Organisational progress with a bias for action
Year of set-up: 2015
Market(s) based: Singapore
Markets active: Singapore, Southeast Asia
Key Impact Areas: Social Mobility, Global Health and Development, Climate Change Action
Partners include: Social purpose entities, research institutions, educational institutions, etc.
Networks & Memberships: AVPN, Asia Philanthropy Circle
Setting Up: From a donor-advised fund to a philanthropic foundation
The principals of Quantedge Capital, a fund management company, initiated their philanthropic activities in 2011 driven by a desire to share the organisation’s success with the communities they work with. The team embarked on their giving journey by establishing a donor-advised fund (DAF) with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). Given that they were new to philanthropy, the team beneﬁted from CFS’ support in recommending and conducting due diligence on potential grantees and managing partnerships, whilst they gathered knowledge about the sector, studied the unmet social needs, and developed their own giving strategy.
As Quantedge’s philanthropic resources grew over the years, the principals of Quantedge Capital decided to institutionalize their giving by establishing an independent charitable organisation, Quantedge Foundation (Singapore) (QFS) in 2015. This would serve as the platform for further developing their organisational capability and capacities. During the start-up phase, the team beneﬁtted from the many exchanges with other actors and funders in the ecosystem, who generously shared their diverse experiences, insights and lessons learnt.
QFS is registered as a charity and has been an approved Institution of a Public Character (IPC) since 2016. As an IPC, QFS’ work is wholly focused on charitable causes in Singapore. QFS supports a wide range of charitable causes in Singapore, with a strong focus on improving upward social mobility for children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Separately, Quantedge Advancement Initiative (QAI) was set up in 2020 as a grant-making charity to support Quantedge Foundation’s broader philanthropic goals. QAI’s focus areas are in global health and development, and climate change action across Asia and beyond.
Programme Strategy: Building on data and core values to inform initiatives across cause areas Quantedge Foundation believes in impactful giving and supports initiatives that address the social challenges of our generation. Beyond a data-driven mindset and approach, two cornerstones that deﬁne its giving strategy are i) deepening its understanding of the underlying issues of social challenges and the local operating environment, and ii) identifying innovative ideas and programmes with potential for scalability and long-lasting social impact. Collaboration and partnership is key, undergirding the team’s work in curating, designing and/or supporting the diﬀerent programmes and research projects the Foundation has undertaken.
In Singapore, QFS’ current focus is on improving social mobility, in particular, equalising access to opportunities for children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The team has invested time to understand the issues more holistically, such as the driving forces of social mobility and the needs and aspirations of the communities it serves, in order to develop a working hypothesis of what could make a meaningful diﬀerence. It has also been proactive in initiating conversations with the relevant stakeholders to spearhead new approaches, and working with them iteratively to reﬁne the initiatives as they are being implemented. Through leveraging its strategic networks, QFS seeks to raise awareness of the issue of social mobility and galvanise change across the social sector. In the same vein, QAI is looking to build its understanding of the operating environments beyond Singapore, starting with Southeast Asia. Being new to international giving, QAI seeks to do so by leveraging its partners’ ﬁeld presence and ground insights across various geographies to ensure that its resources are deployed eﬀectively. Across its programmes, Quantedge Foundation applies its core values of collaboration, innovation, inclusion, and integrity in its mission to achieve the largest amount of impact per dollar spent.
Key Learnings: Adopting a multidisciplinary, action-biased approach
While Quantedge Foundation has a bias for action, the team also believes in patience and embraces an approach of continual review and regular course-correcting. Two key learnings that inform this process include:
Adopting a multidisciplinary approach
The team applies a systems lens to understand the communities it serves so as to ensure that its programmes are relevant to the communities’ needs. The team works with partners and collaborators both within and beyond the social sector, as they recognise that a multidisciplinary approach can accomplish more in addressing complex social issues where there is no silver bullet. Where relevant, the team engages data managers/researchers, technology experts and players in other disciplines to assess the team’s working hypotheses, validate assumptions or prototype/iterate interventions.
Be action-biased, then adapt
While the Foundation seeks to be evidence-informed in its strategies, it is willing to take on calculated risks with innovative and untested approaches. It is not deterred from supporting bold ideas with some risk of failure, especially if the outcome is potentially transformative. Rather than hold oﬀ on giving until the best idea emerges or the evidence is clear, the team is prepared to start small and experiment to demonstrate the viability of new ideas to potential partners and other stakeholders. It journeys with programme partners, working with them to reﬁne their strategies and plans along the way and to take proven ideas to scale, adapting as the needs of beneﬁciaries or operating environments change. This ﬁne balancing act between a bias towards action, and a drive towards continuous innovation and improvement over time is key to achieving longer-lasting, systems-level change.