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Social entrepreneur residencies and impact research collective – Two ideas to support the arts

In our latest Giving Guides to the sports and arts sectors in Singapore, Just Cause identified a wide range of exciting and untapped opportunities for private donors. Since launch, we’ve been privileged to have many further discussions and feedback from practitioners and funders. In this blog post we’d like to highlight two ideas that garnered particular excitement in the Singapore context.

We are actively looking to progress these from idea to execution, so stay tuned – and get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.

Social Entrepreneur in Residence

Credit: TheSpaces.com

Artist and writer residencies are commonplace amongst arts organisations. Such programmes are recognised for their transformative potential, offering artists time and space to hone their craft.

Even as artist residencies gain traction in Singapore, however, the sector finds it increasingly difficult to develop sustainable revenue streams. With rising competition and grants increasingly tied to hard-to-measure impact metrics, the day-to-day problem of funding can drain arts practitioners of creative energy and distract them from their purpose of creating high-quality art.

Enter the social entrepreneur in residence. The idea would be to match-make a high-potential social entrepreneur with an existing non-profit, with the explicit mandate to develop and pilot sustainable business models, for example setting up a profit-making sister entity to cross-subsidise the non-profit. As with artist residencies, a full-time funded residency would enable the social entrepreneur to wholly dedicate his or her energies to this problem. The social entrepreneur would benefit by plugging into an established organisation and network with a clear purpose, allowing them to get hands-on experience and maximise potential impact from the get-go. In turn, arts practitioners would be freed up to focus on artistic endeavours.

The worlds of social enterprise and the arts each brim with passionate, purpose-driven individuals with deep entrepreneurial and creative talent. We believe there is great potential to be realised by bringing these complementary skillsets together.

Arts for social good – building an evidence base of impact

Credit: Both Sides, Now

Art has exceptional power to generate dialogue, channel emotions, and bring people together – in other words, to be a tool for social good. In Singapore, organisations like ArtsWok are spearheading the movement to harness art to specifically realise social goals such as community development, with programmes such as Both Sides, Now and The Greenhouse Sessions.

Though on the rise, arts for social good remains nascent in comparison to traditional social and community programmes. Impact measurement can also be particularly tricky for arts projects, where social benefits are often more subtle and qualitative. Yet an arts-based approach can open refreshing ways of tackling old social issues – for example, addressing stigma through a play rather than a series of talks.

We believe that a more nuanced, evidence-based understanding of arts’ social impact is needed to realise the full potential of arts for social good programmes. Research into the contexts and situations in which arts-based approaches are particularly well-suited to achieving social impact would be invaluable input for arts and non-arts organisations alike in their programme design. Just Cause is exploring opportunities to work with others to further this evidence base and establish a common language and framework for social sector organisations to collaborate with socially-oriented artists.


Read the full research report on giving to the arts and sports sectors here. Once again, we want to hear your suggestions as we work on turning these ideas in reality, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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