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Launch of Building All Groundups for Success Together

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law at the Launch of Building All Groundups for Success (BAGUS) Together

Professor Leo Tan
Chairman of OSCAR Fund Grant Committee, Temasek Foundation

Mr Tony Soh
Chief Executive Officer, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre

Mr Tan Choon Shian
Chief Executive, Tote Board

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


  1. A very good evening to all of you. I am very delighted to launch the Building All Groundups for Success Together. From a long phrase, we can turn it into BAGUS. It is an excellent acronym that aptly describes not just the work that groundups do, but also the impact they made on the ground.
  2. Groundups Contribute by Meeting the Needs in the Community

  3. In my very first speech when I first came to MCCY about three years ago, I spoke about how Singapore is like a rich tapestry.
    1. Each of us in our own way represents one little thread. On our own, very thin, fragile, and of one colour. But together, we are strong in strength, interwoven, rich in colours, and blessed with tremendous diversity. This is our Singapore Tapestry.
    2. All of us contribute to and we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. As part of this Tapestry, our collective efforts will make us stronger than the sum of our parts. And that is the very ethos of why we had come together to make BAGUS Together happen – ground up, from the ground, for people around us.
  4. When people come together to do something good for the community, it is not just the local impact that we make, but the longer-term, sustainable and ripple effect that can be felt.
    1. This is why although many groundups might be small, just starting out, and informal in nature, I believe they can still create a tremendous outsize impact.
    2. Take for example, Her Rise Above. I just met them outside a while ago. I had the pleasure of speaking to its co-founder, Ms Sapna Kewalramani earlier. Her groundup helps women who are juggling their home-based businesses while facing their own issues – looking after children, seniors, or are full-time caregiver – but have some time on their hands to run their businesses. Her Rise Above helps them turn that little skill into something bigger than themselves, making an impact on society. Her Rise Above also play the role of volunteer mentors in coaching and journeying with the mentees as they grow their fledgling home-based businesses. If you have a chance, I encourage you to go out there and look at their products. The products look professional and well marketed.
    3. Over time, the mentees do not just gain a skill. They also gain something more important – value and dignity. This is the whole essence of why we step forward to impart, through mentorship, value lessons via skills. More importantly, Her Rise Above nurtures the confidence of the mentees and their families in the strive to uplift themselves, stand on their own two feet, recognise that they can do it, and achieve resilience in the long-term. All this, individually and eventually collectively, makes for a stronger community that we call home, we call Singapore.
    4. This is a good example of how a groundup initiative can create a real and positive social impact, beyond the individuals that we helped.
  5. Another advantage of groundups, as we heard from Tony earlier, is that they are all very nimble – they move, evolve and react to ground needs very quickly.
    1. More than 100 groundups were formed in 2020 alone, tackling a myriad of community needs, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This statistic alone heartens me. It tells me that during times of need, as we were in 2020, more people stepped forward as they realised that when we have more, we give more. Those that needed help can benefit from those in society who are more blessed.
    2. Ms Zulayqha Zulkifli and her siblings started Project Hills at the onset of the pandemic to distribute daily necessities to families in rental communities. If you cast your mind back to 2020, something that was as simple as daily necessities was not so simple. It was not easy to go out and buy them. It was also not easy to look after a family, especially in a rental community. She observed that families had diverse needs which sometimes large-scale support might not be able to cater to.
    3. This is something that is a reality on the ground, which you need to be on the ground in order to appreciate it. We have sometimes very big-scale projects, such as food distributions, but there are cracks in the ground that we sometimes missed out. Groundups are nimble, more effective, have a better sense of the network, are plugged in, and able to serve those which the bigger projects might have missed out.
    4. Project Hills strived to provide not just necessities, but customised necessities for each families’ specific needs. A family with elderly would have very different needs from a family with young children. Challenges faced by families, especially in rental blocks where school-going children were not able to be in school and not able to do home-based learning, required customised services and necessities.
  6. Initiatives like Project Hills can help address the unmet needs of particular groups, needs that broad-based policies and programmes – whether by government or by non-government organisations – cannot easily, or sometimes just fail to cater to.
  7. But beyond meeting specific community needs, the act of simply coming together, serving others, forging connections between those stepping forward and the people they serve.
    1. They send a very powerful message that we are all part of the same community, all part of the same world, all in the same place, all striving for the common aspirations, wanting to achieve a common destiny and more importantly, that we are doing this together.
  8. Break The Cycle is a groundup co-founded by Andrew Ong and two of his friends to help those who were incarcerated.
    1. As an ex-offender himself, Andrew wanted to help ex-offenders reintegrate successfully back into society. Those of us who had worked with the Yellow Ribbon project or ex-offenders will know how important that is. It is in fact more important than what you might do, the lessons you might learnt while incarcerated, to ensure that you reintegrate successfully. Andrew sought to provide ex-offenders with a community network when they are released, that could support them in their transition.
    2. Using cycling as a starting point, Andrew and his co-founders built a cycling community which ex-offenders could be a part of. Today, Break The Cycle has a membership base of 20 members, with a mixture of non-ex-offenders and ex-offenders amongst them, successfully integrating them even as they pursue the activity they love –cycling. They all enjoy their cycling rides around Singapore, enjoying the different corners of Singapore on their bikes. This is something that I can really resonate with.
  9. According to the inaugural Groundup Initiative Study 2023 by NVPC, there are an estimated 450 groundups in Singapore today. This reflects the passion, the belief and the vision of many Singaporeans seeking to create a better home for us and collectively a better future for us all.
  10. We want to encourage groundups in the good work that they are doing.
  11. Supporting Groundups in their Journey

  12. To better support groundups, NVPC has put together resources in a handbook entitled “Leading from the Groundup”.
    1. This handbook draws on the findings of the Groundup Initiative Study 2023 and consultations with more than 200 groundups. It includes valuable experience sharing and tips from other groundup leaders.
    2. For the groundups who are thinking of starting out or just starting out, the handbook also offers a comprehensive guide on identifying areas of focus – what are the areas of focus that you can think of – how to rally support from volunteers, and perhaps most importantly, for a nascent or a young new groundup, how to get resources.
    3. For groundups looking to scale up, the handbook also provides useful frameworks to guide the growth of the organisation, such as in the areas of organisational performance, the importance of gaining momentum and traction, and how to manage your growing number of volunteers.
    4. These resources will hopefully enable groundups to establish strong foundations and ensure that they get the base right, so that their influence and impact on society can be exponential.

    Tripartite Collaboration to Build a Strong Groundup Ecosystem – An Illustration of Forward SG

  13. But we all agree, and that is why we are here, that we can do even more to help our groundups thrive even more, serve even more, and make a bigger impact.
  14. This is why NVPC and its partners, Temasek Foundation and Tote Board, have come together to launch BAGUS Together. This initiative will support and strengthen our groundups even more by connecting them with like- minded partners, to share resources and in tandem, grow their capabilities together.
  15. All three founding members of BAGUS Together – NVPC, Temasek Foundation, and Tote Board – are no strangers to the groundup landscape. In fact, they are no strangers to the community and social work landscape. They had been contributing tremendously in their own ways. They realised that by coming together, they can power up. They can collectively be better than the sum of three.
    1. Temasek Foundation, through its OSCAR fund, provided groundups with the resources to address specific community needs.
    2. Tote Board saw the need for a comprehensive understanding of the groundup landscape, to understand what this means, who they are, who are they serving, where is the volunteer pool coming from, and hence funded NVPC to do the Groundup Initiative Study 2023 that I spoke about.
    3. NVPC, on its own part, had connected groundups to potential funders and facilitating partnerships via its Groundup Central platform.
  16. All three saw the opportunity to come together in the same space to work together to build a strong groundup ecosystem. This is a testament to the Tapestry analogy that I had brought up earlier. All three coming together, lending weight to one another, seeing things with a slightly different lens on different issues by coming together for the greater good.
  17. BAGUS Together will support groundups in a few ways. Let me just share them briefly.
    1. NVPC, Temasek Foundation, and Tote Board will aggregate their existing programmes and resources to provide one-stop support to the groundups.
    2. They will tap on their respective networks, and they have large extensive networks, to recruit potential partners to contribute to the groundup ecosystem.
    3. They will also develop resources and programmes for groundups which are at different stages of development, recognising a new groundup will need different guidance, resources, and skillsets from one which has already been established in the community.
      1. For instance, there will be workshops to guide interested changemakers who are yet unsure of how to start their own groundups.
      2. Mature groundups, on the other end of the spectrum, can also benefit from workshops and advisory services to help them scale up and strengthen their capabilities to serve a broader landscape.
  18. Indeed, all of us in this room, outside, and all of Singapore, can do something for the groundup. There is nothing too small as a contribution. We can all contribute to a vibrant groundups ecosystem. How do we do this?
    1. Simply by putting your hands up, offering your time, talents or treasure,
    2. Providing your ideas to shape the strategies for BAGUS Together,
    3. Collaborating with the groundups to organise joint programmes, or
    4. Contributing funding, networking, or simply volunteering.
  19. I encourage everyone to lend your support, no matter how big or small, to our groundups under BAGUS Together. Your support will enable the groundups to better serve our communities. And give even greater momentum to the SG Cares movement to build a far more caring and inclusive Singapore.
  20. Conclusion

  21. So as I close, I want to make two points.
  22. One, to once again express my appreciation to NVPC, Temasek Foundation, Tote Board, as well as the many other partners who had made this initiative, BAGUS Together possible.
  23. The second point I would make is to the groundups. There is a reason why its ground and up. I think you have to scale up, that is the up, but at the same time, you must remain grounded, because that is where you get your strength. To be grounded, to understand the people you serve, to understand the communities you live in and are a part of, and scale up your reach more exponentially. I think that is the magic formula of the groundups.
  24. Once again, congratulations, thank you very much to all the ground uppers who had stepped forward. You have lent us your energy, time, talents and treasure. More importantly, we want to move this movement forward. So that it becomes not just a volunteer of time, but it becomes a mindshare shift, that we understand this as an ethos for us in Singapore. That when we say we want to build a Singapore tomorrow that is truly inclusive, accessible, and caring, that we do not just trot this off as a mantra, or as a nice phrase, but we actually do this as a deed, as a guiding principle for us in Singapore.
  25. On that note, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year. BAGUS Together is really wonderful initiative which I encourage all of you to share this to as many people as you can, in your community, in your own network, and in your circle of friends, to build BAGUS Together even more. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 19 January 2024