Meet Jack Sim, Social Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

September 30, 2011 | By More

Jack Sim, the founder of the other WTO at the GCL@NUS talk on 30 Sept 2011

Sitting through Jack Sim’s presentation is an experience.

Here is a social entrepreneur extraordinaire who has shaken hands with royalty and presidents (presumably after having washed them first) and his whole talk is sprinkled with toilet jokes!  After all, he is the founder of the World Toilet Organization.

His achievements are numerous, having first single handedly created and built WTO (not to be confused with the other WTO, World Trade Organization) with mostly other people’s money and resources.  He also created the SaniShop, a social franchise provided free to entrepreneurs to give business opportunities and employment as well as make toilets more affordable.

Together with the World Economic Forum, he founded the BoP Hub, a social entrepreneurs platform to provide goods and services to the 4 billion poor people earning less than US$2 per day at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP). He stresses that just because they are poor does not mean they have no money to spend. The problem is most often they are ignored.

Closer to home, he help found a 10 acre outdoor eco-education center to bring back nostalgia and the soul of what Singapore village life was like in the 1960s – Kampung Temasek – in Johore. The goal is to provide a space that youth can learn about nature, culture, heritage, entrepreneurship and many other subjects by doing. All powered by volunteers.  (Read here about Kampung Temasek.)

Plans are also being put in place for building a World Toilet Museum – at other people’s expense. He described that the idea came up through a casual conversation when he was visiting Hainan (who did not have enough tourist attractions and offered the land), and later found a Finnish architect who offered to do the design.

From above, the proposed World Toilet Museum will look like 3 overlapping toilet rolls

Jack explains his secret – OP – using other people and their resources: money, talent, authority, time, power, brand and aligning them into an interesting package where all can win.  There is very little that you need if you don’t let fame, ego, money and status get in the way.  He cheerfully explains that he has built all his social organisations by using mostly other people’s money (some of his own), and with a lot of humour, humility and humanity.

Of course, he smiles, he did make some previously to allow to sustain himself.

To help others, we first need to understand ourselves, he points out. What are you here for? He asks. Does it matter that you came and went?  Decide on something you can do before you die. Give it away. Go with a smile. Nothing matters.

The key are your beliefs, your purity of thoughts, then their interests and values and how you are interested in their interests to engage their participation and in doing so, enable the synergies together. If you can do that, almost everyone will do it for free, which is what he finds. Make them leaders and owners of the agenda, design self-sustaining models and make it trend. That allowed WTO to be promoted everywhere, even in the Russian Space Station!

Kampung Temasek, the School of Doing

His parting advise is: Be Moral. Be Ethical.

If you are, breaking a few rules now and then may be necessary to make progress. There is no need to try to be right all the time. Experiment. Be Creative. Synergise.

Don’t let the naysayers discourage you.  They often hide behind good intentions like helping you do a SWOT analysis or telling you to be realistic.  If someone says you are crazy or dreaming, take it as a compliment.  Believe in yourself.  Learn to be able to differentiate between Courage and Recklessness.

Finally, be happy, and have confidence in what you want to do.  And Jack Sim is.

Thanks, Jack.

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Category: Social Responsibility

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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

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