By the people, for the people – that is the founding premise of co-operatives. Co-operatives are owned and run jointly by the members of a community in order to serve the needs of their community. They work together for mutual social and economic benefit – instead of focusing on maximising profits like most business entities, a co-operative focuses on the welfare of its members.
SNCF has championed the growth of co-operatives in Singapore for over 30 years, aiming to develop and unite these enterprises with the broader community in order to better serve society and transform the national economy.
Today, SNCF represents 99 per cent of co-operatives in Singapore, boasting a base of more than a million members. SNCF scholars Ingewati Sastrawidjaja, 21, and Sharon Lim, 20, tell us about their enriching experiences with the organisation.
What attracted you to the SNCF scholarship? What differentiates the SNCF scholarship from the others out there?
Studying: Bachelor of Business,
Nanyang Technological University
Ingewati Sastrawidjaja: SNCF looks for scholars with a heart. It looks beyond academic achievements – it helps scholars to grow as well-rounded people and develops their passion to serve the community.
Being an SNCF Scholar is also meaningful because the founding objective of co-operatives is to help others in the community. Furthermore, I was raised in a family which places a strong emphasis on doing our part for others. Encouraged by my family’s support and positive influence, I chose SNCF because I knew it would provide me with opportunities to give back to the community.
Sharon Lim: I wanted to become a part of an organisation whose values and mission were similar to mine. I was particularly drawn to the strong social mission of SNCF, which led me to apply for the SNCF scholarship.
While there were many scholarships offered by both the public and private sectors, the SNCF scholarship was unique. Its mission to amalgamate both the social and economic needs of our society stood out to me. It is this belief that the two values can co-exist in our society that drew me to this scholarship.
Tell us more about the role of co-operatives in Singapore society. How does SNCF aim to develop co-operatives as sustainable enterprises in Singapore?
Ingewati: Co-operatives, both as economic enterprises and as self-help organisations, play a meaningful role in uplifting the socio-economic conditions of their members and their local communities. With the aim to increase the well-being of their members and the broader society, co-operatives promote the value of social enterprise and social responsibility through self- and mutual-help. The most prominent example is NTUC Fairprice, which has played a role in moderating the cost of living in Singapore to the benefit of many Singaporeans. Co-operatives always strive for the betterment of society!
Sharon: Even though we are surrounded by co-operatives in Singapore, many people have never heard of the term ‘co-operative’. Besides providing support and opportunities to existing co-operatives, SNCF aims to raise awareness of the co-operative movement in Singapore, especially amongst youths.
Youths in Singapore are brimming with knowledge, creativity and a desire to make positive contributions to society. By raising awareness of the co-operative movement among the youth, SNCF hopes to attract them to join the ranks of existing co-operatives, or even start their own co-operatives in order to strengthen and ensure the sustainability of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement.
What opportunities have you enjoyed as an SNCF scholar?
Ingewati: I was given the opportunity to join the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Co-op Cafe Executive Committee, a newly set-up food and beverage co-operative in NTU. Our aim is to promote the spirit of co-operatives and entrepreneurship in NTU through this cafe, where all students will be able to participate in its development. I am learning how to manage the supply chain, marketing, demand forecasting, as well as manpower scheduling. And since I am also pursuing a Bachelor in Business, these things are definitely relevant to what I am studying right now.
Sharon Lim Ming Wei
Studying: Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences,
National University of Singapore
Sharon: Thus far, I have had the opportunity to interact with secondary school students interested in social enterprises through the SNCF Learning Camp. This was a one-day camp that aimed to help secondary school students taking part in a youth entrepreneurial competition known as the ICE Challenge. Through this camp, we were able to introduce these students to the concept of co-operatives, as well as promote the principles of self-help and mutual-help. We also helped these students refine their business pitches by critically engaging them on the feasibility of their ideas.
Share with us a couple of highlights from your scholarship journey so far.
Ingewati: SNCF has given me many opportunities to hone my leadership skills. I was involved as a mentor in the SNCF Learning Camp that Sharon mentioned. As a mentor, I was given the opportunity to guide groups of students and help them further improve their projects. I really enjoyed working together with them. And after seeing the smiles on their faces, I remember feeling really gratified and thinking that all the hard work had really paid off.
I was also one of the organisers of SNCF Co-op Hot Shots, a one-day photography workshop attended by more than 200 people, which gave me the chance to network and allowed me to train my organisational skills.
Sharon: I have to say the highlight of my scholarship journey so far has been the opportunity to interact with the secondary school students participating in the ICE Challenge and facilitate their activities and discussions. It was truly inspiring to listen to the revolutionary ideas coming from these 15-year-old students. They clearly demonstrated the vast potential of youths in Singapore, and how knowledge, creativity and a desire to do good abound in Singaporeans.
What advice do you have for students who wish to apply for the SNCF scholarship?
Ingewati: If you are keen to help others, contribute to society and have the ability to see the big picture, the SNCF scholarship is the right one for you. As an SNCF Scholar, you will be given countless opportunities to grow. Scholars are given various internship and employment opportunities in SNCF affiliates such as the Credit Cooperative Sector, NTUC Cooperative Sector, Services Cooperative Sector and Campus Cooperative Sector. Above all, do not let your confidence falter and do not be afraid to join us on this exciting journey ahead!
Sharon: This scholarship may be just for you if you have a passion for service and believe in the co-existence of social and economic objectives. Do some research on SNCF and the history of co-operatives in Singapore and other parts of the world, and if you feel like this resonates with you and aligns with your personal mission and aspirations, give the SNCF scholarship a shot!