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Working together for a Caring and Inclusive Singapore

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the NVPC Giving Matters Forum

23 January 2018

I’d like to acknowledge

Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairman of NVPC
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good morning to all of you. It really warms my heart today to see so many of you dedicating your time and your resources, your attention to making Singapore to the vision that Melissa has described earlier – a City of Good where people will come together, look beyond ourselves, our constraints and look at the possibilities of so many talents and people around us. I’m very heartened to hear what Melissa has described that you really have to unlearn to learn, and I’m here to unlearn myself to learn from all of you.

Why We Promote Giving

2. What will make Singapore a City of Good?  It must be one where all of us play an active role in building a caring and inclusive society. This is our shared vision for Singapore – a place where we look out for one another, reach out to those who are less fortunate, and stand together through good and bad times. 

3. I read somewhere and I was very touched by that paragraph about what defines a city. It’s really not how we celebrate success but how we look at people who are less successful, and also how the successful will bring their resources, their network, their ability to bear to look after those who are less successful than us. So building this more caring and inclusive society actually starts with each and everyone of us – do we take an interest in those around us; do we reach out beyond our usual circles, do we pay attention to those different from us? According to our surveys, 8 in ten Singaporeans believe that we are a caring and cohesive society. One in two Singaporeans are interested to volunteer their time for various causes.[1] One in three volunteered; and amongst those who volunteered, one in three did so regularly.[2] I think we’ve come a long way to see volunteerism rate going up, people volunteering regularly, more of them coming forward to give their time but it also shows us the potential, how much more that we can do with the other half is not yet interested to volunteer and the other two-thirds that have not yet volunteered. So there is certainly potential for more Singaporeans to step forward, particularly those between 25 and 34 years in age.[3]

4. One of the reasons why we promote giving is that it bridges social divides and makes our society strong. It is important that Singaporeans progress together. We must not allow uneven economic growth to cause divides amongst us. A recent IPS study found that respondents were typically less able to name someone from a different school background or housing type.  We tend to keep company with those of similar background and that’s quite natural but while there will always be fault lines in any society – whether it is race, religion, nationality or socio-economic status, family background –  we must be mindful not to let these fissures widen, or our social fabric will slowly unravel, and we lose a shared sense of responsibility for each other.

5. What can we do about it? The same IPS study shows that social capital grows when people participate in sports, arts and volunteer activities, in addition to their interactions with peers in schools and workplaces. Those who participate in sports and cultural activities are between 1.5 to 2 times more likely than non-participants to have diverse networks. Those who volunteer their time to help others are between 1.4 and 3 times more likely than non-volunteers to have contacts from different groups. Through volunteering, connections are made that transcend differences.

6. At the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, we have been working hard to nurture social cohesion by facilitating shared experiences and strengthening bonds within and across communities. We believe that this forms the foundation of a strong, caring and inclusive society.

Working Together: The SG Cares Movement

7. This is also why we need to grow SG Cares together. SG Cares is a nation-wide movement to encourage and support Singaporeans to better help those in need, and ensure that no one is left behind.  

8. One of our major focus areas is in bridging the gap between demand and supply in volunteerism and social services. NVPC and NCSS have done much work in this regard. In the past year, NCSS has been restructuring volunteer roles and strengthening volunteer management capabilities in many social service organisations and this has created new volunteering opportunities and improved service delivery.

9. NVPC is building networks of volunteers through multiple platforms. Launched in May last year, its Company of Good Fellowship seeks to develop a community of corporate leaders who provide strong leadership and advocacy for the sector. Its annual Giving Week mobilises individuals, companies and non-profits to come together to do good. It recently launched Ground-Up Sandbox to connect tertiary students who wish to start ground-up movements to resources and mentors.

10. I urge all of you to come on board and partner us in the SG Cares movement. Social problems these days are more complex. No one person or organisation can solve them alone. Through partnership and collaboration, we can achieve more together.

11. An example of corporate and community partnership is Samsui Central Kitchen, the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) and various companies, I believe some of them are the suppliers and partners of Samsui. They came together to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates through F&B training. Samsui trains the inmates in culinary skills and provides employment opportunities; SCORE selects the inmates, while the corporates provide sponsorship and volunteers to deliver the cooked meals to beneficiaries from Touch Community Services, Salvation Army and Peacehaven Nursing Home. The partners were able to leverage on each other’s strengths and resources to deliver effective solution and create an impact.

Philanthropy

12. Aside from volunteerism, another key aspect of giving is philanthropy. Through charitable giving, we are helping by making more resources available to those in need. On-line fund-raising, in particular, has grown in size and popularity. In 2016, 28% of Singaporeans donated online, as compared with just 8% in 2014.[4]

13. The Government is supporting charitable giving by developing a well-governed and thriving charity sector, with strong public support. Earlier this month, the Parliament passed the Charities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to strengthening governance of fund-raising in response to trends in charitable giving. You must be wondering why is the Minister talking about governance in a forum that’s promoting collaboration and charitable giving and charities. I think it’s important for all who receives public monies to understand the responsibility it places on us. It only takes one or two missing steps, dishonesty that will totally damage the public trust in the sector and that will hurt everybody in the sector. So we want to encourage the sector by first laying strong foundation on what we do with, to and account for the money that we raise.

14. I am pleased to announce that the Commissioner of Charities has co-developed an industry Code of Practice for Online Charitable Fund-raising with four key crowdfunding platforms in Singapore, and they are Give.Asia, Giving.sg, The Ray of Hope Initiative Limited and SimplyGiving. I am glad to see the support for this Code, which is made available on the Charity Portal from today. The platforms are working towards complying with the Code’s principles by the first half of this year.

15. Under this Code, the crowdfunding platforms will assess the legitimacy of the appeals by verifying the identification of fund-raisers and the needs of the beneficiaries. They will also ensure transparency on funds raised by providing regular updates, as well as providing information on fees charged. Fund-raisers using their platforms will be required to declare that they are aware, and abide, by the Charities Act and fundraising regulations, such as the duty to make accurate representations to donors, maintain proper records of donations, and to use donations according to the intended purpose.

16. Donors, too, must do their part to hold fundraisers accountable, by asking questions on the bases of the appeal before exercising their generosity. This underscores the need for co-regulation, where everyone has a part to play in encouraging safer online giving.

Conclusion

17. Finally, I hope you will find today's forum an opportunity to learn, discover and find new partners to expand the giving space.

18. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the SG Cares Carnival two weeks ago, our forefathers survived the early years by caring and looking out for one another, and built the Singapore we have today. We must continue in this spirit of working together to engender a caring society where no Singaporean is left behind. I would again like to just express my gratitude to all of you here. We are deeply grateful for the time and work and heart that you pour in, the sweat that you give to the purpose that you believe in to really make Singapore the vision that we all want to have. You are the backbone to the City of Good. You lay the foundation, the connectors among you would be the one who cement all parties coming together.

19. But I think most of all, besides the hardware, we need the heartware and that is where I think your care, your love, the soul that you bring into this movement is something that’s irreplaceable by government policies. And that is why in this movement, it can never be one that is led by the government. It must be one that’s led by you that is co-created by you because you provide the soul of the city and I love this quote in this journal very much. It says, “when you do things with your soul, you feel a rhythm moving in you, a joy” and I think I speak for many of you here when I say that I am sure the work that you do has brought many rhythms to your heart. I hope that you continue to do that so that your energy and your motivation can be felt by so many more out there. Thank you very much for your contribution.



[1] In 2017, the MCCY Social Pulse Tracker shows that 77% of the respondents agreed with the statement that Singapore is a caring and cohesive society. 49% of the respondents expressed interest in volunteering their time for various causes.

[2] Based on NVPC’s Individual Giving Survey 2016, the volunteerism rate was 35%, among which 64% volunteered occasionally, 19% volunteered monthly, and 16% volunteered weekly.

[3] Based on NVPC’s Individual Giving Survey 2016, the volunteerism rate among respondents between 25-34 years old was 29%, as compared with the national average of 35%.

[4] NVPC Individual Giving Surveys 2014 and 2016

Last Updated: 23 January 2018

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