The Enabler: Dave Lim


[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]s a student in Temasek Junior College, Dave Lim started a magic club and organised a full-scale magic show on campus. He didn’t know any magic tricks, but he knew a schoolmate who did. Today, the 48-year-old puts together talks on topics spanning poetry to public policies.

He is not an expert on any of the subjects, but he enables those who are to reach others, by giving them a stage through TEDxSingapore, an independent, local event styled after TED Talks. Even in his day job, Lim brings people together for a bigger cause.

His corporate innovation company, Ideas Worth Doing (a spin on TEDx’s tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading”), helps to bring innovative conventions and conferences to Singapore – such as Wisdom 2.0 Asia, focusing on mindful leadership, and Unreasonable Sea in 2013, a global entrepreneurship experiment that puts tech-entrepreneurs and mentors on a ship sailing to 13 countries to work on social and environmental challenges.

Getting people to share their talent and expertise seems to be a constant in Lim’s life. And it’s not just because he wants to learn. As a venture capitalist and economist, he sees the need for Singapore to move towards an idea-driven economy and society. “We used to trade commodities, now we trade ideas. The intangibles are even more valuable than the tangible.”

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

These factors led him to take up the licence for TEDx for Singapore, when the founders reached out to the global community to take the initiative worldwide. Since 2009, the TEDxSingapore community has grown from just over a thousand to some 70,000 local followers. “If you include the overseas followers, we have about 100,000,” says Lim. TEDx was held last month at Nanyang Technological University to an audience of 1,700 – a scale larger that TED Talks. This year’s speakers include global health expert Hans Rosling, who entertained as much as he enlightened the audience on global population trends, social activist Melissa Kwee and tropical disease scientist Thierry Diagana.

“People love TED because it gives them an avenue to express and explore what they like,” says Lim. “As for me, I love all topics! But the magic happens when I connect the dots while listening to different speakers, come up with an idea, or realise a commonality between fields. These unexpected connections, ideas and inspirations are the wow moments for me, and what drive me.”

Young, Not Punk: Rebekah Lin


[dropcap size=big]B[/dropcap]ullied for being an awkward kid in primary school, ostracised in Raffles Girls’ School as the delinquent with mediocre results, and raised in a well-off family, Rebekah Lin – the daughter of Andy Lim, founder and chairman of private equity firm Tembusu Partners, and former member of Parliament Lim Hwee Hua – could have become an apathetic rich kid with no love for society. Yet one would be wrong to take the 30-year-old with a devil-may-care attitude for yet another self-absorbed millennial.

She would rather talk about social work than herself. The founder of 50 for Fifty, a youth engagement movement started last year with a focus on helping lesser-known charity organisations, rationalises how negative experiences have put her on the path of social work. “When you have been marginalised, you develop a sense of empathy and are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes better.”

Singer Nathan Hartono in 'The Glass Box Challenge' to raise funds for 'Very Special Arts Singapore'
Singer Nathan Hartono in ‘The Glass Box Challenge’ to raise funds for ‘Very Special Arts Singapore’

Her formal introduction to social work came in 2011. The Yellow Ribbon Fund committee was looking for a young member to make the cause more relevant to the youth and Lin’s father volunteered her. “The experience made me realise that giving and helping others is something in my nature. It also helped me see that there are people in very difficult situations and drove me to think of solutions.” Her past experiences with missionary trips and volunteering as a photographer for World Vision, which took her to places such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia, also opened her eyes to solutions that have a immediate impact on the community – such as building a school within a village, in order to minimise the risk of sexual harassment for girls taking a long journey just to attend class.

Taking these lessons to heart, she has dedicated much effort to making an impact through various initiatives.

Lin manages her family’s Jia Foundation that supports charities such as the KK Hospital Health Endowment Fund and projects in Cambodia. On top of that, though, she has co-founded an in-home reading programme for children from disadvantaged families, started consultancy firm Chloros Solutions that offers green technology solutions, and formed The Social Collaborative, which organises 50 for Fifty. Last year, the 50 for Fifty charity drive saw 50 young people raise $3.5 million in three months.

This year, instead of just raising funds for charities, she wants to create projects that can be sustained even after the latest run of the charity drive, which was launched in July, ends in March next year. Under this initiative, Samsui Supplies and Services – a Soup Restaurant subsidiary – has outsourced foodpacking jobs to the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

Lin says: “Wherever you are in life, whatever your skill sets, you can make a difference.”