First Idea Jam yields gems of social projects

Public toilets are everyone's business.

This punchy one-line summary for a social project was among the standout ideas at yesterday's finale of a four-day event that aims to equip young people with skills to create prototype community projects.

ST 20141005 SUNDAY 456810m

Five of the 10 teams in the first Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth-The Straits Times Idea Jam qualified for seed funding of up to $3,000 per team to put their vision into action.

Each team had just three minutes to present an idea and how it would benefit a designated voluntary welfare organisation or civic group.

The five projects which got a nod on the spot:

  • A campaign for the Restroom Association (Singapore) to get people to take care of public restrooms using elements such as a fun Facebook quiz and decals with humorous messages;
  • YouTube videos for Sustainable Living Lab to encourage a do-it-yourself culture among young people;
  • A recreational room for elderly residents of the Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (Swami) Home, with colourful walls painted with encouraging messages, soft toys for the residents to cuddle and a karaoke set;
  • Organised activities for caregivers of the beneficiaries of BizLink, which helps people with disabilities find employment;
  • Recruitment of volunteers and a volunteer loyalty programme and training system for the Waterways Watch Society.

At the pitch session at ITE College Central, each team also fielded questions from a panel of judges, who quizzed them on how they would involve other youth volunteers or manage their budgets.

Said Ms Serene Goh, The Straits Times Schools editor, who was on the panel: "Watching these social innovations take shape was exciting for all the judges - teams were very thorough in interviewing sources and researching their topics."

The pitches distilled interviews, research and analyses from workshops and coaching held from Wednesday to Friday. Facilitating their group discussions were journalists from The Straits Times and staff from the National Youth Council, an event partner.

The event's guest of honour, Ms Low Yen Ling, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, said young people were getting closer to meeting the needs of Singapore society and that projects like Idea Jam offered them more mentorship, which would take their ideas further.

Co-chairmen of the NYC's Young ChangeMakers grant, Mr David Tay and Mr Muhammad Nabil - who were judges alongside National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre director of volunteerism Hosea Lai and Ms Goh - encouraged participants who were not awarded funding yesterday to refine their ideas and apply again.

For participant Ian Mun, 20, a full-time national serviceman whose team's brainchild on public toilets was commended by the judges for a refreshing take on a problem, the event reinforced his passion for wanting to help the community.

He said: "It's like a risk, but I dare to take the risk because I know even if I fall and I fail, there will be other people around me who will catch me."

ayiying@sph.com.sg

Recap the action at: www.straitstimes.com/idea-jam