Mr Fong Yong Kian, Chief Executive, Tote Board
Representatives from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)
I am happy to be here at this year’s conference. We are all gathered today with one common goal. Now, if you are thinking that my next line is going to be about transforming Singapore’s non-profit sector – sorry to disappoint. This is not because I disagree or hold a contrarian view that there is a need to transform the sector. Especially as the issues facing us today become increasingly complex in the world we live in today. Ultimately, it is much more than transforming the sector – we are essentially talking about touching individual lives. Much like how superheroes go about saving the world, one person at a time. Mind you, I am using this metaphor of superheroes not from a perspective of condescendence, nor of a “big guy saves small guy” mentality. Superheroes nowadays also have their own struggles – think about our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman.
Solutions That Help Us Help One Another
2 As social issues become increasingly complex, it is crucial for us to collaborate deeply, leverage our assets and draw upon diverse perspectives and strengths, so that Together, Everyone Achieves More. This spells out the word ‘team’. Simply put, even superheroes need to work together. Spiderman cannot do things alone, and this is where the Avengers come in.
3 This means having the long-term commitment of stakeholders to work on a complex issue, zeroed in on a shared mission. We jointly measure outcomes, take collective actions and decisions.
4 The theme of this conference, “Solutions that help us help one another” shines the spotlight on mutual aid in the community. Mutual aid could take different forms, but essentially it means the community coming together to self-help. Mutual aid can be among people in informal and ground-up initiatives, and it can also take place in partnerships involving the public, private and people sectors. It can also come from the recipients of aid themselves.
(i) Informal and grounds-up initiatives
5 During the pandemic, we saw how the community rallied amongst themselves to form informal grounds-up initiatives.
• In Singapore, our national hobby is eating. At the height of the pandemic, many formed Facebook groups featuring struggling hawkers and restaurants organically. I too did many Instagram stories to feature different hawkers in Queenstown to remind my Instagram followers to please support local.
• Now, another silver lining from the pandemic was that we became concerned with, not just what we were putting in our mouths, but also what others were putting in their mouths. In fact, whenever others do not have something to eat, many stepped up to deliver food and necessities to those who are in isolation or lonely seniors who could not quite help themselves during the restrictions.
Now, there are many efforts such as these in our communities. How do we then tap on these synergies and make a collective difference in someone’s life?
(ii) Partnerships among the public, private and people sectors
6 In gist, partnerships between the public, private and people sectors is crucial. The Government is transforming the way we work with community groups to deliver social services through ComLink. We proactively reach out to families with children in rental housing, our Social Service Offices work closely with Social Service Agencies, ground-up community groups as well as corporates to identify the families’ needs and curate programmes to meet those needs.
• For example, we have TOUCH Community Services’ Young Arrows Club which provides weekly tuition programmes and character development activities for children.
• Prudential Singapore has also joined us on ComLink with their Cha-Ching financial literacy programme which instils sound financial habits in children.
• Besides programmes, the families are also supported by volunteer befrienders who journey with them as they seek to overcome barriers and achieve their aspirations.
• We are also working with over 50 partners in our Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (PEERS) Network to empower, facilitate, and support community partners to help rough sleepers and homeless individuals. All 50 partners are united in one common mission – that is, to help our rough sleeping friends and homeless individuals with their challenges.
7 All these examples I’ve quoted showcase the potential of collaboration achieving collective impact. We want to harness such untapped energies of empowered communities. There are many platforms that can bring people together to start and spark change, and develop solutions.
• Design4Impact, co-organised by NCSS and MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation, is one such platform. It brings together individuals and community groups with a wide range of skills and backgrounds to co-create solutions to social challenges.
8 Partners need capacity, capability and resources to undertake deep collaboration and develop sustainable solutions for the long term
• At the Design4Impact innovation platform, participants learn user-centred and design thinking skills. If you have an interest in social issues and are keen to learn new skills, do look out for the call for registrations opening later this year.
• NCSS has also announced the upcoming 4ST Partnership Fund to support initiatives with collaborative, innovative and empowerment approaches, to strengthen social service delivery. Social purpose entities can look forward to tapping on this fund next year.
Re-imagining a Stronger Social Compact
9 It is in this same spirit that DPM Lawrence Wong launched the Forward Singapore exercise – so that we as Singaporeans can be part of refreshing and updating our social compact.
10 Quite simply, our Social Compact are the very reasons why we come together as a Singapore society. What sets us apart from the rest of the world? What values do we subscribe to? In any society, there will always be some who, for a variety of reasons, get the short end of the stick and end up in unenviable positions as the less privileged. While there is no shame for each society to feature the low-income, what course of action each society takes, chooses to take or not, defines the moral fibre of its people. And I believe that the hallmark of Singapore society is not just that we will spare no effort to leave no one behind, but that in doing so, especially as we forge ahead for the nation’s next lap – it will be an effort that will be all hands on deck. That, I am certain of.
11 So the question for us is - how might we, as leaders in our own sectors, engage and empower our communities, to become owners, contributors and co-creators of public good?
12 Today’s conference is a great starting point, and an important platform for dialogue and learning between the 3P sectors. On that note, I thank the Tote Board and IPS for their great work in bringing together a diverse line-up of speakers to share insights while we build meaningful networks and connections.
13 In closing, I would like to leave everyone with a challenge “How can we, as respective avengers, do better for those that we serve. How can we do so in a way that builds upon and strengthens everyone’s assets and capabilities?” On a parting note, “with great powers come great responsibility”.
14 May the force be with you for this conference and beyond. Thank you.