Full-time national serviceman Ian Mun, 20, specially took time off from his duties to learn to serve the nation in a different way.
A participant in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - The Straits Times (MCCY-ST) Idea Jam, he and other young people, aged 17 and above, picked up research and interview skills yesterday. The skills will help them come up with a prototype project to help the community.
Said Mr Mun: "I wanted to try something new and give back to society."
The collaboration between the ministry and the broadsheet aims to encourage young people to help others around them.
In 10 groups, the 34 Idea Jam participants - ranging from students to young working adults - spoke to a civic group or voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) to find out more about their objectives and challenges.
Mr Mun's team, for instance, interviewed Mr Emerson Hee, the executive director of Restroom Association (Singapore), and its outreach and education manager Sanjay Balan.
"It's good that they asked thoughtful questions to get insights on what we are doing," said Mr Balan, noting that the group wanted to understand the big picture behind the causes of dirty toilets.
Before heading out independently to do the interviews, Idea Jam participants practised interviewing, listening and note-taking techniques with one another.
Each group was matched with a facilitator who was either a journalist from The Straits Times or a staff member of the National Youth Council (NYC), a partner of the event.
The facilitators helped the participants plan their fact-finding missions based on background information provided by each civic group or VWO.
Straits Times journalist Yeo Sam Jo, 26, a facilitator at the event, said of the participants: "They seemed eager to learn and open to the new experience."
He also shared interview tips from his reporting experiences with his team, such as asking open-ended questions, clarifying the meaning of technical terms and recapping what the interviewee said.
Participants also toured The Straits Times newsroom and the Singapore Press Holdings' Information Resource Centre yesterday.
The programme will continue today and tomorrow, as participants analyse and come up with the best, most feasible ideas to help beneficiaries.
Mr Mun's team, for one, wants to do more ground research.
Said his team mate Belicia Teo, 18, a second-year Singapore Polytechnic student: "We will be going to different toilets and, hopefully, speak to members of the public and cleaning attendants."
The participants' efforts will culminate in a pitch to a judging panel on Saturday at ITE College Central.
Successful teams will receive seed funding of up to $3,000 from the NYC's Young ChangeMakers grant to carry out their projects.
Follow the action at: www.straitstimes.com/idea-jam