The Philip Yeo Initiative (PYI), an initiative that invests in the next generation of leaders who will Make a Difference and Change Our World (MAD COW), celebrated its 5th anniversary on 22 March 2019. Over the past five years, a total of 18 individuals have been named PYI Associates and PYI Fellows under this initiative.
The PYI is a ground-up movement, administered by NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS), to honour a unique MAD (Make A Difference) leader, Mr Philip Yeo, and to create a platform for him to develop people and talent. It was initiated in 2013 by several proteges of Mr Philip Yeo who have benefitted from his unique leadership style and mentoring. In turn, they aspired to build a new generation of MAD COW leaders who, like Philip Yeo, are passionate and committed to causes they wholeheartedly believe in.
There are two focal programmes under the PYI. The Philip Yeo Innovation Fellows Programme supports passionate individuals (i.e. PYI Fellows/Associates) with funding of up to S$20,000, mentorship and guidance from Mr Philip Yeo and his protégés, who are themselves leaders across various sectors, as well as networking opportunities with relevant contacts. The other focal programme is the Philip Yeo Grant, which comprises bursaries to students on the NUS Overseas Colleges programme, where passionate entrepreneur-aspirants are sent to entrepreneurial hotspots around the world to intern at startups while studying part-time at partner universities. More than 100 students have been supported under this programme, with grants to help defray their living expenses while allowing them to participate in entrepreneurial activities in their respective locations.
More than 200 guests attended the PYI 5th Anniversary cum Fundraising dinner, including Mr Philip Yeo, the PYI Committee members, Associates and Fellows, Grant awardees, donors, partners and the larger PYI community. The event celebrated the growth and achievements of the PYI Associates/Fellows — youths who took on the path less travelled — impacting society through the themes of “using design, arts and technology to do good better”, “building a more compassionate and inclusive Singapore” and “bringing people together to build a common future”, as well as Grant Awardees who were MAD enough to venture out of their comfort zones to explore possibilities.
As guests arrived at the NUSS Kent Ridge Guild House, they were treated to an exhibition through which the PYI Associates and Fellows, as well as PY Grant Awardees, shared their motivations and dreams for SG100.
The exhibition also highlighted some of the unique features of the Philip Yeo Initiative, which includes:
- Valued as Individuals — PYI invests in people, not in projects. Selected for their grit, character and their drive to Make A Difference, Fellows and Associates remain supported by the programme regardless of the success of their initial projects.
- Mentors Who Guide with Head and Heart — The PYI Committee personally mentor the Fellows and Associates to help them on their projects and also develop as individuals. They also help to open doors for PYI Fellows and Associates through their extensive international and local connections.
- Belief in the MADness — The PYI Committee believes in the dreams of their MAD COWS and offers individuals customised support, based on the PYI Fellows and Associates’ needs — whether it be funding, guidance, the right introduction or simply just showing the belief that they can achieve their goal.
The dinner commenced with a Taiko Drumming performance, choreographed by PYI Associate Wang Junyong, founder of Mangrove Learning, a social enterprise that develops programme to engage the vulnerable community. Performed by the PY Grant Awardees, PYI Associates/Fellows, mentors and Mr Philip Yeo himself, the performance draws upon the drumbeat, metaphorical of Philip Yeo’s MAD leadership style, and the passing of the drumsticks from Philip Yeo and the mentors to the youths (through the actions of “passing the baton”) to symbolise passing of the leadership to the pioneers of the SG100 generation.
In the opening address by Ms Chong Siak Ching, PYI Committee Chairman and CEO, National Gallery, shared the inspiration behind this initiative. “While we had set up the Philip Yeo Initiative to support and develop change-makers of tomorrow, we in turn, find ourselves energised and inspired by the PYI Innovation Associates/Fellows. They are taking the road less travelled. We are heartened by the different ways they want to make Singapore and our world better. We admire their tenacity and grit as they face and overcome tremendous challenges. They reaffirm the fundamental belief we have — that the people who are MAD enough to think that they can change our world are the ones who do,” she said.
During the welcome address by Dr Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise, she shared the background on how this initiative was mooted, and stories of its beginnings. She also urged for guests, many of whom are prominent members of society that has experienced the Philip Yeo’s style of leadership, to step up as volunteers to become mentors or resource persons for Associates and Fellows.
As part of the fundraising effort, there was a live auction of three gorgeous artworks, the Saurus Crane and the Spotted Owl — two photographs graciously donated by Mr. David Lim, and the Bedecked Camel And The Feisty Female Herder, a beautiful hand-painted drawing donated by former NUS President, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan. Through generous participation by the guests, the three pictures managed to help raise additional S$4,300 for the PYI Endowment Fund.
One of the segments of the event was a sharing of seven special programmes by PYI Associates/Fellows, to rally the guests to sponsor for a good cause. For example, with a donation of S$500, children from low income families, currently under the existing Early Learning Programme, can attend add-on enrichment workshops, to gain exposure to art, drama and music, science and technology, and more. Another example is a programme by PYI Associate Ellwyn Tan (NUS and NOC alumni), whose cause is to provide basic digital literacy for unemployed youth who lack the skills for employment in entry-level jobs. Each donation of S$500 to his programme would put 20 beneficiaries through the Internet Core Competency Certification (IC3) Global Standards 5 (GS5) Program, which teaches latest concepts and skills in Computing Fundamentals, Living Online, and Key Applications, to provide his beneficiaries a kickstart to a career in Information Technology.
The night ended with a cheque presentation of over S$500,000 raised to the National University of Singapore, for the Philip Yeo Initiative Endowment Fund. The funds will be put towards the grooming of the next generation of leaders, to grow the spirit of MAD COW (Make A Difference, Change Our World) through the Philip Yeo Innovation Fellows Programme and Philip Yeo Grant.
In his closing remark, Mr Philip Yeo thanked everyone for their generous support, and called for more volunteers who wish to help out as potential mentors in developing the young leaders.
The key to any successful organisation, any country — is talent! Their background does not matter. Some people bloom later. If you are willing to sweat it out, you can rise. I believe in nurturing people. Talent can be groomed.”
— Mr Philip Yeo