SINGAPORE: The SGfuture engagement series has wrapped but its purpose goes beyond providing feedback for the Government to make policy changes, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Aug 8).
Instead, it should spur a movement where Singaporeans come forward to co-create the future that they want, Mr Chan added.
The minister was speaking to reporters on Monday following the launch of the SGfuture report, which documents how Singaporeans have worked to turn their dreams of the future into reality.
"The report is less about policies, but what people are coming together to do - and that's the direction we want to take in future. It's not just about the Government taking feedback, listening to it, and changing policies - that part we will continue to do. But it's also about people coming together to work on solutions together," said Mr Chan.
He co-chairs the SGfuture engagements with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
NO LONGER JUST A CONVERSATION
The minister pointed out that what sets SGfuture apart from its predecessors, like the Our Singapore Conversations, is that the former is now a call to action. "It's not just about a dialogue or conversation, but it is a movement to create the capacity for us achieve together," he said.
In order to do this well, Singaporeans need to come forward to work on projects that matter to them. Government agencies must then cultivate the instincts, and have the processes in place, to involve Singaporeans in the co-creation process as it also reinforces a greater sense of ownership in Singapore's future.
They must also reach out to groups they have not engaged before - a "critical" move, said Mr Chan - so that they too can participate in building Singapore's future.
"Singaporeans are more educated; we want to have a greater say in shaping policy and making decisions - whether at policy level or local level that affects my environment. I think that requires all of us to have the ability to take in pluralistic views, be able to trade-off, and be able to come and say: 'Yes, this is what we agree together', and take joint responsibility for the decision," said Ms Fu.
She also emphasised that co-creating Singapore's future is a process and some areas will lend itself more naturally to this. Other sectors may require more time, depending on the nature of the issues and the readiness of the agencies involved, she added.
A national movement that was borne out of the SGfuture sessions is SGCares - which will rally Singaporeans to help those in need, particularly the elderly, the disabled and children from disadvantaged homes. This will involve three ministries - the Health Ministry, the Social and Family Development Ministry, and the Culture, Community and Youth Ministry - working together.
Since the SGfuture engagement series was launched in November 2015, more than 8,300 people have participated in 120 sessions. More than 60 project ideas mooted during the SGfuture sessions have been implemented, with more than 1,000 people who participated in the dialogues working on these projects.
GREATER SUPPORT NEEDED FOR GROUND-UP INITIATIVES: EXPERTS
Following the release of the SGfuture report, some sociologists said it is heartening to see that many projects reached out to all segments of society. They said this reflects a community that looks out for one another, and progresses without leaving anyone behind.
They believe more support should be given to such ground-up initiatives.
Said the National University of Singapore's (NUS) vice-dean of special duties and international relations, Professor Paulin Tay Straughan: "The takeaway from this to all Singaporeans is if there is something that you are concerned about, do something about it.
"Perhaps then, the official reaction and response should be - when young Singaporeans or Singaporeans in general have a pet concern that they want to champion - then provide them with the infrastructure support and help them to advance their aspiration."
Prof Straughan said Singaporeans can no longer solely depend on the Government as that will not be a sustainable growth model. Instead, it is important for Singaporeans to step up.
"When you are talking about a maturing young nation like Singapore, what is important is for us to grow stakeholder responsibilities, and to empower every one of us to believe that we have a role to play; we have responsibilities to discharge and we should all step up to these callings and most importantly, work together," she said.
Another sociologist said this can be done by starting small, as even the smallest of projects can inspire others.
"So long as we can refresh it with new ideas, with new people and also good succession plans. Obviously some projects may just fizzle out, but I think many of them will be successful. So long as we have people who are still motivated, still enthusiastic about what is going on, I believe that it can hold for the long term," said Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser, from NUS' Department of Sociology.
Assoc Prof Tan added that as people forge social ties and connect with one another, this will collectively hold the nation together.