Dear A Good Space,
How are you?
It is your second birthday today and what a journey we’ve been on together since that humid evening on 31 March 2020 when you were formally incorporated around 6.20pm.
As that Calvin and Hobbes’ quote goes:
The other day, I had a dream for what you might be in 2030, when you are 10 years old. I woke up and wrote down what I could remember in my journal. Here’s what I wrote:
In 2030, you’d be able to deploy coordinated teams of active citizens to assist the government to respond to social issues in a way that has impact, similar to how Tzu Chi Foundation can deploy volunteers to do complex humanitarian aid work.
You’d encourage Singaporeans to be a ‘network of spotters’ – to surface information on anyone who’s suffering or falling through the cracks. And if they wish to help, they have access to your community of changemakers who are more than willing to help as volunteers, resource persons, share ideas, etc. By 2030, you will be known as a community to go to for support for anyone wishing to give back to society by leading a project.
You’d also look at systemic changes that take time. You dance with complexity, which shows up in the many different stakeholders you can bring together to act, despite the differences they may have. You are skilled at the art of convening them for societal transformation.
By 2030, you would have pioneered a form of consulting that is different, that is not just ‘a group of really smart experts come together to frame and solve a problem’. You are supported by a set of structures and rules that help you to harness the diversity of many changemakers, without descending into chaos.
By 2030, you consistently produce innovative ideas that are incubated within your community and launched by your members. You are able to sense-make not just current trends, but emerging trends and issues and put these out as opportunity statements to mobilize your members or other Singaporeans.
You play the role of a responsible advocate, finding that delicate balance between open-ness and resolution. You advocate in a generative, not destructive way. You continually seek to improve systems, while being able to sit with the variety of emotions that come when you do so – anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness or even grief. You have the capacity for social-emotional leadership.
Several of your members might have become Parliamentarians, like how Anthea was as a Nominated Member of Parliament, bringing the voice of citizen changemakers into the hallowed grounds of Parliament.
You are able to receive funds from a variety of sources – citizens who donate to you to support the vision of active citizenry you are trying to foster and companies who sponsor you to create meaningful programs to expose its staff to issues and create more enlightened CSR projects – what if CSR wasn’t a department anymore but seen as a HR function?
Funds also come from the government / formal agencies who see you as a valuable partner in engaging and mobilizing citizens to act in ways that go beyond providing immediate relief or volunteering; towards a more participative democracy.
Funds also come from schools who sponsor you to create deeper, more meaningful and life changing programs for its students; to show them that there are other ways of being besides chasing accomplishments.
Funds also come from consulting revenue, where governments or societies across the world engage you to share your processes, to help them with a particular issue or to foster a culture of active citizenry.
By 2030, you are a vibrant physical space, like a clubhouse for good. In fact, you are Singapore’s first clubhouse for good, with exchanges and links to changemakers in other countries and from around the world.
If one were to walk down your corridors, they might see a group of students talking and fiercely debating a project to develop an app for youths in Singapore with special needs, whilst arguing over how it is different from the other apps in the market.
One might see another group of changemakers, slightly older, planning a policy recommendation paper for the SG Green Plan 2050. Or they might see another group of women being led in a safe space to talk about their grief from a pregnancy loss.
They might even see seniors from the neighbourhood tending to the garden, watering the plants and participating actively in discussions, sharing their life experiences with the different groups.
By 2030, you are the sum of all your interconnected relationships, woven finely by the structures and community guidelines you have in place to make you resilient and ready to deploy your changemaker members, when Singapore needs us.
You are something that Singapore can be proud of and tell the world about; that besides a world-class airport, a world-class financial and banking system, we have a world-class citizenry, nested in a world-class co-operative.
But I know none of this is guaranteed…
There may be harsh storms ahead that we cannot see. Storms that may threaten to blow you away before you have a chance to grow into a solid, stable tree providing shade for different communities in Singapore.
While I know that community grows at its own time and cannot be rushed, how I wish you can grow up faster.
How I wish I can see you become what you are meant to be, now.
They say that in life, it is possible to play the perfect game, to make no mistakes; and still not succeed.
Yet I take solace that in the impermanence of life which we have no control over, fate brought us together in this community of changemakers. And that we tried our hardest to support each other and collaborate for this home we care so much about.
Wherever the future takes us, I know I’ll be forever proud to say, in the words of the eminent 20th-century philosopher Winnie The Pooh:
Happy birthday A Good Space!
P.S: To our 5 other founding members:
Anthea, Tines, Abhishek, Melissa and Evelyn.
Our 29 members:
Wan Ting, Ibnur, Ranga, Yuan Long, Dean, Keith, Adrian, Ash, Velda, James, Douglas, Zhong Han, Kian Beng, Michael, Sherman, Ding Jie, Louis, Michelle, Bill, Leon, Jennifer, Justin, Christine, Rayner, Daniel, Lily, Ningpei, Yihan and Vincent Chong.
And our staff team members that have contributed in the past year:
Melia, Vandhana, Amanda, Nurul, Melodie, Amos, Canice , Shermaine, Jo-Ann and Remi.
Isn’t it also funny that sometimes when we embark on a changemaking journey, we are passionate and want to create social change. But often, we find that it is us who has been changed?
This one is for you.
For because of you, I have been changed, for good.
Happy birthday to us! 🎂