S ince its establishment in 1980, the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) has spearheaded Singapore’s co-operative movement, implementing comprehensive programmes to help co-operative enterprises better serve their members, the community, and contribute to the nation’s economy.
In 2010, the co-operative movement contributed more than $600 million to Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product, and SNCF has continued to actively promote and develop co-operatives to help them thrive. SNCF’s goal is to provide co-operatives with the support and resources they need to become successful yet sustainable enterprises that address social and economic needs and help foster a more resilient society.
We speak to Gerald Tan and Jax Liu, both undergraduates and SNCF 2015 scholars, to find out more about their part in SNCF’s mission.
Tell us more about the role of co-operatives in Singapore’s society.
Gerald Tan: The welfare of the community is at the core of all its operational considerations. For example, the RunningHour Co-operative helps to integrate individuals with special needs through sports and actively promotes wellness regimes and initiatives. It is very people-centric, so you are assured of long-term support that you may not necessarily get in other corporations!
Jax Liu Jiawei
SNCF Scholar 2015
Furthermore, there is a growing recognition that it is possible to run a sustainable business while committing to the community and pushing a strong social service mission. SNCF offers an incredible amount of support for new co-operatives in terms of mentorship, funding and guidance, crucial pillars for the co-operative movement going forward.
Jax Liu: Singapore’s co-operative movement has come a long way. Co-operatives started out as platforms for citizens to help each other out and become more self-reliant in times of hardship, and they have now flourished into sustainable businesses that continue to foster resilience among Singaporeans.SNCF aims to develop sustainable co-operatives mainly through the disbursement of co-op grants and assistance schemes, marketing, and also publicity. In addition, it offers capability development services to help co-operatives grow and serve their members more effectively.
What attracted you to the SNCF Scholarship?
Gerald: The SNCF Scholarship looks to nurture individuals that are well-rounded in every way. Its scholars have a tremendous amount of motivation to help develop businesses that set out to be core pillars of the community and providers of key services. I was fascinated by the scholarship and organisation’s commitment to the community, and I can foresee an enriching experience ahead as I learn how to better contribute to the co-operative movement!
Jax: I’ve always dreamt of bringing about positive social changes, and social enterprises are a great vehicle to go about doing that. Of course, the SNCF Scholarship – like any other scholarship – also took a huge financial burden off my parents’ shoulders, and I chose it because it aligned so well with my goals in life.
Unlike other corporate scholarships, SNCF needs scholars with a heart. It goes way beyond just grooming future leaders who can contribute to the organisation. In fact, we are being prepared to contribute to society at large, a far more meaningful aim than simply being cultivated for our potential to help a single company grow.
Gerald Tan Jiamin
SNCF Scholar 2015
How have you personally benefited from the SNCF Scholarship?
Gerald: The scholarship has a clear development roadmap which seeks to develop wholesome individuals who can make productive contributions to the movement. We have the option of doing structured internships with affiliated co-operatives to expand our knowledge of various industries. There are four broad affiliate categories – Campus, Credit, Service, and co-operatives under NTUC. That’s a lot more choice than it seems, and we are regularly invited to dialogues and events where we can learn and adopt best practices from the most dynamic minds in the co-operative movement, both locally and overseas.
Jax: I’ve been privileged to have exclusive insights into the history behind Singapore’s co-operative movement and how it has evolved over the decades. It has been pivotal in our nation building. In addition, I get to delve deeper into the fundamental principles behind social enterprises.
What advice do you have for aspiring SNCF scholars?
Gerald: The core mission of co-operatives has always included a focus on fortifying the youth of today. If you think you have what it takes to serve in the movement, you should just seize the opportunity! More importantly, you should have a vision of yourself and the part that you wish to play in the movement. Your values should also align with the social mission that SNCF represents. Finally, a strong commitment to lifelong learning and development is also paramount.
Jax: Don’t let the prospective financial benefits be the key reason why you apply for the scholarship. You will be doing both the organisation and yourself a disservice in the long run. Instead, take some time to do some soul searching and ask yourself what you really want to do. If your personal vision and mission aligns with SNCF, then you can begin to seriously consider applying for the scholarship. Resilience, boldness, and the passion to effect positive change are also key qualities to have!