By Lira Low Roberts
Together with AkzoNobel Decorative Paints and the Asia Centre of Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy - NUS, Qi recently hosted a well-attended forum at the National University of Singapore Business School on 19 August 2011.
With Kristine as the moderator of the two and a half hour session, Qi brought together AkzoNobel's Tex Gunning (Member of the Board of Management and the Executive Committee Responsible for Decorative Paints), Jeremy Rowe (Managing Director, South East Asia & the Pacific), Antonio Meloto (Founder of Filipino NGO Gawad Kalinga) and Prof. Albert Teo (NUS Business School) for a discussion on Sustainable Practices For Our Future: Not Business As Usual.
The Hon Sui Sen Auditorium was packed out by noon when Tex Gunning opened the discussion with a short trailer on Dulux's "Let's Color" campaign around the world. Following this Tex shared what AkzoNobel is doing to colour our world - through service to others, derived from a sense of passion in one's work. Tex has been the inspirational driving force behind employee retreats and trips to places where AkzoNobel has offered their assistance in development. Bringing colour to communities in need has brightened up moods, given residents new hope, and changed perspectives of what the communities can become.
Jeremy Rowe picked up where Tex left off by discussing the work that AkzoNobel has done for Singaporean communities, most notably having gathered their employees for a painting project at the Thye Hua Kwan Hospital in Ang Mo Kio, which specialises in rehabilitation. Patients undergoing physiotherapy in rehabilitation efforts now have a colourful reason to smile about, and staff at the hospital face a very different environment when they start work each day.
Next up to the stage was the charismatic founder of Gawad Kalinga, a Filipino NGO that is both fiercely proud of its heritage, as well as its mission to lift Filipinos out of poverty through national development, starting with the slums of rural areas. Qi 2010 speaker Antonio Meloto has gone from transforming one massive slum, Bagong Silang, to dozens of others around the Philippines, into new fresh communities with improved housing, sanitation, education, employment and most importantly, dignity. Antonio spoke about these model communities, some of which received help from AkzoNobel through the painting of their walls with an innovative paint that actually cleans the air! Whole walls become giant air filters. A baffling idea whose innovation doesn't fail to impress and attract attention.
And for both parties, this represents Business Not As Usual. Business doesn't just have to be about the profit margins of endless ceilings and routine products. Business can and should be about filling the needs of our present and future, executed with a real heart for change where everybody benefits from the use of a product.
Not to be outdone, Prof. Albert Teo finally took to the stage and shared his more academic findings on the definitions and differences between Social Enterprises and Businesses. Social Enterprise, with no globally accepted definition as yet, has increasingly filled the space of need between private and public, coming in when perhaps neither traditional companies nor the government has the means for a solution.
So should social enterprises be the way to go for all businesses in the future? This question and many more were asked by the audience throughout the discussion via a most innovative conference Q&A tool, PigeonHole Live. Developed by a small team of local Singaporean social entrepreneurs at PigeonLabs, PigeonHole Live allows the audience to pose questions via the web or text message throughout the conference from the comfort of their chairs, eliminating the need for messy mics being passed around or mic monopoly from more outspoken individuals. Other members of the audience vote on the question they would most want answered, and what emerges is a clean, easy-to-read layout of which questions were the most popular. This was projected on two big walls at the venue for the audience to follow. When it was time for Q&A, Kristine used an iPad on hand to access PigeonHole Live and handpicked several questions for the speakers. It was perhaps, the most futuristic and inclusive conference experience yet.
AkzoNobel then unveiled their latest offering in the form of an online community for socially-conscious netizens. We are 9B is a reference to the fact that the world's population is projected to reach 9 billion in 2050. With such overcrowding becoming a reality in a number of decades, we need to find sustainable solutions now in order to ensure the survival of resources for the future. We are 9B also hosted a physical concept at the NUS Business School where blackboards were left with chalk for anyone to fill out what their ideas were for the planet to survive. Visit the We are 9B website to find out more about the latest community news. Finishing the session, a lucky draw ensued with prizes such as Ethletic Sneakers, Solar Mobile Chargers and the top prize of a ticket to the Qi 2011 conference, Designing Asia 2.0 worth SGD$2995. It was an afternoon's discussion that was certainly, not as usual.