News & Events


SEC 2017: Meet International Guest Speaker – Tong Yee, The Thought Collective

The international guest speaker at the Social Enterprise Conference 2017 is Tong Yee, a prominent social entrepreneur from Singapore who has been steadily growing his social impact work from as early as 2002.

Beginning his career as a teacher in the public school system, Yee left the public service to start no less than five successful social enterprises, grouped together as The Thought Collective.

As a firm believer in using the strength of market forces to drive sustainable social impact, Yee has learnt deep lessons in striking a very fine balance between keeping to his socially oriented roots yet surviving in a very competitive business environment in Singapore.

Ahead of the conference, Yee shares a few insights about the social enterprise landscape in Singapore and what he’s hoping Australian social entrepreneurs will take away from his presentation.

1. Since starting the Thought Collective, what have been the major challenges over the last few years?

The past 4 years have presented huge challenges to the financial sustainability of The Thought Collective enterprises.  The rise of large scale commercial enterprises as competitors, the need to attract and retain talent in the organization, designing effective remuneration for team members, embarking on businesses which tackle increasingly complex social problems – these have all taken a genuine toll on my values, optimism and even creativity.

In 2015, The Thought Collective was at its most precarious and faced a very real threat of closure. But the past 16 months have been a testament to how faith, friendship, study and continued boldness, were crucial levers in restoring the body of work back to health.

2. What are you going to share with us at the Social Enterprise Conference?

I’ll be sharing the journey in building The Thought Collective. Using my signature mode of engaging through story-telling, I’m keen to share the models that have allowed The Thought Collective to gain its initial 10 years of success, and then taking us into the next phase where new models had to be reintroduced to keep the work thriving.

Through these models I’ll cover concepts such as emotional capital, a core focus of the organization, responsibility as a critical component of effective innovation, and lastly the value of building strong intellectual capital and thought leadership within each member of the team.

3. What work are you currently involved in?

I sit on several national Singaporean committees spanning areas such as building trust for national defence, innovating youth engagement and development, building new spaces for community renewal, reviving the values in healthcare professionals, and redesigning the way Singapore teaches national education.  My experience allows me to seamlessly transition between individual experience and national significance.

4. What do you hope people take away from your presentation?

In sharing The Thought Collective’s experience I’d like to elucidate the unique predicament that Singapore is in, and why social enterprise, if it takes itself seriously, does not have the luxury to lean on government nor foundation support.

Given that the 21st century is presenting such complex challenges, I’ve actively pursued new learnings over the past 10 years and believe that the fields of Organisational Development (OD), ontological coaching, somatic training, narrative therapy, Experience Design (UX) and theatre, have profound impact in the way we can innovate our own social interventions.

With this in mind, I’m hoping to challenge your audience to make the bold steps to pursue new ways of seeing our own challenges, and exercising the necessary leadership to move our so-called mountains to achieve the outcomes that all of us desire. And sometimes doing that, requires us to untie ourselves from the models that simply no longer work.


Register now to secure your seat at the Social Enterprise Conference 2017 on Wednesday 21st June. Click here for full program and ticket details.