Outbound Project in Singapore: Greg Cooper and Mark Cheng

written by Greg Cooper, Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

I spent a once in a lifetime week on the Outbound segment of the Professional Fellows Program in Singapore.  I was hosted by fellow Mark Cheng, who partnered with the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Council, a semi-governmental organization in Singapore that focuses on professional development of Singaporean youth, on the Outbound project.

Mark and I, in coordination with NYAA, designed and implemented 3 days of workshops, the “YSAELI Youth Social Enterprise Conference,” at Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education in March 2019.  Approximately 100 Singaporean students from all areas of Singaporean society attended the workshops.  We designed a structured social enterprise workshop to help aspiring or current young social entrepreneurs improve their professional development skills and create a network for attendees to learn from and support each other.ysaeli_greg-cooper-and-mark-cheng_0281.jpg

The program featured a variety of professionals who shared their stories of how they became successful to inspire the students to work hard to achieve their goals.  Local successful social entrepreneurs shared their expertise and stories on the positive impact of their social enterprises.  The speakers included a member of parliament, established social entrepreneurs, and professionals from Deloitte Consulting USA and Deloitte Consulting Singapore.  The workshops culminated in a competition where all of the attendees presented their ideas for potential funding by NYAA.  I participated as a judge along with other Deloitte USA professionals.

I had the unique opportunity to get to know students from different facets of Singaporean society and learn about their thoughts on Singapore’s educational system and how to address Singapore’s environmental issues.  They shared stories about their background and the ideas they had to improve Singapore.  Common themes were helping students with learning disabilities and providing more educational support to students from all socio-economic backgrounds.  We talked a lot on how they can be proactive about creating their social enterprise organization, including expanding their network, developing their ideas, creating a business plan, and marketing and pitching their ideas to potential investors.  The students pitched their ideas at the end of the workshops, using the information they gained during the workshops. I was impressed with the thought and range of ideas they in the areas of fashion, education, health, and the environment, and was pleased that the students sought my advice on their presentations.  Some of the students requested to be connected on LinkedIn after the workshops ended.  I truly felt like I had made long last connections.

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Singapore wasn’t all work.  I also explored the famous hawker centers and tried new food and drinks such as sugar cane, chili crab, chicken rice, sting ray, fried carrot cake, and dim sum. I ate at a 1-star Michelin restaurant after waiting in a long line, and the wait was worth it.  I am a big coffee drinker and happily discovered Singapore’s delicious Kopi coffee culture.  I also visited many of Singapore’s famous sites.  I learned about Singapore’s history at the National Museum of Singapore, visited the luminous steel trees at Gardens by the Bay at night, and explored Little India and Chinatown.

The support given by NYAA and ITE was integral to the success of the workshops.  ITE, where most of the attendees study, provided an inviting conference space.  Through NYAA, I met Singaporean social entrepreneurs and government representatives who gave inspiring speeches to the attendees on how they came from humble backgrounds and through hard work and perseverance were able to make an impact on Singaporean society.  Mark Cheng and NYAA have formed a long-term partnership that will result in additional workshops to continue training and supporting Singapore’s future social entrepreneurs.  I would be honored to participate in future workshops if the opportunity arises.

I would like to thank the U.S. Department of State, American Councils for International Education, Deloitte Consulting USA, Deloitte Singapore, NYAA, the Institute of Technical Education, and Jaimie Holmes and Mauli Whitney from the American Councils for International Education for making this project successful.

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