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socialservice.sg

socialservice.sg

By Jin Yao Kwan
socialservice.sg is a website, podcast, and newsletter dedicated to social service research, practice, and policies in Singapore. It is run by Jin Yao Kwan.

Cover art photo by Ng Shi Wen (https://www.photorikiki.com/hard-at-work).
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"What if we’re wrong?": Interdisciplinarity, education, and higher education in Singapore

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Ground-ups in Singapore (Part 2): Building synchronicity among communities of communities
This episode is the second of a two-part series covering ground-ups and their contributions in Singapore. If you’ve not heard the first part about the emergence and impact of ground-ups, be sure to listen to that before coming back to this. With Jen Goh of The Majurity Trust and Dr. Adrian Chan of Acerpacer Consulting, we previously discussed the value of start-ups, the emergence of new activators, and the challenges of funding, time, and contacts. Today, we finish up our conversation on funding before exploring recommendations and the building of synchronicity among ground-ups and communities of ground-up communities. As a reminder, Jen is part of the philanthropy and community building team at The Majurity Trust. Dr. Chan is an independent scientist-practitioner and the director of Acerpacer Consulting. My conversation with Jen and Adrian is part of our joint 2021 focus on researchers as well as on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Rémi Walle on Unsplash.
24:56
August 1, 2021
Ground-ups in Singapore (Part 1): Emergence and impact, activator journeys, and funding
Through this platform, in the past year, we’ve heard from ground-up initiatives, community movements, as well as aggregators and intermediaries. In this two-part series, with Jen Goh and Dr. Adrian Chan, we go further by taking a deeper dive into ground-ups and their contributions in Singapore, focusing in particular on a recent research report published by philanthropic organisation The Majurity Trust. Today, we discuss definitions and value of start-ups, the emergence of new activators in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally the challenges of funding, time, and contacts. In the next episode, we will explore recommendations and the building of synchronicity among ground-ups and communities of ground-up communities. Jen is part of the philanthropy and community building team at The Majurity Trust and is also co-founder of the ground-up Hopefull. Dr. Chan is an independent scientist-practitioner and the director of Acerpacer Consulting. He was part of the team for the research report. My conversation with Jen and Adrian is part of our joint 2021 focus on researchers as well as on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Rayson Tan on Unsplash.
33:57
July 31, 2021
Long-term lessons from the pandemic: Government interactions and online/offline civic engagement (Adriel Yong; COVID-19, one year on)
One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Last year, Adriel Yong started a spreadsheet to collate opportunities for students looking for summer internships. We ask about what he’s learnt from the initiative and how he’s applied those lessons in his life. You can also join his Telegram channel of internship opportunities. We previously spoke to Adriel in April 2020. The feature photo is by bady abbas on Unsplash.
17:32
July 30, 2021
Beyond the laptop: From digital access to digital inclusion and literacy (Lim May-Ann; COVID-19, one year on)
One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Today, we have Lim May-Ann, a volunteer with Engineering Good’s Computers against COVID initiative. She shares how her work has evolved since the end of the circuit-breaker last year and evaluates Singapore’s progress in making sure that every student has a laptop. Relatedly, in January this year, a group of researchers outlined the problem of digital exclusion and put forth recommendations on digital devices, expanded Internet access, and digital literacy. We previously spoke to May-Ann in April 2020. The feature photo is by lucas law on Unsplash.
14:51
July 26, 2021
Building solid ground for those in Singapore facing online harassment, abuse, and harms
Informed by their interviews with individuals in Singapore who experienced online harassment, abuse, or harms, researchers Catherine Chang and Holly Apsley developed Solid Ground, at solidground.sg. Supported by the Association of Women for Action and Research and the National Youth Council, the Solid Ground project offers step-by-step guides and resources complemented by thoughtful aesthetics and illustrations. Today, they share more about technology-facilitated sexual violence or TFSV, their detailed and intricate process of building the website, and how they worked to bridge research and practice. My conversation with Catherine and Holly is part of our joint 2021 focus on researchers as well as on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
31:02
July 18, 2021
Advising career and further education choices through a pandemic (Mock Yi Jun; COVID-19, one year on)
One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Today, we have Mock Yi Jun, who leads the youth-led non-profit Advisory, dedicated to help young Singaporeans make informed career and further education choices. Last year, he shared how the non-profit worked to transition online, and now we learn more about how the transition has evolved. We previously spoke to Yi Jun in April 2020. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
14:37
July 5, 2021
“Are we listening?”: Coalescing around downstream and upstream mental health action (Anthea Ong; COVID-19, one year on)
One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Today, we have former nominated member of parliament Anthea Ong. Our conversation centres on mental and psychological health in Singapore as well as moving from awareness to acceptance to action. Anthea also shares the initiatives in which she’s been involved and her new podcast series, “Shades of Love”, set to launch on August 7 this year. (Content and trigger warning: This episode contains references to suicide.) We previously spoke to Anthea in April 2020. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
29:08
July 1, 2021
Advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ Singaporeans
In 2020, Daryl Yang was named by The Straits Times as one of 30 young Singaporeans under the age of 30. He’s been involved in human rights and political education, specifically LGBT rights and disability rights in the country. Today, we discuss his work with the Universal Periodic Review or the UPR, the joint UPR submission on Singapore's LGBTQ+ community, as well as his thoughts on faith-based change efforts and issues for the community beyond 377A. My conversation with Daryl is part of our joint 2021 focus on researchers as well as on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
33:57
June 30, 2021
Sustaining the muscles of active citizenry and ground-ups for a more participatory democracy (Vincent Ng; COVID-19, one year on)
One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Today, we have Vincent Ng, general manager of the co-operative A Good Space. We talk about his personal and professional development, including the co-operative’s work and his vision for active citizenry in the country. Together with his partners, as you may have heard in our previous episode with Abhishek, Vincent is conducting a poll on the creation of structures to nourish changemakers and enable them to go the distance. We spoke to Vincent in April 2020 on our very first episode. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
20:38
June 30, 2021
“Thinking about futures”: Taking stock (with Eddie Choo)
After three episodes of the "Thinking about futures" mini-series - with Dr. Adrian Kuah, Cheryl Chung, and Aaron Maniam - we chat again with research associate Eddie Choo about what stood out to him. We end on a listener question about how organisations "do" futures or how organisations should be structured to optimise futures thinking. This is part of the "Thinking about futures" mini-series, on the application of futures thinking and futures studies in Singapore. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
23:19
June 27, 2021
Sustaining an ecosystem of ground-ups and changemakers (Abhishek Bajaj; COVID-19, one year on)
One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed related structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Today, we have Abhishek Bajaj, who leads the volunteer-run initiative 6th Sense. He details the “muscle memory work” gained from the 2020 circuit-breaker, his work with the low-income and migrant-worker communities, and the endeavour to sustain an ecosystem of ground-ups and changemakers. Together with his partners, Abhishek is conducting a poll on the creation of structures to nourish changemakers and enable them to go the distance. We spoke to Abhishek in April 2020 on our very first episode. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
20:20
June 22, 2021
“People buy into what they help create”: Citizen foresight work and the influence of language and metaphors on futures thinking
A year ago, with Singapore just coming out of its circuit breaker and the world still coming to grips with the COVID-19 virus, Aaron Maniam explained in a TED talk that the language we use to talk about the pandemic was shaping how we thought about it. Instead of using a "war" metaphor, for instance, he argued that characterising COVID-19 as an "ecology" would help us better understand the pandemic and our futures. Today, we chat about the influence of language and metaphors on futures thinking as well as the importance of citizen foresight work in Singapore. Aaron is a poet and civil servant. This is part of the "Thinking about futures" mini-series, on the application of futures thinking and futures studies in Singapore. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
42:08
May 31, 2021
“No one group has a monopoly on good ideas”: Building anticipatory capacity and democratising, diversifying futures thinking
As a strategic foresight practitioner, Cheryl Chung has led futures projects across different government ministries, within a public policy school, and in a number of community projects and initiatives. With her experience and expertise, we explore the application of futures and foresight in public policy, the public sector, and the community in Singapore. Cheryl is programme director of executive education at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in the National University of Singapore. This is part of the "Thinking about futures" mini-series, on the application of futures thinking and futures studies in Singapore. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
24:59
May 19, 2021
"What if we’re wrong?": Interdisciplinarity, education, and higher education in Singapore
For students in Singapore, the notion of a “future” feels very well-defined: Do well in school, acquire the necessary skills and knowledge, and prepare for your job and career. But how do we prepare for an uncertain future if the present is precarious? And what if we’re wrong about trajectories of education and higher education in Singapore? With Dr. Adrian Kuah, we learn more about going beyond "the usual technocratic and prosaic fashion of future-proofing [university] graduates" and the changes we might want to see in the broader education sector. Dr. Kuah is the founding director of the Futures Office in the National University of Singapore. This is part of the "Thinking about futures" mini-series, on the application of futures thinking and futures studies in Singapore. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
33:01
May 17, 2021
“Thinking about futures”: A preview
In an increasingly complex and uncertain world, how do we start thinking about the future? Or our futures? And how do we apply futures thinking and futures studies in Singapore? Co-designed with research associate Eddie Choo, "Thinking about futures" is a socialservice.sg mini-series featuring three guests, focused on education and higher education, the community, as well as public policy and the public sector. This is part of the "Thinking about futures" mini-series, on the application of futures thinking and futures studies in Singapore. The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
04:55
May 12, 2021
Burnout and self-care experiences of two young Singaporean social workers
Feelings of burnout can be unsettling or even terrifying, and around the world social work burnout has been very well-documented. Over time, we hope to better understand the causes of burnout, including the structural causes, but for now, as a start, it feels important to normalise such discourse in Singapore. Therefore, in this episode, we speak to two young Singaporean social workers, “Jing” and John Lim (savethesocialworker.com) about their experiences of burnout and self-care. My conversation with "Jing" and John is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
27:53
May 2, 2021
Intersectional climate justice, climate change and its unequal effects, and aspirations for a low-carbon Singapore
It has been more than 18 months since Singapore’s first climate rally at Hong Lim Park in September 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic, as we have documented time and time again in this podcast, has only highlighted and exacerbated existing socio-economic inequalities in the country. With one of SG Climate Rally’s founding members, Estella Ho, we talk about intersectional climate justice and the unequal effect of climate change. In addition, we also learn more about her activist and advocacy work with the movement, in terms of her experience working with government agencies, working with other groups and organisations in the same space, and dealing with burnout. My conversation with Estella is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
28:03
April 21, 2021
Contested framings of climate change and climate governance in Singapore: PhD student Belicia Teo
In a commentary on climate governance for academia.sg, Belicia Teo made the case that the impact of climate change is not equal, and that, as a consequence, identifying and addressing these risks "should be up for debate and public scrutiny". This was important, she added, so as to address differences in norms and values in Singapore. Her research was based on 10 interviewees from six climate groups, and we invited her to elaborate how the Singaporean state and climate groups framed climate change, as well as the differences in these framings. In addition, what should we expect from the state and the climate groups in the future? Belicia is a PhD student in sociology at New York University. My conversation with Belicia is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
22:30
April 21, 2021
Scarcity, the bandwidth tax, and the effect of debt reduction in low-income Singaporean households: Dr. Ong Qiyan
Ever since the paper was published in 2019, I was excited to speak with its authors about how they used quasi-experimentation to study the relationship between debt relief among low-income individuals and their psychological functioning and economic decision-making. In other words, what is the effect of debt reduction in low-income Singaporean households? With lead author Dr. Ong Qiyan, we also learn more about the concepts of scarcity and the bandwidth tax and their implications for the design of social policies and social services. Dr. Ong is an adjunct senior research fellow at the Social Service Research Centre, in the National University of Singapore. She was previously on this podcast with Prof. Walter Theseira. My conversation with Dr. Ong is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
20:46
April 8, 2021
A survey for youths in Singapore, on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
We're running a research study to explore the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young Singaporeans between 13 and 21 years old. In particular, we are interested in their psychological well-being, employment and educational outlook, and civic engagement.  After the survey, there will be a random draw of $30 gift vouchers for 30 participants. We'll also look to involve some of them in the focus group discussions or interviews, and they will be compensated for their participation. If you are between 13 and 21 years old, complete the survey at bit.ly/sgcovidyouth. If you know of youths, students, family members, or friends who may be interested, share or forward this episode with them!
01:19
April 6, 2021
On homelessness and housing insecurity, income insecurity and minimum income standard, and bridging research, practice, and policy: Dr. Ng Kok Hoe
In 2019, Dr. Ng Kok Hoe was part of two important studies in Singapore. First, he led the first nationwide street count of homelessness in the country (read the full report here), and second, he was part of the Minimum Income Standard or MIS study, which in a participatory manner determined the household budgets necessary to meet the basic needs of ordinary Singaporeans. Starting with a discussion of his research interests in housing and income insecurity, we hear more about these two studies and the bridging of research, practice, and policy with regard to social work and social service. Dr. Ng is senior research fellow and head of the Case Study Unit at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, at the National University of Singapore. My conversation with Dr. Ng is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
38:49
March 18, 2021
Students for a Safer NUS: Centring survivors, centring the community, and centring the margins
With the aim of improving the way the National University of Singapore handles sexual misconduct through community-led efforts, Students for a Safer NUS - or safeNUS - was formed by a group of concerned students in 2019. With one of its co-founders, Carissa Cheow, we learn more about the initiative and its work to cultivate a safer and more inclusive campus, as well as the challenges the team faces, including coping with burnout and working with the university. My conversation with Carissa is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
27:50
March 18, 2021
OpenJio and the challenge of sustaining youth volunteerism and interest in social causes
If you're not on the Telegram channel OpenJio, you might be missing out on the latest events and causes in Singapore's social sector. But in addition to learning more about the initiative, how do we sustain the interest of youths and young adults in these social events and causes? In our conversation with core team member Amos Liu, we also talk about his personal volunteerism journey and some challenges OpenJio faces. Resources referenced in this episode: The NVPC Individual Giving Study 2018. My conversation with Amos is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
19:39
March 17, 2021
Mental health at the Singaporean workplace
The last time we discussed mental health on this platform was in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. With former nominated member of parliament Anthea Ong, we examined the levels of awareness, acceptance, and action. Today, with Chirag Agarwal, co-founder of Talk Your Heart Out, we focus on mental health at the workplace. In addition, we discuss the state of professional services and the structural, policy, and cultural changes for the future. Talk Your Heart Out is an online counselling platform that aims to provide services that are private, convenient and of high quality. My conversation with Chirag is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
23:22
March 17, 2021
"The hunger report": Singapore's first nationally representative food insecurity study
While reports of food insecurity have previously featured in the media, Singapore's first nationally representative food insecurity study documented that about 10 per cent of Singaporean households experienced food insecurity at least once in the last 12 months, and that only 22 per cent of these food-insecure households were receiving food support from an organisation. Published by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation and supported by The Food Bank Singapore, "The hunger report: An in-depth look at food insecurity in Singapore" also reports causes and consequences of food insecurity and offers recommendations. With members of the report team, Dr. Tania Nagpaul, Dr. Dalvin Sidhu, and Ms. Chen Jinwen, we further explore how they defined and operationalised food insecurity and understand the headline figures in greater detail. Previously, the Lien Centre for Social Innovation published a related study in 2019, titled "Hunger in a food lover's paradise: Understanding food insecurity in Singapore". The study was based on interviews with food support organisations and a survey with 236 respondents. My conversation with Dr. Nagpaul, Dr. Sidhu, and Ms. Chen is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/). The feature photo is by Ng Shi Wen.
27:54
March 16, 2021
“Mind the Chasm”: The pandemic’s devastatingly uneven impact and the insecurities of low-income families across multiple, intersecting dimensions
This month, in the same week that the Department of Statistics revealed that households in the bottom 10 per cent were the group hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with their monthly total earnings from work falling by 6.1 per cent, Beyond Social Services published its "Mind the Chasm" report (https://beyondresearch.sg/mind-the-chasm-covid-19-deepening-inequalities-in-singapore/). Beyond documented deep decreases to household incomes from work among low-income families. Among the applicants to Beyond's COVID-19 Family Assistance Fund, they found that as a result of the pandemic: Median household income from work dropped by 69 per cent; Median per capita income dropped by 74 per cent; and 35 per cent of the applicants had their household incomes drop to nothing. With the research team, we discuss how the report informs Singapore’s discourse on poverty and inequality, the plight of low-income families experiencing insecurities across multiple intersecting dimensions, as well as their three policy recommendations and proposed policy directions. Dr. Stephanie Chok is lead author and an independent researcher, and community worker Suraendher Kumarr provided research assistance to the report. Resources referenced in the episode: The DBS report, "Same storm, different boat: Impact of COVID-19 on financial wellness in Singapore" Lien Centre for Social Innovation's study on food insecurity My review of Singapore's first nationwide street count on homelessness My conversation with Dr. Chok and Kumarr is part of our joint 2021 focus on researchers as well as on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
43:48
March 2, 2021
Macro inequality and mobility trends, felt inequality, and the case for a healthy degree of equality of outcomes: PhD candidate Nathan Peng Li
The Singaporean discourse on poverty and inequality is advancing, and while he argues that Singapore has done better than most under meritocratic systems, PhD candidate Nathan Peng Li also details both causes for hope and worry. He first explains that macro-level trends of inequality and mobility have been stable in Singapore. Next, we discuss concepts of “pragmatic meritocracy” and “time two meritocracy” and how they relate to “felt inequality”. Finally, he makes the case for “a healthy degree of equality of outcomes”. That is achieved, in his telling, when “children of lower-income families can reasonably compete against their better-off peers without the same level of private resources at their disposal”. He adds: “Outcomes must be at least equal enough that children from different backgrounds can identify with each other as members of the same society”. Nathan is a recipient of Singapore Management University’s overseas PhD scholarship and is currently a fourth-year graduate candidate at the University of British Columbia, in the political science department. Resources referenced in the episode: Nathan’s paper, “Inequality and the social compact in Singapore: Macro trends versus lived realities” The Ministry of Finance occasional paper socialservice.sg’s January 2021 book club on Michael J. Sandel’s “The Tyranny of Merit” My review of the paper on how debt reduction improves psychological functioning and changes decision making in Singapore My conversation with Nathan is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
27:59
February 28, 2021
The Birthday Collective: Going beyond the essay-writing crowd and holding conversational space upon uncommon ground
What started as a published collection of stories to coincide with Singapore's National Day has now evolved into "The Birthday Collective" (https://thebirthdaycollective.org/), a not-for-profit that creates and holds space for conversations that matter to the country. With its editor Cherie Tseng, we discuss the collective’s initiatives beyond the “essay-writing crowd”, the value of giving conversational seats to children and centring their voices, and the importance of meeting communities and individuals where they are. We conclude on what she means by the “uncommon ground” and the collective’s plans for the future. Cherie is chief operations officer at a local fintech company and a mother of three. My conversation with Cherie is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
26:40
February 27, 2021
The history of the making of youth - and the history of the present - in youth-conscious, youth-centred Singapore: PhD candidate Edgar Liao
Final-year PhD candidate in the University of British Columbia’s Department of History Edgar Liao studies the history of youth in Singapore. His work is informed both by his archival work and his previous experience as a volunteer and youth leader in the youth work scene in the country. After helping us understand the theoretical (Foucauldian) concepts he employs, Edgar explains how Singapore’s youth policies as well as patterns of inclusion and exclusion inform the history of the present. He describes a dualistic discourse: Of the Singapore state empowering youths with resources for development, while scrutinising and policing their activity and activism at the same time. Edgar specialises in the global history of childhood and youth and the history of the Cold War, imperialism, and decolonisation in twentieth-century South East Asia. My conversation with Edgar is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
38:19
February 22, 2021
“Hard at Work: Life in Singapore”: Prof. Gerard Sasges on the book’s conceptualisation and the power of interviewing and stories
“Hard at Work: Life in Singapore” (https://nuspress.nus.edu.sg/products/hard-at-work-life-in-singapore) is a collection of 60 stories, of people in contemporary Singapore talking about their work and life. With author Prof. Gerard Sasges, we discussed how he conceptualised the book and discussed the important elements of interviewing and ethnography. We also explored significant themes which emerged. "Hard at Work" was shortlisted for the 2020 Singapore Literature Prize and was a finalist for "Best Non-Fiction Title" at the 2020 Singapore Book Awards. Prof. Sasges received a PhD from UC Berkeley in 2006. In 2012 he joined the National University of Singapore (NUS) where he is an associate professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies. The book was co-authored with Ng Shi Wen, a photographer, educator, and chronicler of everyday life. She is the founder of Photo Rikiki and has taught at NUS and the School of the Arts, Singapore. My conversation with Prof. Sasges is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
28:19
February 20, 2021
AWARE’s “Saga” podcast: Conceptualisation, production, and challenges
I am a huge fan of the “Saga” (https://aware.org.sg/saga/) podcast, which documents the saga surrounding gender-equality group AWARE, the Association of Women for Action and Research. Themes from the 2009 saga, poignantly highlighted across the 12 episodes, are still relevant in 2021 Singapore. Because I am a podcast junkie, speaking with Kelly Leow and Jasmine Ng, writers and producers of “Saga”, was my chance to learn about how they conceptualised and produced the podcast as well as the many challenges they faced. My conversation with Kelly and Jasmine is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
32:34
February 4, 2021
SchemesSG: A searchable, indexable directory of aid and assistance schemes in Singapore
With so many aid and assistance schemes scattered across organisations, ministries, and institutions, how should social workers and volunteers identify the most relevant ones for the individuals and communities with whom they work? In response, Tan Weilie created SchemesSG (https://schemes.sg/), a searchable, indexable directory of schemes in Singapore. We hear more about how he got started with a minimum viable product and his own list, before we appeal to you, our listeners, to contribute to his crowdsourcing request. Weilie explained in his publicity Facebook post that the long-term vision is to have schemes curated and delivered conversationally, such that any user could type in “My client is a 45-year-old man with a 76-year-old chronically ill parent”, and relevant results would be generated. My conversation with Weilie is part of our 2021 focus on civil society groups, efforts, and issues in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
26:55
February 4, 2021
On the researcher’s privileged position, community partnerships, data and research advocacy: Postdoctoral fellow Rayner Tan
Postdoctoral fellow Rayner Tan, at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in the National University of Singapore, studies substance use, recovery from addiction, and trauma as risk factors for substance use disorders in Singapore. Because his research projects involve and centre on the community groups with whom he works, we talk about his community partnerships and the structural challenges communities face when trying to do research. We conclude on the importance of data and research advocacy in the country. My conversation with Rayner is part of our 2021 focus on researchers in Singapore (https://socialservice.sg/podcast/).
25:22
February 4, 2021
Gift for Good: Galvanising in-kind donations and completing wishes in Singapore
Gift for Good (giftforgood.io) is an online in-kind donations platform connecting non-profits to donors. Run by a team of students from the National University of Singapore Developer Student Club (previously featured on this podcast), it hopes to galvanise in-kind donations towards a more generous Singapore. Today, we speak to business head Yeo Qin-Liang and tech head Marcus Koh about Gift for Good and their plans for the future.
19:31
December 15, 2020
"PAP v PAP": Cherian George and Donald Low on balancing elite governance and democratic deliberation in Singapore
Today, we are joined by professors Cherian George and Donald Low, to talk about their bestselling book, "PAP v PAP: The Party's struggle to adapt to a changing Singapore" (purchase the book via Epigram bookstore or the audiobook via Storytel). We discussed the balance between elite governance and democratic deliberation, the phenomena of elite reproduction and overproduction, and how the book can be a starting point for political and policy conversations in Singapore. Our episode with Prof. Kenneth Paul Tan, on neoliberal globalisation and political authoritarianism (as well as pragmatism and technocracy), was referenced in this episode.
42:49
December 11, 2020
"GE2020: Fair or Foul?": Bertha Henson on levelling the electoral playing field
Today, we are joined by journalist-turned-political commentator and professor Bertha Henson, to talk about her new book, "GE2020: Fair or Foul?" (purchase the book via Epigram Bookstore). We will first discuss her case for the People's Action Party (PAP) to level the electoral playing field and to increase the nine-day campaign period. She then evaluates the PAP backbenchers and the 4G leadership. We previously interviewed her on this podcast, on election reporting and her assessment of the GE2020 campaign.
24:52
December 8, 2020
BeTheWire: Bridging the digital divide for persons of all abilities
BeTheWire (https://www.facebook.com/BeTheWire/) is a ground-up initiative which produces accessible and guided bite-sized videos and posts so as to equip, educate, and empower persons of all abilities to bridge the digital divide. The topics include digital literacy, communication platforms, as well as e-shopping and e-payment. We speak with founder Bryan Neo, who wishes to spread the word to more social workers and friends, focused on equipping individuals with digital lifeskills for the long haul. In addition, he envisions partnerships with agencies to work with community members in the initial phases.
16:40
October 7, 2020
NUS Developer Student Club: #TechForGood within and beyond the university
The National University of Singapore Developer Student Club, or the DSC (https://dsc.comp.nus.edu.sg/), is a community of university students focused on developing diverse solutions for non-profit organisations in Singapore. We ask Shawn Ten, a final year NUS undergraduate - who was co-founder and internal lead - about the beginnings of the club, its projects, and expectations for the future.
16:19
September 30, 2020
COV-AID: NUS law students seek to make legal complexity, simple
Today, we speak with two law students from the National University of Singapore, co-founders of the online resource platform, COV-AID (nus-covaid.com). Given the emergence of laws, regulations, and legal issues throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, COV-AID seeks to make the complex, simple, by offering information about government grants, legislation related to COVID-19, as well as frequently asked questions. At COV-AID, co-founders Anders Seah and Mark Tang lead an executive committee and manage a larger team of volunteers. They share their motivations, the process of writing and editing to ensure both accuracy and comprehensibility, and the team's plans for the future.
20:53
August 31, 2020
The minimum wage, the Progressive Wage Model, and low-wage labour in Singapore (A conversation with Prof. Linda Lim)
Throughout GE2020 and in its aftermath, the minimum wage and the Progressive Wage Model - or the PWM - have emerged as key policy proposals, even if the discourse is not new. At least five opposition parties have proposed a minimum wage or a living wage, and in response the ruling party promised to extend the PWM to more industries, beyond the cleaning, security, and landscape sectors. A central concern, nevertheless, is the persistence of poor wages for low-income Singaporeans. Today, we speak to economist Professor Linda Lim of the University of Michigan, understanding and comparing the minimum wage and Singapore's PWM (both described as "second-best policies"), addressing common objections to the minimum wage, as well as concluding on the challenge of low-wage labour. Prof. Lim's research focuses on the political economy of multinational and local business in South East Asia. She is also one of the editors of Academia.SG, a website maintained by a group of Singaporean academics to promote Singapore studies and to encourage critical debate about the state of intellectual life in Singapore.
36:34
July 23, 2020
Five takeaways from #GE2020, in five minutes and five words: Mandate, leader, consolidation, COVID-19, weathering
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. A day after Polling Day, this is a special episode of the five takeaways from GE2020, in five minutes and five words: Mandate, leader, consolidation, COVID-19, and weathering.
06:12
July 11, 2020
#GE2020 Silver Linings in a Post-GE2020 Singapore (Day 09)
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 9 of GE2020, the eve of Cooling-Off Day, Silver Linings in a Post-GE2020 Singapore.
05:57
July 8, 2020
#GE2020 “It's a damp squib”: An assessment of the GE2020 campaign (Veteran journalist Bertha Henson)
In “What can we learn?”, we chat with academics and experts to understand the election through more analytical lenses. Three weeks ago, I asked veteran journalist Bertha Henson about her experience of reporting an election and the election issues to which she is paying attention. Today, on the eve of Cooling-Off Day, we ask her how GE2020 compares to past general elections, how she’s been following the election, as well as what she thought of the overall campaign.
19:04
July 8, 2020
#GE2020 The Sengkang Spotlight (Day 08): Sengkang GRC as a microcosm of GE2020
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 8 of GE2020, The Sengkang Spotlight. In five minutes, hear about how Sengkang GRC is a microcosm of the GE2020 campaign.
05:45
July 7, 2020
#GE2020 The Issues, Please? (Day 07): Two days to get the campaign back on substantive track; the ruling party campaigns for a mandate
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 7 of GE2020, The Issues, Please?. In five minutes, hear about how Singaporeans are clamouring for the campaign to focus on more substantive issues, and the ruling PAP's continued campaign for a strong mandate.
04:42
July 6, 2020
#GE2020 Raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in Singapore (Heckin’ Unicorn’s Teo Yu Sheng)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. 28-year-old Teo Yu Sheng is the founder of Heckin’ Unicorn, a Singapore-based queer brand. Before and during this general election, through its popular social media platforms, Yu Sheng and his brother have also published articles on the price of being queer in Singapore, the stance of political parties on LGBTQ+ issues, and how party manifestoes may impact the LGBTQ+ community in the country.
19:50
July 6, 2020
#GE2020 The national view from Aljunied GRC (Royston Long)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. Aljunied was the first GRC to be won by an opposition party in 2011, and 23-year-old Royston Long will vote in this constituency for the first time. He tells us how he has been following the election through the party manifestoes as well as the party and constituency broadcasts, paying particular attention to the contest between the People’s Action Party and the Workers’ Party.
15:01
July 6, 2020
#GE2020 A mid-campaign report card of the opposition parties (Researchers Loke Hoe-Yeong and Dr. Elvin Ong)
In “What can we learn?”, we chat with academics and experts to understand the election through more analytical lenses. A week before Nomination Day, we spoke to researchers Loke Hoe-Yeong and Dr. Elvin Ong on opposition “unity”, party credibility, and electoral strategies. More than halfway through the GE2020 campaign, we catch up with them to learn more about their assessments of the three main opposition parties, the divide between national and local or constituency hustings, as well as what we can expect in the final three days. (And yes, some mention of predictions too.) Hoe-Yeong is a political analyst, who authored the books “Let The People Have Him: Chiam See Tong, The Early Years” in 2014 and “The First Wave: JBJ, Chiam & the Opposition in Singapore” in 2019. Elvin is a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, in the University of British Columbia. His primary research interests are the politics and policies of authoritarian regimes, with a specific focus on the dynamic formation of opposition coalitions.
40:49
July 5, 2020
#GE2020 Raising socio-political literacy and civic engagement in Singapore (CAPE’s Huang Runchen and Joel Yew)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. CAPE, or the Community for Advocacy and Political Education, is a student-run organisation based at Yale-NUS College. This independent, non-partisan community of students works to increase political literacy and consciousness, and it does so through different project-based initiatives. They include seminars, conferences, and workshops, as well as producing resources, infographics, and research. Today, I speak to coordinators Huang Runchen and Joel Yew, who share how they got started, their projects, and CAPE’s future aspirations.
18:19
July 5, 2020
#GE2020 #IStandWithRaeesah (Day 06): WP’s Raeesah Khan in the news; Pofma, again; coronavirus still in the community
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 6 of GE2020, #IStandWithRaeesah. In five minutes, hear about the police reports made against WP's Raeesah Khan, the five correction directions issued by the Pofma office, and the persistence of the coronavirus in Singapore.
05:16
July 5, 2020
#GE2020 A brief sketch of social welfare policies and discourse between GE2015 and GE2020
With growing national interest in the topics of poverty and inequality, we offer a brief sketch of social welfare policies and discourse between GE2015 and GE2020. We also look at the party manifestos and positions for the election this year.
14:17
July 5, 2020
#GE2020 The Pofma Election (Day 05): Pofma correction directions; youthful glimmers of hope
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 5 of GE2020, The Pofma Election. In five minutes, hear about the Pofma correction directions which have been issued thus far, as well as some glimmers of hope, through conversations with young Singaporean voters.
04:28
July 4, 2020
#GE2020 On lowering the voting age and the “Singapore Votes” initiative (Nigel Li)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. Today, we speak to 21-year-old Nigel Li, who has been coordinating “Singapore Votes” (singaporevotes.com), a student-run elections resource. We ask him about how he got started as well as his plans for the website after GE2020, and Nigel also shares why the voting age should be lowered in Singapore.
17:16
July 4, 2020
#GE2020 The national view from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (Klinsen Soh)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. This will be the second time 28-year-old Klinsen Soh will vote in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, which saw one of the fiercest oratorical competition between the People’s Action Party and the Singapore Democratic Party in 2015. Today, we ask Klinsen about how he has been following the election and his thoughts on GE2020 thus far.
17:32
July 4, 2020
#GE2020 Evaluating the parties through a design perspective (Muhammad Al-Hakim bin Dasuki)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. Today, we speak to 26-year-old Muhammad Al-Hakim bin Dasuki, who has been following the election by reviewing party posters, press releases, and manifestoes, from a design perspective. Given the importance of the Internet and social media in GE2020, we chatted about how the different parties have been adapting, and – with the same focus on design – Hakim shares his thoughts on the parties which have done the best and the worst.
25:56
July 4, 2020
#GE2020 Nomination Day, the debate, and mid-campaign impressions (Dhevarajan Devadas and Mohamed Salihin Subhan)
In “What can we learn?”, we chat with academics and experts to understand the election through more analytical lenses. Today, we have two guests. We are halfway through GE2020, and we therefore have a conversation about Nomination Day, the televised English debate, as well as mid-campaign impressions. Dhevarajan Devadas is a public policy researcher and historian, and Mohamed Salihin Subhan is a political science PhD student in the University of British Columbia.
35:57
July 4, 2020
#GE2020 Still a Pandemic Election (Day 04): The pandemic in the background, the NCMP scheme, and the 10-million-dollar question
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 4 of GE2020, Still a Pandemic Election. In five minutes, hear about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the timing of the election, as well as the NCMP scheme and the 10-million-dollar question.
04:37
July 4, 2020
#GE2020 Following the elections as a young environmentalist (Woo Qiyun)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. Today, we speak to young environmentalist Woo Qiyun, who recently graduated from the National University of Singapore. The 23-year-old shares more about how she’s been following the election – through reading manifestoes, watching speeches, and compiling her own resources – as well as her activism and interactions with family and friends.
16:35
July 3, 2020
#GE2020 Volunteering with the political parties (Clarence Ching and Joel Sherard Chow)
In "What’s going on with young voters?”, we chat with young Singaporean voters on their perspectives as well as their constituency observations. Today, we speak to two young voters who volunteer for the political parties. I speak first with 25-year-old Joel Sherard Chow, who volunteers with the Workers’ Party, and then with 26-year-old Clarence Ching, who volunteers with the People’s Action Party. We wanted to learn more about how they started and their experiences, walking the ground.
33:05
July 3, 2020
#GE2020 A Muted, Rally-Less Campaign (Day 03): Bland party political broadcasts, lack of physical rallies are hurting opposition parties
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 3 of GE2020, A Muted, Rally-Less Campaign. In five minutes, hear about the party political broadcasts and the effects of the lack of physical rallies.
04:50
July 3, 2020
#GE2020 Debates Day (Day 02): Your preferred party won the English TV debate; the PAP swept the Mandarin debate
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 2 of GE2020, Debates Day. In five minutes, hear about the two televised debates - in English and in Mandarin - between the top four political parties with the highest number of candidates running in GE2020
04:48
July 2, 2020
#GE2020 Nomination Day (Day 01): East and West Coast plans and the main campaign issues of GE2020
The Nine Days is a socialservice.sg podcast covering the 2020 general election in Singapore (#GE2020), through daily five-minute news summaries, conversations with young voters, and interviews with academics and experts. It’s Day 1 of GE2020, Nomination Day. In five minutes, hear about East and West Coast plans, other constituencies to watch, and the main campaign issues of GE2020.
05:23
June 30, 2020
#20 - On opposition “unity”, party credibility, and electoral strategies (A conversation with researchers Loke Hoe-Yeong and Dr. Elvin Ong)
With the general elections on the horizon, this is set to be Singapore’s first pandemic election, or the country’s first true “Internet election”. In the next few weeks leading up to Polling Day, we speak to voters, observers, and researchers, with the hope of better understanding what is at stake and making an informed decision. What is “the Opposition” in Singapore? Today, we speak to Loke Hoe-Yeong and Dr. Elvin Ong, discussing opposition unity and coordination, opposition party credibility, as well as strategies associated with past electoral success. Hoe-Yeong is a political analyst, who authored the books "Let The People Have Him: Chiam See Tong, The Early Years" in 2014 and "The First Wave: JBJ, Chiam & the Opposition in Singapore" in 2019. Elvin is a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, in the University of British Columbia. His primary research interests are the politics and policies of authoritarian regimes, with a specific focus on the dynamic formation of opposition coalitions. (Correction, June 25, 2020: The Workers' Party was not part of the 1976 Joint Opposition Council. The parties were the Barisan Socialis, the Justice Party, the PKMS, and United Front.)
50:50
June 24, 2020
#19 - The historical roots of electioneering and campaigning in Singapore
With the general elections on the horizon, this is set to be Singapore’s first pandemic election, or the country’s first true “Internet election”. In the next few weeks leading up to Polling Day, we speak to voters, observers, and researchers, with the hope of better understanding what is at stake and making an informed decision. Today, we focus on the historical roots of electioneering and campaigning in Singapore. Why is the election campaign period just nine days? What is the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee and how did it come about? And what is the role of the People's Association in grassroots and political work? We speak to Dhevarajan Devadas, a public policy researcher and historian, to learn more.
33:23
June 23, 2020
#18 - “Beyond COVID19: The future of social services for low-income youths and families”
On June 15th, A Good Space - Singapore's first community-owned co-operative - organised a discussion involving speakers from four non-profit organisations: AWARE, or the Association of Women for Action and Research; Beyond Social Services; ReadAble; and SG Assist. The discussion, which I had the privilege of moderating, was titled, “Beyond COVID19: The future of social services for low-income youths and families”. In this episode, we summarised three segments, featuring the work of the organisations, how research and advocacy feature in their work, as well as the future of social policies and social services in Singapore. The full two-hour discussion is available here (https://www.facebook.com/AGoodSpaceSG/).
58:28
June 19, 2020
#17 - Public assessments of the government’s pandemic response (A “Our Class Notes” and socialservice.sg collaboration)
This is a special series of episodes, created in collaboration with “Our Class Notes” (ourclassnotes.com), a website of both reporting and research on the electoral, parliamentary, and political scene in Singapore. Today, we focus on how the public has assessed the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, Liang Lei and Sean Lim, both graduates of the National University of Singapore, share more about findings of public opinion polls or surveys published by firms such as Blackbox and Ipsos. What can we learn from these polls or surveys? How has the government responded to these different findings, if they have? And how has the government responded to critical commentaries published in the local and international media? Relevant article: “First-time voters rate the Government’s response to Covid-19 outbreak” (https://www.ourclassnotes.com/post/first-time-voters-rate-the-governments-response-to-covid-19-outbreak).
40:03
June 17, 2020
#16 - Singapore’s “silly season” is upon us: Veteran journalist Bertha Henson on election reporting (A “Our Class Notes” and socialservice.sg collaboration)
This is a special series of episodes, created in collaboration with “Our Class Notes” (ourclassnotes.com), a website of both reporting and research on the electoral, parliamentary, and political scene in Singapore. Today, we speak to veteran journalist Bertha Henson, currently an Associate Professor of Practice at the National University of Singapore and formerly with the Singapore Press Holdings stable of newspapers. She's covered seven general elections, four by-elections, and two contested presidential elections, and hence I asked her about her experience of reporting an election, the issues to which she is paying attention during the upcoming general election in Singapore, as well as how the ruling party would approach the election. Relevant articles: "This GE: Let’s hear plans for a “new” Singapore" (https://berthahenson.wordpress.com/2020/05/28/this-ge-lets-hear-plans-for-a-new-singapore/) and "Give the PM a chance" (https://www.ourclassnotes.com/post/give-the-pm-a-chance).
32:35
June 12, 2020
#15 - The clarity of election and electoral regulations (A “Our Class Notes” and socialservice.sg collaboration)
This is a special series of episodes, created in collaboration with “Our Class Notes” (ourclassnotes.com), a website of both reporting and research on the electoral, parliamentary, and political scene in Singapore. Today, we focus on the clarity of election and electoral regulations by speaking to Christalle Tay and Ethan Tay, both recent graduates of the National University of Singapore. They tell us more about the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee and the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill, the discourse surrounding online and postal voting, as well as the election experience of Israel and South Korea. In terms of what else Singaporeans need to know about the elections, Christalle also makes the interesting observation that this will be the first time that parties will campaign in a Pofma environment. Relevant articles: “No clarity on Covid-19 elections legislation” (https://www.ourclassnotes.com/post/no-clarity-on-covid-19-elections-legislation) and “Campaign rules need to be out way before writ of election” (https://www.ourclassnotes.com/post/campaign-rules-need-to-be-out-way-before-writ-of-election).
44:30
June 8, 2020
#14 - The community of overseas Singaporeans in the Bay Area: “Wherever you go, you can create a family”
Community initiatives emerged spontaneously - even before the pandemic - to build connections among overseas Singaporeans. We hear from two overseas Singaporeans who have been running independent initiatives during the pandemic, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jasmin Young has been organising weekly community forums as part of the volunteer-run Singapore organisation, SingaporeConnect, while Wilson Khoo has been spearheading food delivery efforts to help F&B businesses in the area. In the process of learning more about these different initiatives, we also gain awareness of overseas Singaporeans who have different needs, who require various forms of help, or who may have fallen through the cracks.
36:04
June 1, 2020
#13 - “Of the margins of the margins”: COVID19, marginalisation, and the role of academia (A conversation with Prof. Mohan Dutta)
The coronavirus pandemic has been described by some as “the great equaliser”, yet we now know the disproportionate impact of the virus. Individuals from low-income households and communities of colour are at higher risk of infection, serious illness, and death. And in this vein, the pandemic has revealed the persistent inequalities in our societies, including in Singapore. In one of the most insightful and powerful conversations of the podcast series thus far, we speak with Professor Mohan Dutta on marginalisation and the role of academia. He explains the "culture-centred approach", describes the prioritisation of those of the margins of the margins through sustained voice and communicative infrastructures, and draws from his centre's research in Singapore and beyond. Then, we consider the role of academia. Are us academics and researchers too used to being in the limelight? What about the exclusionary effect of academia and jargon? And what does change look like, both politically and economically as well as, academically?
58:01
May 25, 2020
#12 - Community-building while circuit-breaking: “What does community mean to you?”
Before the pandemic, building communities was difficult. Maintaining and sustaining these communities, after they were built, was even more difficult. And now, with a pandemic and a circuit breaker in Singapore, community organisers who run social initiatives and programmes have had to adapt, so as to remain connected to and engaged with their communities. We hear from three such organisers: Debra Lam, co-founder of the social enterprise Society Staples; as well as Grace Chua and Tham Jun Han, co-founders of the social organisation Friendzone. Through their experiences, we want to learn about how they have shifted their regular programmes and services - very much premised upon face-to-face interactions - to online platforms. How has the transition been? What were the challenges? And what have they learnt, through this COVID19 experience?
34:05
May 22, 2020
#11 - Foreign domestic workers: Challenging dominant cultural ideas and perceptions in Singapore
Amidst the pandemic and the ongoing circuit breaker in Singapore, the needs and concerns of foreign domestic workers deserve greater attention. Groups such as the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics and A Good Space have highlighted these issues, yet many of these needs and concerns had surfaced even before this pandemic. If “business-as-usual” was already problematic, what are the necessary policy and perception changes? How do we better the employment conditions of these workers? And more broadly, what is the complicity of Singaporeans, under these circumstances? Today, we speak to Nessa Swinn, who leads the youth advocacy group, MaidForMore (https://www.instagram.com/maidformoresg/), which aims to challenge dominant - and oftentimes problematic - cultural ideas and perceptions that Singaporeans hold about these workers.
27:24
May 15, 2020
#10 - Domestic and family violence: Before, during, and after the pandemic
Countries around the world have brought attention to domestic, family, or intimate partner violence in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, especially since rising unemployment is associated with a higher number of personal crises. In Singapore, cases of family violence, child abuse, spousal abuse, and elder abuse were documented even before the pandemic, and now - amidst a circuit breaker in Singapore - these worries deserve greater and continued attention. On May 14, the Singapore Police Force said that police reports related to family violence increased by 22 per cent since the beginning of the circuit breaker period. We focus on domestic, family, and intimate partner violence: Before, during, and after the pandemic. How should the public understand these forms of violence and abuse? What does help, support, and assistance look like? And more importantly, what are the important steps to make sure that policy recommendations and actions on this issue remain priorities, even after we emerge from the circuit breaker? For that, we turn to Chong Ning Qian, Senior Research Executive at the Association of Women for Action and Research.
26:33
May 14, 2020
#09 - On the Majulah Universal Basic Income, UBI experiments, and the design of social welfare policies in Singapore (A conversation with Dr. Ong Qiyan and NMP Walter Theseira)
The discourse surrounding the universal basic income (UBI) and its experiments has gained traction around the world, including in Finland, which just announced, last week, the findings of its two-year UBI evaluation study. And while Finland was preparing to launch its UBI experiment in 2016, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore cannot afford a basic income. And yet, in April this year, in the midst of a pandemic and the circuit breaker, Dr. Ong Qiyan - deputy director of research at the National University of Singapore's Social Service Research Centre - and nominated member of parliament Walter Theseira proposed the Majulah UBI in parliament. Funded by a temporary personal income tax increase, the proposal will see all Singaporeans receiving $110 a week, for 12 weeks. While noting important design differences between the Majulah UBI and the general conception of a UBI, we were interested to learn more about their motivations, the state of UBI and its experiments around the world, as well as their thoughts on social welfare policies and interventions in Singapore.
58:59
May 12, 2020
#08 - Elderly Singaporeans living alone: “I cannot watch TV the whole day”
Singapore faces a rapidly ageing population. And before the pandemic, social service interventions to address isolation and loneliness revolved around community befriending programmes, counselling services, as well as day activities and rehabilitation. However, what happens during a pandemic, especially with a virus most deadly to the most vulnerable? How do we overcome the risks of social and emotional distancing, while maintaining physical distancing? We speak to Justina Teo, Senior Manager at Lions Befrienders (https://www.lionsbefrienders.org.sg/). Since 1995, Lions Befrienders has been matching trained befrienders to seniors through weekly home visits, and we chat about the work of her agency, the needs of the elders they serve, as well as the future of befriending services in Singapore.
33:02
May 11, 2020
#07 - F&B in Singapore: Where cheap food comes at a price
The late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain described Singapore’s food scene as having: “More variety, more options, more specialties from many lands. And cheap”. Yet, since the first coronavirus case was announced in the country, F&B businesses have had to adjust. Through conversations with an F&B owner and a team which created a crowdsourced hawker directory, we want to understand both the problems as well as the ground-up solutions. We speak to Chua Ee Chien (Jekyll & Hyde cocktail bar https://www.facebook.com/JekyllAndHyde.SG/ and bars.sg) as well as Lim Yi Fan (FoodLeh?: https://foodleh.web.app/). We also highlight the online gift-card initiative Chope & Save (chopeandsave.com), started by a team of five in their 20s.
41:17
May 3, 2020
#06 - “Moral panic and the migrant worker folk devil”, in neo-authoritarian Singapore (A conversation with Prof. Kenneth Paul Tan)
The rapid spread of the coronavirus among migrant workers has reflected serious lapses in Singapore’s pandemic planning in the country, but it would be remiss to not discuss the policies surrounding migrant workers and immigration in a more systemic or structural manner. For this, we turn to Professor Kenneth Paul Tan of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, at the National University of Singapore, who is an expert on Singapore’s politics, society, and culture. He has written extensively and holistically on the tensions and contradictions around Singapore’s transition from a developmental state to a neoliberal global city. On Labour Day, we focus on chapter 6, “Moral panic and the migrant worker folk devil”, of this 2017 book, titled, “Governing global-city Singapore: Legacies and futures after Lee Kuan Yew” (https://www.routledge.com/Governing-Global-City-Singapore-Legacies-and-Futures-After-Lee-Kuan-Yew/Tan/p/book/9781138344150). In the chapter, he discusses the effect of Singapore’s deeper participation in neoliberal globalisation and the tensions resulting from higher levels of immigration. We first invite him to explain theories such as neoliberal globalisation and political authoritarianism (as well as pragmatism and technocracy), to set the context of our conversation. Next, we trace our growing reliance on migrant labour in neo-authoritarian Singapore, leading to an evaluation of the present migrant worker situation. We also cover events in 2013 - the Population White Paper, the protests, and the Little India riot - and the extent of continuity we might be experiencing. Finally, we think about how ideological shifts in the country might look like.
01:01:50
May 1, 2020
#05 - Voices of the circuit breaker: Singaporeans in their 20s
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Singapore, I’ve been closely following the Facebook updates of former colleague Brenda Tan, with whom I used to work at the former news site “The Middle Ground”. A few days ago, she posted a powerful reflection about her personal experience, which you will hear in this episode. Singaporean blogger mrbrown also shared Brenda’s post on Twitter. On regular episodes, we document community initiatives and discuss structural challenges. Yet, inspired by her post - as well as a recent podcast by “The New York Times” titled “Voices of the pandemic” - we speak with Singaporeans about their daily lives, studying, working, and staying at home, and ask them how routines have been disrupted. This week, we caught up with seven Singaporeans in their 20s: Undergraduate Jaime Han and working professional Estella Ho (10:31); First-time mother and social worker Nur Sakinah Rahmat (17:41); Working professional Lim RuiWen (22:00); Undergraduates Lee Gui An (26:25) and Amirul Hakim Bin Abdul Hamid (33:35); and Journalist Keshia Naurana Badalge (38:50).
45:07
April 27, 2020
#04 - Mental health: Awareness, acceptance, and action (A conversation with NMP Anthea Ong)
In the context of the pandemic and the circuit breaker in Singapore, the designation of psychological treatments as a non-essential service is an obvious starting point. Yet, it also seems appropriate to both consider the state of mental health wellness and advocacy in the country before the pandemic, as well as our aspirations for where we want mental health wellness and advocacy to be. Nominated member of parliament Anthea Ong has been an advocate for improved affordability, accessibility, and quality of mental health services, who started her advocacy even before her appointment in 2018. In addition to her motivations and perspectives, our conversation revolved around the evolution of her thinking, her concerns during this circuit breaker and pandemic, and her important calls to action.
45:09
April 25, 2020
#03 - Internship and employment challenges for students: Making space and adding value
Singapore is expected to enter a full-year recession, and the ripple effect of pay cuts and hiring freezes is just beginning. Even with the Unity, Resilience, and Solidarity Budgets, graduating students from the institutes of higher learning and the universities are justifiably anxious. We focus on the internship and employment challenges faced by Singaporean students. We speak to Adriel Yong, who started a spreadsheet to collate opportunities for students looking for summer internships (tinyurl.com/summeropps2020), and Mock Yi Jun (Advisory Singapore: advisory.sg), who leads a non-profit dedicated to empowering young Singaporeans to make informed career and further education choices.
28:35
April 11, 2020
#02 - Disadvantaged or low-income families: “Every student should have a laptop. Full stop.”
Not having a computer or an Internet connection, it might be argued, is symbolic of the many challenges faced by low-income Singaporean households (with school-going children). And even with government assistance - beyond the provision of such technological necessities - individuals and community groups have also stepped up, offering other forms of assistance to Singaporeans who may have fallen through the cracks. We speak to Lim May-Ann (Engineering Good's Computers against COVID: https://engineeringgood.org/computers-against-covid/) as well as David Hoe (Project Stable Staples: projectstablestaples.sg).
39:22
April 10, 2020
#01 - Mutual aid: From spreadsheets to virtual and ground communities
Mutual aid initiatives - facilitating the exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit - started as Google spreadsheets, but could potentially evolve into virtual and ground communities which last beyond the coronavirus pandemic. We speak to Rachel Ooi (Mutual Aid Hub: aidhubsg.com) as well as Abhishek Bajaj and Vincent Ng (A Good Space: agoodspace.org) to learn more about their work and motivations, the challenges, and the way forward.
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April 9, 2020