Inclusive Business Incubator

What is it?

What if the generous support, typically available to highly educated entrepreneurs to create innovative start-ups, were made accessible to disadvantaged groups?

Will they be able to develop and run viable businesses that generate financial security or even social change?

We intend to design and assess the feasibility of an ‘inclusive business incubator’ that include economically disadvantaged groups – possibly people with disabilities, ex-offenders and single mothers – to offer entrepreneurship training, business development, and start-up support.

The objective of the inclusive incubator/venture builder is to create viable businesses or new enterprises that contribute to the financial security of disadvantaged groups, as an alternative to the mainstay of job support and matching.

The venture-building process will go beyond the typical processes of ideation, business modelling, and enterprise design to include asset-mapping (to understand their strengths and interests) and social design (to create work conditions that suit their unique circumstances).

In addition, we think it might be useful to have a curated list of ‘business ideas looking for entrepreneurs’ so that participants can expand the possibilities they consider, and co-founder matching, where people with complementary expertise can explore partnerships.

Given that the concept still requires an extensive research and development process, apply to be an Action Fellow to co-design key features, assess feasibility, and put in place partnerships require to kickstart such an initiative.


Despite skills upgrading and job support programmes design to level up low-wage workers for better career progression, many are unable to qualify for training or even find time away from their existing work for such training.

Programmes, such as job coaching and work re-design, are implemented to encourage the hiring of marginalised groups in the hope that employers will see the business value and be willing to hire them.

Concurrently, there is ample funding and a supportive infrastructure for start-ups and social entrepreneurs.

What if some of such support is provided to communities who might most benefit from it?

What if we view people with disabilities and their caregivers, not as beneficiaries who need social services, but as potential entrepreneurs who just need to be given an opportunity?

What if single mothers and ex-offenders participate in hackathons and incubators, and can obtain business advice or mentoring from seasoned entrepreneurs?

Ex-offenders, single mothers, and people with disabilities may have challenges with traditional forms of employment because of their complex social circumstances. If there is work that allows them to address these issues while providing financial security, it may provide a more stable solution than focusing on helping them secure employment in the open job market.

Possible Approach

1. Research the demand, market size, and value

Map out the social and economic value of an inclusive business incubator and understand the demand, profile, and accommodation requirements of possible target participants.

  • Engage government agencies interested in creating employment for these target groups (e.g. SGE, MOM, RaiSE, Enterprise SG etc.)

  • Engage with SSAs that serve relevant target groups (e.g. disability, single mothers, ex-offenders etc.). Determining the kind of accommodations that various groups may need require to participate in the process (e.g., childminding service for single parents; people with disabilities can potentially participate as a parent-child dyad; weekends preferable for those who are working etc.)

2. Study the incubation process

Design and determine the key features of such an incubation process so that it can accommodate the needs of target groups and ensure ease of their participation.

  • Learning Journeys with local incubators, IHL enterprise offices or venture builders (e.g. Rainbow Centre’s Micro Business Academy, AMP, SUSS VB etc).

  • Environmental scan and consultation with overseas incubators (especially if there are any ‘inclusive’ ones).

3. Determine organizational forms and their participatory potential

Understand the affordances and tradeoffs of various organisational possibilities for the incubator itself, and what can maximise participation from relevant diverse groups of the community.

  • Map out the various organisational possibilities, and the affordances and tradeoffs (e.g. for-profit business, non-profit CLG, cooperative, a programme embedded in a larger organization or IHL etc)

  • Study decentralised decision making and dynamic governance models and their relevance

4. Determine budget size, financing model, and financial sustainability

Determine budget and resources needed to kickstart the incubator, whether it should be funded though philanthropic or government grants; a venture capitalist or impact investor model where some share or returns accrue to investors; microfinance and non-extractive business loans; pay-for-success model of social impact bonds; or crowdfunding though mass community support or donations.

  • Study participatory budgeting and crowdfunding platforms and their potential (e.g. co-budgeting)

  • Consult impact investors and philanthropic aggregators like Community Foundation Singapore etc.

5. connect partnerships and collaborations to achieve the aims of the incubator

Create a strategic plan, and propose a monitoring and evaluation framework for the initiative.

  • Articulate a theory of change, monitoring and evaluation framework and implementation plan.