Asia's Most Influential: Melissa Kwee, CEO of National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre
Melissa Kwee has a vision for Singapore: to be a city of good where help and collaboration is activated at every stratum of society, and where goodness is purposefully embedded in every organisation and company’s strategy rather than as an afterthought.
As Singapore learns to live with and eventually emerges from the pandemic, the CEO of National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) is focusing on the “re-imagine” aspect of its work. This includes developing a new paradigm for the live-work-play experience of migrant workers and getting the public, private and social sectors to collaborate on new emergent solutions to tackle complex social issues together under NVPC’s Colabs initiative.
She is also looking into the future of Giving.sg as an omnichannel giving ecosystem where every payment gateway would have a plug-in to give back.
“Giving can be part of our identities and how we live every day,” says Kwee. “Imagine with every purchase we could use APIs (application programme interface) to round up change into our chosen causes on Giving.sg, or we could use our core skills or company assets to make society kinder and more inclusive. There are so many possibilities!”
She has previously served as the chairman of Halogen Foundation and the president of UN Women Singapore (formerly known as Unifem Singapore), and currently sits on the boards of organisations such as Beautiful People, a community mentoring initiative that she founded, and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network.
Philanthropy should be a way of life that brings enormous joy. It will not be easy, there is plenty of heartache and headache too, but you must know that in the end, it is worth it.
“Singapore is an amazingly generous place and we just don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things that go right because we always focus on what’s wrong and not enough,” says Kwee. “During 2020, we discovered new leaders who arose to meet pressing needs, developed new partnerships and worked on new solutions to problems that were previously invisible, like food insecurity, the digitally disconnected and a donation-in-kind marketplace to get PPE and other supplies matched to those in need.”
She believes in keeping causes, and not people, in the spotlight. Constant research is also necessary for a proper understanding of the real issues and pressing needs at hand and what is emerging on the horizon. Only then can relevant solutions be derived. “Don’t make it about you. The winners in this space enable and empower others, and the best philanthropists use their resources and power to convene others and focus on the common purpose.”
( Related: Melissa Kwee to head National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre )
Her days may be packed but she tells herself to find joy daily—while getting enough sleep. “Philanthropy should be a way of life that brings enormous joy. It will not be easy, there is plenty of heartache and headache too, but you must know that in the end, it is worth it.”