On 18 February 2023 (Saturday), A Good Space Co-operative (AGS) gathered a group of 30 changemakers at WeWork Funan, to discuss the following four pillars of the Forward Singapore (ForwardSG) exercise: Equip, Care, Steward and Unite.
Hailing from all walks of life, these changemakers immersed themselves in vibrant and deep discussions. They actively contributed their insights, and ideated numerous actionable partnerships for the 3P (people, private, public) sectors — all of which were captured in a report submitted to the ForwardSG secretariat.
The afternoon of much dialogue and laughter was the culmination of preparations that had begun two months prior, as part of a productive collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
Read on to find out how we designed the event, and what happened on the day itself!
Tapping on our unique strengths as practitioners of changemaking
AGS invited eight changemakers from within our network to facilitate the small group discussions, and they were intentionally selected for the relevance of their work and lived experiences to the respective ForwardSG pillars:
• For the Equip pillar, Louis Puah from Praxium, and Sherman Ho from Happiness Initiative
• For the Care pillar, Toh Kian Beng and Lai Si Yu from The Ubuntu Space
• For the Steward pillar, M. Ibnur Rashad from GUILD and Lee Zhong Han from We Tell Stories
• For the Unite pillar, Chua Ningpei from IAMinVISIBLE and Saw Moses Aung from AGS
At the time of AGS’ ForwardSG dialogue, almost 14,000 Singaporeans had already been engaged through 140 prior dialogues. To add value to the ForwardSG movement, we wanted to intentionally discuss topics that might not have received as much attention in these preceding dialogues.
Meeting through Zoom and discussing asynchronously, the facilitators — all changemakers in their own right, with a personal and close reading of the pulse on the ground — ideated, rephrased and refined their respective discussion questions:
- • Equip Pillar: How might we shift the mindset of parents to cultivate better wellbeing for students and teachers?
- • Care Pillar: How might we better support caregivers, especially those from disadvantaged families or those caring for vulnerable persons (e.g. differently-abled, in recovery from mental health condition)?
- • Steward Pillar: How might we pave the way for founders, funders and the 3P sectors (public, private and people) to work better together in environmental action, while balancing economic needs?
- • Unite Pillar: How might we improve migrant-local relations to create a Singapore where everyone feels belonged, to ensure Singapore’s continued stability and prosperity?
All questions started with “How might we…” in order to invite conversations that led to ideas for action.
Breaking the ice
Being a co-working space, WeWork Funan welcomed our attendees into an atmosphere of collegiate productivity. Warm hugs, smiles and laughs were shared, as the changemakers recognised each other from past engagements.
Jeffrey Ong, from the SG Partnerships Office, got the ball rolling with a progress update on ForwardSG, and explained why, even post-Budget, feedback gathered from ForwardSG was still going to reach key parts of the Public Service and political leadership. Attendees were assured that their perspectives would contribute to the final ForwardSG report in the second half of 2023, and that there were numerous avenues for them to take action, in partnership with the government.
Vincent then set some ground rules for respectful conversations, introduced the facilitators, shared the schedule, and explained what a successful dialogue would look like: share ideas, connect with potential collaborators, and contribute to a report that would form the basis for a follow-up dialogue with political office holders.
Each attendee was invited to share their name as well as an adjective to describe how they would like to show up and be present. Quite a few mentioned wanting to be curious, and following Doug’s encouragement to use alliteration, I shared that I wanted to show up as “attentive Adriale”.
The facilitators got a sense of the attendees as we physically moved into our small groups, and shared why that particular ForwardSG pillar we chose resonated for us.
Crash course on creative tension
Doug then brought us through two mini activities: trying to topple each other over, as well as stretching thick yellow rubber bands vertically for as long as we could, one hand pulling towards the sky and the other hand pulling towards the ground. Seems odd?
Well, Doug explained that both exercises represented creative tension — focus only on the immediate challenges and you constrain yourself with cynicism and shortsightedness, but focus only on utopia and you risk being naive and unrealistic.
Stretching yourself too thin for your current problems may reduce your capacity to imagine future possibilities. The art, and beauty, of creative tension lay in being able to skillfully manage these opposing tendencies, in order to create something worthwhile.
Discussing current realities and future possibilities
Afterwards, we broke off into our smaller groups, to discuss our respective ForwardSG pillars — Equip, Care, Steward and Unite.
Our facilitators kickstarted the breakout discussions by inviting each attendee to share their response to this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the current situation in Singapore, for this particular issue?”
Next, we discussed current gaps and challenges, before crafting our group’s aspiration statement in response to this question: “Following up from your previous rating, what would a ‘10 out of 10’ look like for you then?”
We had to take stock of present-day realities on the ground, while articulating what we hoped for in an ideal scenario.
To wrap up our small group discussions, we put this creative tension to productive use, by ideating possible steps that each of the 3P sectors could take, moving forward. We scribbled down our ideas on post-its, then underwent a voting process, where we were given three votes each, to identify the suggestions that our group resonated most strongly with.
By segmenting the discussion into three distinct parts — issues, aspirations, and solutions — we observed that the attendees were better able to focus and provide targeted responses.
Distilling our ideas for sharing with wider audiences
Gathering back into the open space for a large group sharing, the facilitators took turns sharing what was discussed in each of the ForwardSG pillars.
Beyond just words, some groups even presented their aspirations pictorially.
For the Equip pillar, which touched on Singapore’s education system, Louis’s group invited us to imagine a pastoral and idyllic scene, where school meant students happily running around in nature barefooted.
For the Care pillar, Si Yu’s group envisioned a compassionate environment where caregivers were celebrated and supported.
For the Steward pillar, Ibnur’s group used markers to draw a tree, with the leaves representing sustainability goals, and the fertile soil representing mindset shifts that are needed to bring about greater environmental consciousness.
Last but not the least, for the Unite pillar, Ningpei’s group articulated their hopes for an integrated and inclusive Singapore.
Want to read a summary of the discussions? Click here to access our Consolidated Report!
Wrapping up with new friendships
After each group recapped their breakout discussions, we were invited to approach one stranger whose topic we wanted to find out more about.
The cross-pollination of ideas flowed easily and time flew as well. While rushing to wrap up our conversations with a stranger-turned-new-acquaintance, we were handed a (naturally-shed) peacock feather each, and asked to balance it on our index finger.
Looking at the base of the feather on our finger, we would wobble uncontrollably, but looking up at the tip of the feather instead, it became much easier, and our body seemed to instinctively know how to keep the feather in balance without much strain at all.
This was yet another exercise in creative tension to wrap up the event — not ignoring the realities of gravity, while keeping an eye on the aspiration, in order to move forward with balance, confidence and ease.
Attendees were then invited to ponder two reflection questions: What is one thing you learnt from today’s discussions? What is one thing you will do differently after today’s event?
Three of our attendees’ responses are captured in this video:
Vincent closed off the event by highlighting the heartening commitment by the attendees to do more than just talk, and instead turn the discussions into beneficial actions.
He emphasised that AGS is going to organise a follow-up dialogue with political officeholders in the near future, where changemakers will get the opportunity to refine various actionable partnerships between the 3P sectors.
ForwardSG is a national exercise to review our social compact, launched by DPM Lawrence Wong. It will conclude in the second half of 2023 so in the meantime you can visit forwardsingapore.gov.sg for more opportunities to participate!
We would like to conclude by expressing our sincere gratitude to Dawn Yip and Jeffrey Ong of the SG Partnerships Office, for their steadfast commitment and irrepressible humour, which made the process of organising this dialogue a thoroughly enjoyable one! Thank you!