A Good Space started as an informal movement in 2017 to encourage active citizenry and was officially incorporated as a co-operative under the Co-operative Societies Act of the Republic of Singapore on 31st March 2020, UEN: T20CS0002H
The societal challenges we face are increasingly complex and interrelated, especially in the light of COVID-19 which has widened social inequality here and around the world. We cannot solve these problems with the same way of thinking that created them in the first place.
Singapore urgently needs changemakers who are curious about and inspired by a different and better version of the future. No one has all the answers but everyone has some. We need people who dare to become part of the solution, rather than seeing problems as the responsibility of the government or formal institutions.
We believe active citizenry builds a more resilient Singapore and a better world.
A Good Space (AGS) was started in June 2017, with a first gathering of diverse ground-up movements, social enterprises, policymakers, employers, individuals and more, as an experiment to cultivate active citizenry.
Back then, we were incubated by the National Volunteer Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and focused on two things:
First, we had a space in NVPC and curated innovative activities organised by changemakers to raise awareness for the social issues and communities they cared about.
On any weeknight or weekend, people from all walks of life came to learn about mental health through a life-sized Snakes and Ladders board game, a language exchange session with migrant and domestic workers or a lunch with a senior featuring curated conversation questions to foster intergenerational bonding; to name a few of the activities that took place.
Second, realizing that folks who wanted to start social projects were often overwhelmed and lost, we also supported ordinary citizens to start their projects through A Good Pitch, where we offered a small, no-strings-attached, $1,000 grant, to get them started.
No 10 page grant applications to write, just an email summarizing their idea to apply was sufficient. But most importantly, whether they received the grant or not, each participant got a chance to showcase their idea at an exhibition to potential volunteers, funders and other citizens who shared feedback, resources and networks to further their projects.
In 2 years from June 2017 to July 2019, the community evolved way beyond what we could have imagined, with over 334 activities and projects being organised by 92 active citizen changemakers.
Almost 7,676 people joined in the activities, whether as participants or changemakers starting their social projects, with the youngest being just 10 years old and the oldest 92 years old!
In mid-2019, 25 of our changemakers came together to share their dreams for A Good Space and together, they drew a beautiful picture of what AGS could be. They also shared their concerns about the sustainability of their own changemaking projects.
It was then that the idea of a co-operative was first suggested, but we didn’t have a clue what that was. So we began speaking to more changemakers and heard them express their dreams and the challenges the faced.
We discovered five challenges that made it difficult for them to sustain their changemaking projects, leading to many feeling burnt out and exhausted. Mainly, they were:
And it was here that we took our first steps towards transforming A Good Space into Singapore’s first co-operative for changemakers and exploring how we can all thrive by working together.
In short, a co-operative is a business with a strong social mission that is owned by its members. Members assist one another in working towards a common goal and can vote on key decisions, receive dividends, enjoy benefits and more.
No matter how many shares a member owns, they only have one vote, therefore, it is quite a democractic way to create change.
Here’s a link to a more elegant definition of co-operatives, by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies in Singapore.
We decided to register A Good Space as a co-operative of changemakers because we believed that coming together could unlock new possibilities that could help overcome the challenges each changemaker was struggling with alone.
Some of the possibilities are shown in the photo above but we continue to discover new possibilities through the creativity of our members.
Social issues are complex and interconnected – no issue is a single issue so we must urgently build towards a more collaborative future of changemaking for Singapore and we hope the structure of a co-operative can support this.
Also, there was something romantic for us in breaking new grounds for changemakers to co-own a co-operative that is creating the Singapore of our dreams, together.
As Singapore’s first co-operative for changemakers, we are in uncharted but exciting waters. We have 3 social impact aspirations that we are working towards and hope we can contribute positively to our society.
Sometimes changemaking can feel like a long marathon but perhaps it is the people we are running alongside that make the marathon worth running.
And maybe, we’ll reach a finish line at the end and maybe…
It will be a beautiful sight.
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