Grassroots movement must 'widen network'

PA must work with non-traditional partners to engage more people, says Chan Chun Sing

The grassroots movement led by the People's Association (PA) must do more with partners outside its traditional network so as to reach more Singaporeans, PA deputy chairman Chan Chun Sing has said.

To do this, the PA must look outside its own facilities or its regular events and activities, he said.

Potential partners include companies, clans, professional groups and social service organisations.

Mr Chan added: "Can we leverage on partnerships to use their ideas and resources, over and beyond what we have within the network?"

The PA's network includes residents' and neighbourhood committees and participants of community centre activities. While still strong, the network does not connect evenly with all segments of society.

The call by Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, is part of a strategic shift in recent years to do more with external groups to "widen the base", as Mr Chan put it yesterday. He was speaking at the annual Grassroots Seminar held at the Singapore Expo.

For example, in Pasir Panjang, where many residents live in private estates, the grassroots network has been working with restaurants, shops and religious groups, to link up with residents who may be less likely to go to a grassroots activity.

The call by Mr Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, is part of a strategic shift in recent years to do more with external groups to "widen the base", as Mr Chan put it yesterday.

A durian party held recently in a church saw nearby residents interacting with MP and grassroots adviser Lim Hng Kiang, who is also Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade). Representatives of government agencies like the Land Transport Authority were also there to answer questions on municipal issues.

Grassroots leader Desmond Pek said the PA has developed 30 such contact points in Pasir Panjang, of which half involve deeper engagement, such as the sharing of premises for events.

Ashmi Minimart is one of these contact points. Owner A.R. Dinesh was approached by the PA about two years ago, and was quite willing to be of help. He regularly passes on to PA the feedback he hears from customers living in the landed estates and condominiums nearby.

"Just in my casual conversations with them, they will tell me about issues in the neighbourhood, like mosquito breeding, noise from construction sites and drains clogged by dry leaves," he said.

The 29-year-old also allows brochures on upcoming PA events and those explaining government policies - such as the Pioneer Generation Package and the Central Provident Fund - to be displayed in his provision shop.

Last month, he went to a Mid-Autumn Festival event organised by the PA at the nearby Telok Blangah Mall, and was pleasantly surprised to see some of his customers there. They had learnt about the event through brochures at his shop.

Mr Chan said reaching out to more groups in this way will keep society "nimble" - that is, the Government being able to respond quickly to the changing needs of different groups, with well-designed policies.

"Just by being small doesn't mean we'll be nimble," he said.

"For us to be small and nimble... we need to go to each and every group in our society to understand them, hear their fears, concerns and aspirations, formulate better policies, communicate those policies, execute those policies, and then the whole cycle starts again," Mr Chan said.

"That's how we remain competitive as a country, cohesive as a society," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Grassroots movement must 'widen network''. Print Edition | Subscribe