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Building our Future Home with our Community, Corporates and Youths

Speech by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Minister of State for Trade and Industry at the Committee of Supply Debate 2023

Community – supporting community partners to build ecosystems with greater impact

  1. We are building ecosystems for impact together with our community, our corporates, and our youths. Please let me start with mental health and well-being.

    Mental Health and Well-Being

  2. We launched our SG Mental Well-being Network in July, to destigmatise, raise awareness of and drive partnerships on mental health and mental well-being. It is doing so in the following ways:
    1. First, it is helping remove the stigma for individuals to seek help. Last year, some members of this House and I shared our past struggles in a YouTube video called “99 Singaporeans sharing their darkest moments”. Now this was one of the Network’s contributions to a series of initiatives for World Mental Health Day 2022, which aimed to rally people to build a caring society for everyone, particularly those who are struggling.
    2. Second, the Network has started regular Partners’ Networking Sessions to share ideas and aspirations. 
    3. Third, the Network is working with our Health Promotion Board and National Youth Council (NYC) to fund and mentor 20 youth teams to tackle mental health issues in Season 4 of our NYC’s Youth Action Challenge.
    4. Fourth, the Network has set up six Mental Well-being Circles across Singapore. These Circles strengthen community and peer support by equipping volunteers with the skills to care for themselves and for others.  
  3. Last week, I met Mr. Kenny Sng, who is leading efforts to ensure grassroot volunteers can recognise and support those with mental health conditions in Bukit Batok East. He shared that his Well-being Circle is a key platform for his volunteers and leaders to collaborate with partners such as the Singapore Anglican Community Services, Club Heal and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).
  4. Over the next year, Kenny, along with 400 other trained volunteers and around 30 partners from other Mental Well-Being Circles, will continue to serve their communities. We will learn from these Circles and then scale up our efforts in other locations. 

    Racial & Religious Harmony Circles

  5. Similarly, our Racial and Religious Harmony Circles, previously known as IRCCs, have strengthened ties and built trust among our ethnic and religious communities. 
  6. Ms. Cheng Li Hui, Ms. Hany Soh and Mr. Xie Yao Quan asked about the progress and plans of our Harmony Circles. 
    1. We are just getting started. A key part of our refresh is to help our Harmony Circles digitalise and also diversify their composition, so they continue to be relevant and effective at fostering harmony within our communities, and we have a few encouraging examples. 
    2. Cik Fazlur Rahman leads Kembangan-Chai Chee’s Harmony Circle. He was actively involved in our IRCC Refresh Workgroup last year, and is working to make his Harmony Circle more digital and more diverse.  
    3. Eunos Harmony Circle leaders Nazath Faheema and Benjamin Tan are recruiting youths and equipping digital skills into their Harmony Circle. They recently used social media to urge their communities and the public to stay united following reports that several youths had been radicalised online. 
    4. We hope more Harmony Circles will follow in their footsteps. 
    5. Next month, more youths, females, and representatives from other religious and community organisations will start their new term as Harmony Circle leaders. They will receive training on mediation, interfaith and digital media. If you are a religious organisation or an individual passionate about interfaith and inter-racial work, please join our Harmony Circles.
  7. We will also dedicate July as our Racial and Religious Harmony Month from this year. Apart from celebrating Racial Harmony Day on 21st of July, our Harmony Circles and other community partners will organise activities throughout July to celebrate and promote racial and religious harmony. 
  8. Community initiatives like our Mental Well-Being and Harmony Circles need volunteers and coordination. Mr Mark Chay, Ms. Joan Pereira, Mr. Mohamad Fahmi and Mr. Xie Yao Quan asked how our SG Cares movement can help make volunteering more sustainable and effective.
  9. SG Cares Volunteer Centres coordinate efforts to channel volunteers and donations-in-kind to unmet local needs. In the past year, the total number of volunteers and beneficiaries grew by 67% and 50% respectively. This means our Volunteer Centres have engaged 45,000 volunteers and served 340,000 beneficiaries in the past year.
  10. We are working with the National Council of Social Service and Singapore University of Social Sciences to strengthen our Volunteer Centres, to help them better equip their community partners with capabilities in volunteer management, training, partnerships, digitalisation and communications.  
  11. We are also encouraging more professionals to contribute their skills and expertise, by engaging SG Cares National Intermediaries, across the legal, accounting, engineering, and chartered secretaries sectors.  
  12. Individuals, schools, and corporates who wish to volunteer your time and talents – please find out more at your nearest Volunteer Centre or on our SG Cares website.

    Corporates – supporting businesses to reinvest their efforts and resources into their employees, stakeholders, and our society

  13. Just as our communities are coming together for impact, our corporates are also stepping up.
  14. Corporate volunteering is on the rise. The median percentage of employee volunteering has increased from 25% in 2017 to 50% in 2021. Ms. Yeo Wan Ling asked about the take-up and plans of the Corporate Volunteer Scheme. From 2016 to 2021, businesses made 164 claims and took up about 4,700 volunteering opportunities under this scheme. 
  15. When I met Q&M Dental CEO Dr. Ng Chin Siau two weeks ago, he shared how his Cares Committee has launched multiple community projects, including working closely with the People’s Association to set up free dental clinics for the underprivileged. And he plans to do more. 
  16. Mr. Edward Chia, Mr. Mark Chay, Mr. Xie Yao Quan and Ms. Yeo Wan Ling asked how we are encouraging more businesses to get involved. This January, National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and the Singapore Business Federation Foundation launched the Corporate Purpose Framework and Blueprint. 
  17. This blueprint serves as a common guide for businesses to implement and track their progress in becoming a force for good in society. Thus far, 47 organisations have committed to our blueprint. In line with this blueprint, NVPC has also refreshed its Company of Good programme for companies. Mr. Edward Chia will be pleased to know that the programme will include aspects of employee well-being and that we are exploring how more businesses can adopt our blueprint’s goals with partners such as Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation.
  18. We have also enhanced the Corporate Volunteer Scheme, including expanding the scope of the scheme’s qualifying volunteering activities. And we hope that this improves adoption of the scheme and strengthens partnerships between corporates and Institutions of a Public Character.

    Mentoring SG

  19. Businesses can also contribute through mentoring. Last December, DPM Lawrence Wong and I launched the Mentoring SG movement, which builds upon our Mentoring Alliance for Action (AfA). Mentoring SG has gathered more than 1,000 mentors and 13 corporate partners, like Micron and DBS, to create over 4,000 mentoring opportunities.
  20. We are setting up the Mentoring SG Office to drive this work by growing expertise, resources, and mentoring opportunities at the national level. If you are a company leader, you can:
    1. Offer job tasters through NYC,
    2. Encourage your employees to sign up as mentors on, and
    3. Partner our Mentoring SG Office to contribute to our mentoring community, offer your venue spaces, amplification channels, and other expertise.
  21. Mr. Speaker, in Mandarin, please.
  22. 主席,所谓取之于社会,用之于社会。企业在兼顾生意的时侯,也应该主动承担起社会责任,共创一个和谐及可持续性发展的社会1
  23. 通过实践目标驱动型的企业模式并建立起一个督导的文化,企业将能获益良多2
    1. 例如,有越来越多的消费者选择支持那些能为广大民众,包括供应商和员工们,创造价值的企业3
    2. 那另一方面,如果员工知道公司不止为社会做出贡献还投资于自己的职业发展,而且又通过督导文化感受到前辈们的关爱和指导,大家其实会变得更有动力和生产力,也更乐意长期为公司服务4
  24. 我们明白,企业要改变现有的运营模式并不容易。但是,我们也见证了不少企业以身作则,以回馈社会作为企业发展的重心5
  25. 更重要的是,企业不需要孤军作战。我们鼓励更多的企业,包括中小型企业,与Mentoring SG办事处或是商会及会馆一同合作制定您自己的计划。我们也能一同讨论如何为社会做出更多的贡献6

    Youths – Supporting our youths to build the future by acquiring skills and experiences in renewed spaces

  26. Sir, in addition to efforts by our community and corporates, our youths are also playing their part. 
  27. Please let me elaborate how we are helping them to do, in Malay.
  28. Sepanjang pandemik, belia kita terkurung di rumah dan tersekat walaupun menghadapi masa genting di dalam zaman persekolahan atau permulaan zaman pekerjaan mereka. 
    1. Lantas mereka kehilangan peluang bersua muka mahupun merasai pengalaman aktiviti luar7.
  29. Disebabkan ini, kami memperbaharui ruang-ruang bandar dan alam semula jadi seperti “Kawasan Somerset” dan “OBS di Coney”, demi memberi para belia peluang menimba pengalaman hidup yang penting, memperluaskan rangkaian sosial mereka, dan menggendong peranan-peranan kepimpinan8.
  30. Ini akan melengkapkan usaha pembangunan belia program-program anjuran National Youth Council, seperti “Program Kepimpinan Singapura Kita” yang kini diperluaskan untuk melibatkan pemimpin belia yang lebih muda dari sekolah-sekolah MOE dan madrasah-madrasah sepertimana yang disebut Menteri Edwin Tong9.

    Somerset Belt

  31. Mr Chairman, our youths need space and programmes to do their thing. At last year’s COS, I shared how we have been gathering ideas from youths to transform our Somerset Belt to support their ground-up initiatives. 
  32. Through our Realise Your Somerset Project, or RYSP, we have supported 24 projects and reached out to more than 18,000 youths across different causes in 2022.
  33. Recently I caught up with Arthur Choo, whose RYSP project, Green Arena, promotes sustainable arts by building drums with repurposed materials. Green Arena has held virtual sessions and physical art installations and workshops at the Somerset Belt. And participants from Season 1 of the RYSP also returned as facilitators and co-creators at the workshops, sharing their experiences with later cohorts. 
  34. Mr. Baey Yam Keng asked for an update on the physical development of our Somerset Belt. This year, our youths will take greater ownership of the precinct and get to decide how it would look like, operate, and also develop future programmes. 
  35. Youths keen to shape this space and programmes at our Somerset Belt can check out our Youth Action Plan website  for more details soon.

    Outward Bound Singapore 

  36. Moving beyond our urban spaces, we are also creating opportunities for our youths to experience the outdoors together again.
  37. Many of us have been through an Outward Bound Singapore, OBS, programme many years ago. These outdoor adventure education (OAE) programmes build confidence and resilience. It also brings people of diverse backgrounds together, forging friendships while overcoming challenging outdoor activities. 
  38. Mr. Xie Yao Quan asked about our plans for OBS. We have resumed the five-day residential format of the MOE-OBS Challenge (MOC) programme for Secondary 3 students since January this year.
    1. Last month, I visited our OBS campus and joined students from Dunearn Secondary School, School of the Arts, and Westwood Secondary School in their land and sea activities.
    2. The students were tanned, sunburnt, exhausted but had great attitude! They enjoyed making new friends and overcoming challenges together as a team.
  39. We expect current construction works for our new OBS campus on Coney Island to be completed by 2024.
    1. This new eco-friendly campus will provide enhanced outdoor activities for our youths, particularly through the MOC programme, which aims to serve our entire cohort of 40,000 Sec 3 students annually. 
  40. As we resume OAE for our youths in their formative years, these spaces must provide a safe and enabling environment.
  41. That is why we set up the Outdoor Adventure Education Council in September. This Council will strengthen our OAE sector and support the development of safe outdoor activities.
    1. Since its inception, the Council has started work in three key areas: Standards and Certification, Professional Development, and Safety and Compliance. 
    2. This year, it will start developing a national OAE standards and certification scheme. It will also institute a risk assessment and management system to strengthen safety culture across the sector. 

    Conclusion – Supporting all segments of society as we move ahead together

  42. Mr. Chairman, during my recent visit to OBS, I climbed a 20m Inverse Tower. It is taller than 20m suggests. While I appeared confident on the outside, in fact I was very nervous! 
  43. Fortunately, I had two impressive youths – my climbing buddy and belayers Xara and Nadia. Their support and encouragement enabled me to climb the tower. 
  44. Leaving Pulau Ubin inspired by our youths, I hope our community partners and purpose-driven businesses will also inspire our youths to become community and corporate leaders and make their mark in our renewed youth spaces. 
  45. Like how Xara, Nadia and I conquered the Inverse Tower as a team, I believe that when different groups of our society join our unique strengths together, we can play our part to move Singapore forward, and upward together. 
  1. [Translation In English] As the saying goes, “What is taken from the community is given back to the society”.  While pursuing business interests, businesses should also proactively undertake social responsibility to co-create a harmonious and sustainable society.

  2. [Translation In English] Businesses can benefit from adopting more purpose-driven models and establishing a culture of mentoring.

  3. [Translation In English] More consumers are choosing to support businesses that generate value for the wider community, including their suppliers and workers.

  4. [Translation In English] Staff, on the other hand, become more motivated, productive, and stay longer with their companies when they know that their company is making an impact on society and investing in their growth. This is especially when senior staff care and look out for their younger colleagues as part of the company’s mentoring culture.

  5. [Translation In English] We recognise that it is not always easy to shift existing business practices. But we have seen how many different businesses have risen to the occasion, to become purpose-driven and contribute back to society. 

  6. [Translation In English] More importantly, businesses don’t have to do it alone. We encourage more companies, including small and medium enterprises to convene to discuss how to contribute more, collaborate with the Mentoring SG Office or work with the trade and clan associations in developing your initiatives.

  7. [Translation In English] The pandemic confined our youths to their homes during key life stages such as their schooling years, or when they first joined the workforce. It also caused many to lose opportunities to gather in person and experience the outdoors.

  8. [Translation In English] As such, we will renew our urban and natural spaces such as Somerset Belt and OBS@Coney to provide youths with more opportunities to gain important experiences, grow their networks and take on leadership roles.

  9. [Translation In English] This also complements our youth leadership programmes organised by NYC, such as the Our Singapore Leadership Programme which has been expanded to include younger youth leaders from MOE schools and Madrasahs, that Minister Edwin Tong spoke about.

Last updated on 06 March 2023