SMU students and alumni start ground-up initiative to help NPOs thrive towards resilience in the social sector

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in April this year, a group of Singapore Management University (SMU) students and alumni saw a gap in the social sector and started a ground-up initiative called ‘COVID-19 Taskforce for Non-Profits’ to support Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) in Singapore.

The team observed that there was little support provided to non-profits who need agile, flexible help to navigate the crisis, and together with over 50 volunteers, decided to work on complementing the NPOs’ efforts through pro-bono consulting projects to augment efforts towards greater resilience and future-readiness.

“After speaking to many NPOs, we realised that they were primarily focused on firefighting, and did not have the bandwidth to pre-empt and tackle greater challenges that were to come. Thus, we put together the Taskforce to help them reimagine their operations not just during COVID-19, but more importantly post-COVID-19, to become truly future-proof,” said co-founder, Fara Natasha.

In less than six months, the Taskforce worked with ten different Non-Profits/Social Enterprises across various sectors to address key challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.  Among these were The Salvation Army, Lions Befrienders and the Rotary Learning Institute Singapore.  

With the support of the National Volunteer Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and SMU’s Lien Centre for Social Innovation, the Taskforce embarked on a study to narrow the knowledge gap in management principles and best practices amidst the pandemic. The findings of the study were shared at a webinar, “Reimagining Singapore’s Social Sector: Resilient and Future-ready” on 29 October, opened by Guest-of-Honour Mr Tan Chuan Jin, Speaker of Parliament and Advisor to NCSS, and attended by more than 150 participants from the social sector in Singapore. The session also included a panel discussion on the key challenges of the sector and how non-profits can navigate the new normal.

Mr Ho Han Peng, Assistant Director, SMU Lien Centre of Social Innovation said, "The COVID-19 Taskforce has turned the pandemic into an opportunity to examine the levers that non-profits can use to more effectively strengthen the latter's work in a rapidly evolving context. Through evidence and practical recommendations, the Taskforce's contribution is meaningful and relevant to non-profits that seek to chart continued success and impact even in challenging times."

The webinar also witnessed the launch of the group’s corporate identity.  Renamed “Thrive Social Consulting”, they aim to continue to create meaningful and enduring impact through building solutions jointly with Non-Profit partners to thrive in an evolving landscape. 

Co-founder, Sammie Lim said, “While this was originally intended to be a COVID-19 specific initiative, we believe we can continue to support the sector in many ways beyond our consulting projects. That is why we rebranded the Taskforce to Thrive Social Consulting. We are currently piloting new programmes such as data analytics projects and ideation workshops.”

“We love what we do and we want to help every single NPO that we can! However, it would be challenging for us to continue to do so as the number of NPO partners grow. As such, we are always on the lookout for new volunteers. If you have the heart for the sector and have a passion for what we do, we would love to have you join us!” said Fara Natasha

Volunteers are welcome to join them in their social mission by registering here.