Gift from former Normanton Park residents kick-starts new Social Incubator Programme at NUS Arts and Social Sciences

About S$232,000 raised as seed funding for new programme to spur innovative social enterprise projects

A total of 81 residents from the former Normanton Park estate have come together to make a gift of about S$154,000 to kick-start a new social incubator programme for students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The gift is eligible for the government’s matching grant, bringing the total funding to about S$232,000.

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Professor Robbie Goh, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (left), receiving a cheque of $154,696 from
Colonel (Ret.) Sukhvinder Singh Chopra, former Chairman of the Normanton Park Management Corporation Strata Title (right),
witnessed by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development (centre).

Colonel (Ret.) Sukhvinder Singh Chopra, who is former Chairman of the Normanton Park Management Corporation Strata Title and its en bloc Sales Committee, had led a fundraising effort to rally fellow residents to donate part of the proceeds from the en bloc sale of the estate, which was sold in October 2017, as seed funding to establish an endowed “Social Incubator Programme” Fund (SIP Fund). The SIP Fund will be used to set up the NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme. 

This could be the first time that a concerted effort has been made by residents of an estate which underwent en bloc to donate part of the proceeds to a social cause. 

Earlier today, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, who was the Guest-of-Honour for the appreciation event organised by FASS to thank the donors, witnessed the presentation of the cheque by COL (Ret.) Chopra to Professor Robbie Goh, Dean of FASS.

COL (Ret.) Chopra said, “As Founding Donors of the SIP Fund, we hope that others, including companies who have made or will make a profit from the sale of their properties through en bloc or otherwise, will also consider making a gift to the SIP Fund - it is our hope that this initiative inspires other non-property related contributions as well. The Fund will be used to provide support to worthy student projects through the NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme. Through this programme, we hope that students will have the required resources to make a difference and learn to be more socially conscious, responsible and better aware of the underprivileged, and in turn help nurture the next generation of talented youths who are committed to making society a better place.” 

Prof Goh added, "The NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme will be a hothouse where our students can come together and devise innovative solutions to address social welfare needs in Singapore, guided by and drawing on the expertise in our Department of Social Work and elsewhere in NUS. We are grateful to COL (Ret.) Chopra and the 80 former Normanton Park estate residents for their generosity and public spiritedness. This has enabled us to start this unique programme, which nurtures the spirit of social entreprise, encourages the use of technology in social welfare, and allows NUS students to work in multi-disciplinary teams and partner with charitable organisations.”

NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme

The new NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme, which will be launched next year, aims to encourage FASS students to explore social entrepreneurship, and provide them with the opportunity to co-develop social advancement and social entrepreneurship programmes. All projects under the Programme will be supported by the SIP Fund. In particular, innovative social solutions leveraging on technology will be encouraged. FASS students will take the lead in running their social enterprise projects, with supervision and advice from NUS faculty members. 

For a start, a four-member committee has been established to oversee and design the programme. The members are: Associate Professor Esther Goh (co-chair), Head of the NUS Department of Social Work; Dr Alex Lee (co-chair) from the NUS Department of Social Work; Professor Freddy Boey (advisor), NUS Deputy President, Innovation & Enterprise; and Dr Elmie Nekmat from the NUS Department of Communications and New Media. 

Many FASS students and alumni have been exemplary examples of social entrepreneurs, such as Mr Joshua Foong who co-founded bantu, a social enterprise which aims to provide technology solutions for the underserved social sector; Mr Alexius Yeo who founded Carbon InQ, a local company that teaches agriculture-based experiential learning programmes; and Ms Francesca Phoebe Wah who founded BLESS, a registered non-profit organisation that benefits low-income families and children residing in rental blocks.