to develop a new generation of business leaders who are mindful of social and environmental concerns, and are also trained to engender systemic change where there are market or government failures.”

She added, “This social challenge also hopes to catalyse resources for many other social enterprises that face this developmental gap. We hope that through the three-month engagement between the social enterprises, industry mentors and student teams, they are able to co-create innovative solutions in their marketing pitch and marketing plan for a better tomorrow.”

Stimulating big ideas through inter-school collaborations

This year’s Challenge saw seven inter-school teams competing in the Regional Category while 10 teams participated in the Local Category. The semi-finals of the Challenge took place in July, while the final showcase was held on 17 August 2017.

For the Regional Category, Team Delta Squad and their Cambodian social enterprise Color Silk took home the first prize. The students demonstrated the best strategy for Color Silk to expand their presence in Southeast Asia. Team Delta Squad comprises NUS undergraduates Gina Ng, Edison Daniel Lim, and Ankita Sanjeev Jindal, together with Singapore Management University undergraduate Gao Tian.

The judging criteria assessed the impact of the proposed solutions, such as social engagement and increased sales, that must be measurable and easily implementable by the social enterprises. The teams’ empathetic listening skills and their ability to understand their social enterprises’ business model while co-creating innovative and cost effective solutions together were also evaluated.

Working together with 29 corporate mentors, the teams spent 12 weeks undergoing workshops and seminars curated specially to enhance their understanding and hands-on problem solving skills to address social challenges such as poverty and assisting marginalised populations in Singapore.

The Crossing the Chasm Challenge was open to all tertiary institutions this year and saw a total of 147 students from four tertiary institutions – National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Republic Polytechnic and Singapore Management University – coming together to be change-agents for good.

Winning teams and their social enterprises receive cash prizes of up to $6,000 and $12,000 respectively to implement the strategies presented.

News source: National University of Singapore News Feed