So passionate is Dr Adam Chee, 43, about volunteering that he once embarked on a year-long advanced certificate in teaching English in order to better serve the beneficiaries of various volunteer teaching programmes he was part of. His last stint was in June 2019, when he spent three weeks in the rural mountains of China teaching English to children.
Despite the pandemic putting a halt to overseas volunteering programmes, Dr Chee is able to spread his passion for doing good with his colleagues – and benefit even more people in the society.
Soon after he joined the Institute of Systems Science at National University of Singapore (NUS-ISS) last year as chief of its Smart Health Leadership Centre, he enrolled in the Company of Good Fellowship programme, run by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). The five-month programme is designed to help Fellows build knowledge and skills in corporate leadership and strategies that create business value and social impact at the same time.
Dr Chee says: “When I signed up, it was a situation of ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’ when it comes to doing good on an organisational level, so I was hoping to get some sort of structured guidance to help me kick-start my organisation’s CSR journey.”
Now that he is in a leadership position, Dr Chee hopes to generate a ripple effect not just within his organisation, but also the wider community.
“The Fellowship targets business leaders for organisational development but with a focus to catalyse change within organisations for the benefit of society. Hence, the topics covered are delivered with the intention to open up new perspectives, so that we can engage with experts to ideate and come up with solutions that are relevant to our organisations.”
Gaining knowledge to set initiatives in motion
True to NUS-ISS’ vision – to “enable a digital economy that is always learning and always leading” – Dr Chee leads his team at the Smart Health Leadership Centre to innovate and co-create the future experience of health and social care through technology, data and design. They work to blend the various disciplines, skills and technology through the delivery of work-based training, mentorship-based consulting and industry-based applied research.
A highlight among his organisation’s initiatives is Design4Impact. It is a joint effort by the Ministry of Health’s Office for Healthcare Transformation and National Council of Social Service, co-organised by NUS-ISS and supported by DesignSingapore Council. The open innovation platform brings together individuals and groups to design solutions for tackling community health and social problems brought on by the pandemic.
Winning solutions included Blockbox (a project by students from National University of Singapore and Yale University that converted void decks into communal spaces with dedicated community programmes in order to reimagine the social media experience for seniors), and Post Discharge Buddy System (a mobile app by St Luke’s Eldercare that matches volunteers with seniors who live alone to assist them in post-discharge care).
Dr Chee will be part of the organising committee for the second edition of Design4Impact, slated for launch in October.
Going through the Fellowship has not only enabled him to conceptualise and plan better CSR initiatives for his organisation, but has also taught him how to leverage his background in public health to help assess if his projects have achieved the desired outcomes.
“My focus area is digital transformation initiatives in a health and social care setting. The knowledge and perspectives gained from the programme will enable me to design solutions and interventions that incorporate the “doing good” element – which is often needed but may have been overlooked from a professional angle. I am now more mindful to incorporate such elements to enhance the overall value and impact of CSR initiatives.”
Finding solidarity while doing good
A firm believer in the power of organisations to improve the lives of the communities they do business within, Mr Wang En Yeow, 30, hopes to help bridge the digital divide by scaling social innovation that can create positive social and healthcare impact for the vulnerable in Singapore and the region.
As Singtel’s group sustainability manager, his job involves leveraging the company’s digital expertise to create social impact in the community. For instance, Mr Wang leads Singtel Future Makers, a capacity-building programme that helps start-ups scale their social impact solutions through grant funding, mentoring and access to networking opportunities.
Last year, the programme supported two businesses – medtech start-up Aevice Health and education technology non-profit Solve Education! – with grant funding to scale their digital solutions that tackle social and community challenges posed by the pandemic.
Aside from being in charge of Singtel Future Makers, he also supports Singtel Cyber Wellness programmes where he works closely with strategic partner organisations on initiatives to cultivate a safer internet for families and young children. For instance, he worked with TOUCH Community Services on Help123, an integrated cyber wellness and digital parenting online platform, and with DQ institute on #DQEveryChild, a global collaborative effort that provides a Child Digital Readiness Kit to families and schools.
Mr Wang also volunteers with Singtel Digital Silvers, conducting digital skills workshops at Senior Activity Centres to foster digital inclusion and close the digital gaps that have become more pronounced among the older generation since the onset of Covid-19.
He says: “The pandemic has highlighted the widening digital gap in our community. But it’s also shown how digital technology can connect people amid physical distancing.
“I wanted to use my own skills to contribute to the community, and I believe as a corporation, we can also do the same.”
Mr Wang signed up for the Company of Good Fellowship in May this year, after learning about it from his team lead, Mr Chia Boon Chong, who has been a mentor with the Fellowship programme since its commencement.
“The programme gave me comprehensive tips on how to systematically think through and execute my initiatives, as well as how to measure and report the outcome. I also got to connect with like-minded partners to ideate possible ways to leverage programmes to support the community, scaling our initiatives further than expected,” he shares.
As part of the programme, Fellows are matched with mentors – many of whom are experts in their respective fields and Fellowship alumni themselves. Mr Wang’s mentor, Ms Patsian Low of AVPN (Asian Venture Philanthropy Network), helped him greatly in understanding the concepts presented during the Fellowship.
“Getting mentored by someone who has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors on the challenges of CSR and how to navigate them was very fruitful,” he shares.
“Through the Fellowship, I also learnt how doing good is good for the company – it has been shown that when companies do good, it drives long-term returns, customer loyalty and inspires innovation.”