Giving back with compassion and a social heart for the community

These three social enterprises are in the business of giving back - even amid tough times.

FINDJOBS, a technology startup, was launched in 2017. The company was the first non-executive (blue-collar) jobs marketplace application that does not require users to identify and authenticate themselves. Founder and CEO Stanley Lim said: "Over the years, we realised that it was difficult and expensive to reach the non-executive workforce who were still offline. Hence, we started with a vision to bring more job opportunities to the non-executive workers in Singapore through an online channel customised for them.

"Low-income, illiterate or lowly educated and mature/elderly workers make up a significant percentage of the non-executive workforce in Singapore. With an understanding of this target group, we built simple to use apps in three different languages and have garnered over 100,000 downloads since we launched three years ago."

The three-year-old startup has been working with Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Ministry of Social and Family Development since April 2019 to set up smart job kiosks around the island. The move was to take the looking for jobs offline to better serve the technology unsavvy and lower income workers.

Hence, the first of 20 smart job kiosks were developed in collaboration with e2i and placed in their career centres in Jurong East and Toa Payoh. Six more smart job kiosks were deployed in six selected Social Service Offices (SSO) and the rest of the kiosks were hosted by Findjob's various partners.

"But as the Covid-19 situation unfolded, we knew that job security would be an imminent issue. Therefore, we started discussions with e2i in mid-Feb to plan for an initiative that could help the chronically unemployed (more than six months) and fellow Singaporeans affected by Covid-19," said Mr Lim.

With funding support from raiSE (Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise) and e2i, Project Success was launched in mid April to bring 100 jobs to 100 Singaporeans at no cost to the employers by waiving the advertisement and recruitment service fees for the first 100 placements.

Mr Lim said: "We're doing this because we realise that in tough times like this, our chronically unemployed and mature workers stand an even lower chance of getting hired as employers might not be willing to interview them because of their age and lack of recent experience.

"Hence, in exchange for providing this matching and placement service for free, we seek the employer's commitment to join us as an inclusive employer to provide fair interview opportunities to all the job seekers that we shortlist for them."

The startup also started working with Mendaki SENSE in March to expedite the enhancement of its Malay Cari Kerja app by launching a virtual job fair on the app. Since the launch in early April, the app has seen 17,040 new downloads (as at April 18) and close to 8,000 "attendees" for the virtual job fair on the app between April 13-18.

The company had to adapt to the current landscape, as it was not spared from the onslaught of the virus.

Keeping costs low

"As a startup, we have always been working to keep costs low so while we have been affected, we are still pushing on to focus on the matching of job vacancies to our non-executive job seekers as it solves an emerging need," said Mr Lim.

Having to bring a physical career fair experience online within a short period of time was a major challenge.

Mr Lim said: "It hasn't been easy for the team at Findjobs, especially for our in-house tech teammates who have been putting in the extra hours to develop the virtual career fair enhancement and our sales teams who have been coordinating with employers to share profiles and arrange for interviews for the affected job seekers. Thankfully, we have a very cooperative team and everyone is motivated to put in the extra effort because they know that their work will really benefit those who need the help."

The 40-year-old said that since the launch of Project Success, the company has brought onboard 15 new employers who have committed to being inclusive employers.

With the virtual career fair with Mendaki SENSE, Findjobs has more enquiries from other agencies to launch more virtual career fairs on its three apps, namely Findjobs, Cari Kerja and Zhao Gong.

Mr Lim said: "We think that virtual career fairs would be here to stay even beyond the Covid-19 period. After the placements of 100 Singaporeans, we will continue to offer employers this service at a subsidised placement rate as compared to the standard market rate of anywhere between 70-120 per cent of first month salary to encourage the continued adoption of inclusive employment practices."

The current situation is new and challenging for all social enterprises. "Business is affected but we always believe that you don't have a business if you can't take care of your community. For us as a social enterprise, social impact is in our DNA."

DAGIZ is a Singapore-based bespoke gift and experience provider which is building a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace that connects corporates to products made by local beneficiaries.

That plan to enable more social enterprises (SEs) and social service agencies (SSAs) to go online to gain visibility had to be tweaked when Covid-19 pandemic broke.

Founder of the social enterprise, Tali Goldman, said: "In view of the current situation, corporates are faced with the challenge of keeping their staff engaged. Hence, we decided to change tack and help them in this area. While continuing our original plan of building a B2B marketplace, we also quickly pivoted to staff engagement needs of these large companies which had more than 2,000 employees each."

Dagiz quickly curated the SEs and SSAs which big corporations, such as PayPal and Johnson and Johnson, want to support.

The eight-year-old firm created a microsite - which was launched on Friday - with the individual company's logo and objectives so that multinational corporations (MNCs) can appeal to their staff to support a good cause with their consumption power.

"As the microsite is customised to match the social outcomes of the individual corporations, the companies can easily measure their spending and contribution to the SEs and SSAs. As the corporations pay for the site setup and operations, we are not taking any transactional fees from the SEs and SSAs on sale proceeds made through the site." said Mrs Goldman, who is also managing director of the company. The initiative, Heartgifts, aims to sell products made by beneficiaries employed by the SSAs and SEs.

"By collating these products under on roof, curating relevant ones for Mother's Day and upcoming festivities such as Hari Raya, we are helping MNCs to reach out to their staff and fulfil their corporate CSR goals as well," said Mrs Goldman.

When asked about the challenges faced, the managing director said that they had to come up with a project that was not exorbitant but fully functional within a short span of time.

On the supply side, some SSAs were closed, so the variety of products Dagiz could offer was limited.

"But we look at challenges as learning opportunities. So, we did some research on the technological aspect and business solutions available and are working with our clients as partners in this journey. We also connected with other SEs that are still in operation albeit in downsized versions for their products," added Mrs Goldman.

The mum of two added that the situation really tested the company's ability to adapt swiftly.

Although the firm's business has been affected - orders have been either put on hold or cancelled - the 43-year-old said: "We see this as an opportunity to continue supporting our community. Evolving our business operations will help keep our staff employed in this unprecedented time."

The initiative will continue after this period.

"This project will only get bigger and more permanent even as our lives resume to a new normal. Whatever efforts we have put in now will form a stepping stone for our future plans," she said.

Rashi Jaipuriyar, creative head of Dagiz Pte Ltd, said: "Working with Dagiz for over a year now, I am proud to be part of the team and the initiatives it supports - which include Empowering the Women.

"This is a difficult time for both employers and employees, and as we overcome this period, all employers should strongly focus on finding alternative long-term solutions of keeping everyday work going without being fixated on the standard way of working in the office. Employers should also reflect compassion to their employees who have proven their talent. Providing financial stability and emotional support is essential for employers now more than ever."

WITH tensions running during this Covid-19 pandemic, MindFi, a South-east Asian leader in digital wellness, extended its mental wellness programme to healthcare professionals.

The decision was made after founder Bjorn Lee spoke to his doctor friends about a Straits Times article on how Covid-19 could affect mental health.

"It was so true and unfunny. The Covid-19 crisis is taking a toll not just on our physical but also our mental health,'' Mr Lee said.

"We would like to play our part in giving back to the community, specifically to our healthcare workers as well as professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), who may be struggling during this crisis. Mindcare is a social impact initiative that will give away free memberships of the MindFi mindfulness mobile application. We hope the app can be a useful tool for self-care during their brief moments of rest to restore some calm and comfort," he added.

In typical startup style, the CEO of the smart meditation mobile app did low-key beta testing of the concept and sent it to some friends and business partners over Whatsapp.

The 38-year-old joked: "It was an ugly webpage . . . but many of our partners expressed interest and we have official business interest now from corporates seeking help for their work-from-home workforces." He intended to give himself a raise this year, but plans were scuppered by the Covid-19.

Hence, although business picked up, the founder decided to use that money to hire a few interns to handle the increase in demand for the company's service.

He said: "I had a nagging feeling that mental health would be more prominent during these stressful times. I am glad that business owners share the same sentiment and we had to hire interns to cope with the short-term demand."

When asked why social enterprises should continue to give during this period, Mr Lee said: "I can't speak for others, but for myself, I started this company because I believed in the social goal of raising mental well-being in society. A crisis should not derail that vision. In fact, it should enhance clarity. If the company goes bankrupt, we might as well go down with our heads held high.

Stand in solidarity

"As business owners with a social heart, we cannot simply have a survivor mindset and look inwards. We should look outwards and send a positive and loud message to the society."

Leon Leong, chief marketing officer of Mindfi, said: "I'm proud that we are able to support our healthcare professionals during these tough times; it's the least we can do, as a company, to stand in solidarity with them. This period of crisis has led to higher levels of stress and anxiety, underscoring the importance of mindfulness in bringing about positivity, productivity and an overall better quality of life."