Mental well-being app for employees claims top prize at annual FASS Social Incubator challenge

A mobile app that seeks to transform workplace culture by fostering peer support and empathy was the winning idea that saw a multidisciplinary team of NUS students walk away with S$10,000 in seed funding and mentorship opportunities at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Social Incubator Programme (SIP) Pitch Competition held on 2 March 2024.

Organised annually and open to all NUS students with at least one FASS student in each team, the competition offers an exciting platform for students to gain first-hand experience in innovating and pitching impactful social innovations or practices. Some areas for which they can provide innovative solutions include healthcare, active ageing, at-risk youth, mental wellness, family care, as well as assistance for persons with disabilities and vulnerable communities.

Head of the FASS SIP Steering Committee Associate Professor Lee Geok Ling said, “I am really amazed that so many first-year students took part and displayed wisdom and bravery. I hope the students leave with some precious takeaways that will serve them for years to come, such as the spirit of social entrepreneurship, the creativity-practicality bi-focal perspectives, and the heart to serve.”

Assoc Prof Lee noted how the SIP was established in 2019 thanks to former residents of Normanton Park who shared the University’s vision of bettering society and set up the SIP with proceeds from the en bloc sale of the Normanton Park estate. The fundraising effort by the condominium’s residents aimed to inspire other individuals and companies to make similar contributions to support the initiative.

To better prepare students for the competition, an SIP Networking Event was organised last September to help them hone their case competition skills and find potential teammates to bring their burning social entrepreneurship ideas to life. There, students also learnt about the different business functions in a company, examined their strengths in the different business roles, and were given guidance on ways to identify teammates with complementary skill sets.

Participants also had the opportunity to propose solutions in a mini case competition addressing social issues such as bridging the generational gap between the elderly and the youth, and promoting support for caregivers, particularly elderly caregivers of their disabled children.

Innovative solutions to social problems

Five teams were shortlisted for the finals and wowed the judges with their creative solutions to a myriad of salient social issues.

These included a neurodiversity-focused DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) consultancy to boost the career prospects of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) by helping companies bolster disability inclusion in the workplace, virtual reality headsets designed with customised modules to help with holistic pain management for patients undergoing medical procedures, a deck of card strips comprising tasks for users to complete with friends to help address loneliness among university students, and pet food made from mushroom waste to reduce carbon and methane emissions.

Team I’m Friendly CO’s pitch, however, stood out from the rest. The judges were impressed with the group’s proposal to develop a mobile app that seeks to improve the mental well-being of employees in the workplace through daily check-ins and journalling, providing organisations with insights into employee mental well-being. In-app learning modules will also equip employees with peer support skills as users are assigned anonymous work buddies who can provide a safe space for vulnerability and emotional support.

Donor and businessman Mr I Y Sarma, who was part of the judging committee, was surprised and impressed with the high quality of ideas, as well as the skills of articulation and presentation he witnessed at the competition.

He remarked, “I’m Friendly CO won because they took a good idea, developed it to a tangible level, brought it to the SIP pitch competition well-prepared, and presented it impressively. They have an ambitious plan going forward which has a high possibility of success with support and mentoring.”

The winning team will be given seed funding to further develop their business idea under the SIP programme for a year. They will also benefit from close mentorship by members of the FASS SIP Steering Committee who have rich experiences in social work and entrepreneurship.

Anshika Singh, a Year 3 FASS Psychology student from the team that emerged victorious, said the competition was an eye-opening experience and being in a room full of passionate founders with the desire to make a difference spurred her and her teammates on.

She added, “The diverse panel of experts gave us different lenses through which we re-examined our platform and impact. Their pragmatic feedback was like rocket fuel, reaffirming our mission and propelling us forward with actionable steps to finally get our platform off the ground! With this boost of confidence and a clear roadmap ahead, we're diving in all the way to create our dream platform, one that humanises organisations and fosters healthy communities for mental well-being.”