On 11 August 2015, SIM University (UniSIM) hosted a public lecture by Professor Herman B. Leonard, a prominent thinker in the fields of business management, corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, and lecturer at Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Entitled "What's New About the Strategy For Non-Profit Organisations?", the lecture's focus was on the various trends and challenges that impact leadership and management strategy of non-profit organisations (NPOs).
Organised in partnership with the Social Service Institute, and National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, the lecture drew an overwhelming attendance of more than 200 people. Besides UniSIM students and staff, and members of the public, many leaders of Singapore's NPOs, including that of the Singapore Cancer Society, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore International Foundation (SIF), Tote Board, St Luke's Hospital and AWWA, also attended it.
The event kicked off with a welcome address by Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, Dean of UniSIM's School of Human Development and Social Services, who also introduced the Master of Non-Profit Management programme that would be launched by the University in July 2016. He highlighted that the programme would cater to niche leadership needs within Singapore's non-profit sector by providing application-based leadership training with an emphasis on social leadership that is forward-looking.
Professor Leonard's lecture provided fresh insights on how developing trends in corporate social responsibility, social impact investing and non-profit governance present challenges to modern organisations in driving social change while ensuring the sustainability of NPOs. He underlined the importance of never losing sight of the original problem which an organisation was set up to solve. Here, he introduced the concept of "Question Zero", a reasoning process that leads managers through a chain of "whys" and answers until they clarify the exact thing they are trying to accomplish. Professor Leonard explained that because corporate philanthropy has evolved beyond a "charity for charity's sake" mentality, it is crucial that NPOs adopt a purpose and performance orientation – one that combines good business practices with the creation of social impact. Professor Leonard also pointed out that, unlike the private sector, the non-profit sector is constrained by a lack of risk capital and governing support in engaging in risk-seeking exploration and rapid experimentation – a key challenge that will continue unless something is done about it.
The lecture was followed by a rigorous question-and-answer session that was moderated by Mr Anthony Teo, co-founder of Harvard Singapore Foundation (HSF) and Emeritus Governing Councillor of HBS Alumni Governing Council (Boston). Interesting issues raised include whether the business principles inherent in social impact investing are contradictory to the social values upheld by NPOs, and how governments and organisations can encourage a culture of risk-taking and exploration in the social sector.
This lecture was supported by UniSIM's Social Resilience Enhancement Fund, which was set up in 2012 with an initial donation of $500,000 each from UniSIM and HSF. The fund has not only provided study sponsorships for students in UniSIM's "helping" professions programmes, viz., Counselling, Gerontology, Social Work, and Community Leadership and Social Development, it has also enabled the University to bring in scholars and experts in these fields for the benefit of the "helping" professions.
Professor Herman B. Leonard delivering his lecture.
Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong introducing UniSIM's new Master of Non-Profit Management programme that
would be launched in July 2016.
A member of the audience raising a question.
Hosts and guests at the lecture: (from left) Mr Jack Sim, Founder of World Toilet Organization;
Ms Jean Tan, Executive Director of SIF; Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong; Professor Tsui Kai Chong, Provost of UniSIM;
Mr Anthony Teo; Professor Cham Tao Soon, Special Advisor to the SIM Governing Council; and Professor Herman B. Leonard.
(Right to left) Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President of UniSIM,
presenting a token of appreciation to Professor Herman B. Leonard.