Most of you reading this wouldn’t consider your family or yourself “poor”. Sure, you may be a struggling entrepreneur but your experiences are still probably very different from those of whom society terms as “low income families”.Envisage Social Education aims to bridge this knowledge gap.
Envisage was founded by a team of five in Singapore based on a Poverty Simulation Kit from the US. It is a comprehensive program where participants will role-play various characters, in which students have the opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of the less fortunate and in turn develop a greater application of their family, education and financial literacy.
Envisage was set up as an educational enterprise committed to youths’ holistic development by striving to promote empathy and compassion among youths to better prepare them for their ever-changing lives. Envisage aims to be the leading entity in working hand in hand with schools and various others partner organizations to sustainably empower youths.
Here, we are given a chance to talk more about it with Stanley Chia, Managing Director of Envisage.
Discussion During The Programmes @ U-Trust-Us National Bank
What is your background?
I am an accounting student from NTU, however, having realized the service gap in our society of having program that help students realize the importance of empathy in the rise of service learning programs, I took a sabbatical to focus on building sustainable business model for Envisage so to develop Envisage into a sustainable Social Enterprise.
Through my active involvement in NTU-SIFE, SingYouth hub, Design for Change and other social initiatives, I utilized the experiences and networks formed to build the internal capacity of Envisage, as well as form strategic partnership with various partner organizations so to rapidly develop product offerings and market reach.
How did you come upon this idea?
I first came across the program through my participation in NTU-SIFE, under the program named Eye Empathy, aimed to educate high school students the importance of financial literacy through empathy for the poor.
It was then that I realized the potential of the program in its ability to engage students to realize the importance of financial literacy. As opposed to teaching them through dull presentation slides, the simulation program allowed students to learn through role-play. This experiential learning program was much more engaging and effective in communicating the learning points we hope to achieve.
Subsequently, we were introduced to Mr Lee Kah Howe, the CEO of ST Consultancy, who brought the program back from the United States of America, and partnered with NTU-SIFE which actively marketed the program to various schools.
It was then when I was invited to build a more sustainable business model around the product, so to enable more rapid and extensive market reach.
Therefore, since October 2010, a team of 5 have been working endlessly in commercializing the product. Moving beyond the Poverty Simulation product, Envisage Social Education Limited have been working endlessly to improve our business model, developing other simulation products and actively expanding our market reach.
Participants Briefing Before The Session
How are you developing a sustainable business model?
I believe that it is of grave importance to focus on building a sustainable business model for any social enterprise at the early stage of the business. From the conducting of effective market research on business viability, to scenario analysis of the business finances these are crucial initial steps to study the SWOT of a business.
Specifically, for an education program provider, the building of a strong track record and flexibility to customers needs are key importance in capturing customers who are willing to pay for your services.
It is critically important to discover through research and experiment, which are the paying customers and how much they value your services.
In the short-run, the building of strategic partners to enhance your product offerings and market reach is cost-effective short-term strategies that enable you to rapidly develop your initial track records and brand presence.
The building of systems and SOPs are also crucial so to minimize your micro-management needs in operating the business, thus allowing you to focus on building other long-term needs of your company.
To be sustainable in the long-run, there has to be resource investments into researching on the changing needs of the market, and effective develop products or services that responds to these needs. More revenue models and sources have to be developed so to constantly create more cost-effective and profitable means of generating revenue for the company.
For a program service provider, human resource will be one of the greatest limiting factors. Therefore, leveraging on IT systems to reduce manpower requirements, leveraging on partner organizations to extend your market reach, exploring less costly human resource needs are just some strategies which can be employed to lower your resource constraints.
Nevertheless, it is important that any external partners or resources employed have to be aligned with your organization or product’s social objectives. Least, the brand of the organization or product be misrepresented by others.
What’s your expansion plan?
Our short-term (1-2 years) plan is to focus on building our track record in Singapore, as well as develop other products to first test it out in the local market.
Subsequently, in 2-3 years, we will be looking into reach out to other neighboring Asian countries through the various countries’ local partner organizations or established Singapore partners that are active in related enterprises in these countries.
If opportunity arises, we will also be willing to expand our program reach to countries beyond Asia.
With internally develop products that have market viability, we will also be looking into licensing out these products so to further extend our market reach.
What do you hope to be the biggest takeaway from your simulations?
Envisage hopes that participants will learn the importance of applying empathy and compassion in everything they do; specifically in relationship management, service-learning programs and entrepreneurship. With empathy and compassion, youths will learn to be more self-less and socially responsible.
What is on your wishlist now for Envisage?
We have been looking into developing other simulation products that will enable us to achieve other social impact and market reach, thereby enabling us to become more sustainable.
Therefore, we would hope that various program developers, computer engineers and various personnel experienced with student development programs to partner us in creating more products that can positively and holistically develop our youths into socially responsible, innovative and passionate change-makers.
Image credit: tarotastic