Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at the Project Reach conference. It is always very heartening to see our youth come forward to take action in meaningful ways. For that to happen, effective platforms to harness the energy and exuberance of our youth are necessary. Project Reach is a very good example of such a platform.
Since 2008, Project Reach has helped to empower our youth to make a difference in Singapore. Through these years, Murdoch University, SMa and the Social Services Sector have maintained a strong partnership to grow Project Reach from strength to strength. This project has provided the youth with a platform to translate classroom learning to real life situations. While being directly involved in strategizing for their Social Service counterparts, these youth have gained invaluable knowledge on the landscape of the sector and have also bestirred themselves to further some of the sector’s causes on their own accord. The participating organizations have also gained through the exchanges with the students in understanding the benefits of good communication in championing causes.
I understand that prior to today, a panel discussion was held by Project Reach with members of the diplomatic and academic community, and representatives from the media, non-governmental and corporate organizations. It was held to demonstrate the need for a meaningful and effective exchange with stakeholders to achieve strategic engagement. It has also provided a platform for the experts to share their views on how to effectively engage the public through the strategic use of New Media in communication approaches. And these could be translated into solutions to some of the challenges faced by the Social Services Sector today in engaging their stakeholders such as beneficiaries, donors, volunteers, and employees.
Challenges Faced by the Social Services Sector
The Social Services sector today faces several broad challenges such as a need for greater public-private-people partnership, and a call to be creative and nimble to better meet the needs of their stakeholders. Voluntary Welfare Organisations have to enhance its capacity development for greater sustainability and constantly make plans for leadership renewal. They also need to collaborate closely with other organisations, share and deploy resources to provide better-coordinated services. As VWOs tackle these challenges, I believe that our youths can take ownership of some of these challenges and contribute to the social service agencies in a tangible manner. These solutions demonstrate the value of youth participation and involvement in creating positive social change.
Youth Involvement in Social Services Sector
I am thus, very heartened to know that in recent times, there seems to be increasing efforts by both students and schools in these disciplines to engage directly the social service sector. Our students and schools are becoming more concerned about the work that benefits the society at large. They are thinking out of the box and understanding the opportunities made available by partnering new organizations and sectors. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Blessings in a Bag, and Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore had each adopted the plans put forth by the students of previous batches.
In this respect, I would like to take this opportunity to applaud Murdoch University and SMa for incorporating such meaningful work into the students’ practical curriculum, and look forward to more of such win-win initiatives in the future. This increasing engagement by students and schools is a good sign, as in reality, VWOs often face challenges of limited philanthropic resources. The combination of effective communication plans and a heart for meaningful causes is a good recipe for increased sustainability of the sector as a whole.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Strategic Engagement”. This is a very pertinent issue for the social services sector: in the fast evolving communications landscape, how do we develop sound strategies to reach out to and engage our stakeholders? Today, we celebrate the hard work and efforts by many of our young undergraduates who have worked with 11 VWOs to develop their strategic communication plans. To these students: congratulations! I believe that you have learnt a lot in this journey, and have provided the VWOs with much useful input.
Let me cite briefly an excellent example from last year’s Project. ‘Causathon’ was implemented by a group of students to raise funds for 14 causes in Singapore. They started out with a Zero-dollar budget but had managed to raise a total of $15,000 in a span of two weeks, all with the help of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter where they campaigned online by putting up creative messages to create awareness. This effort is commendable and I am sure I will see more of such ideas and even better ones being conceived this year.
I also hope that your relationship with the VWOs does not end here, and that you will continue to work with them to benefit the community, in either a personal or professional capacity.
Finally, I would like to commend all the students here for their effort either in planning the conference, or in working with the VWOs. I am confident that this conference will help both students and VWOs undercover many useful perspectives on Strategic Engagement.
I wish you all a fruitful conference ahead.