Grassroots bodies need new blood

With the exception of the newer estates, there is a severe lack of youth representation in grassroots organisations (GROs), excluding the Youth Executive Committees, across the island.

First, it has become increasingly difficult for GROs to attract youth, not because young people do not have an interest in volunteering, but because of the perception they have of GROs. Many are also unaware of the roles and importance of GROs.

Second, some experienced grassroots leaders may not be welcoming towards young people.

This could create an unhealthy culture where younger volunteers do not get proper mentorship, guidance and support from experienced grassroots leaders, resulting in the young ones losing interest. This could explain the rather high turnover rate among youth in some constituencies.

This is not to discredit the contributions of experienced grassroots leaders, who are invaluable and whose experience and wisdom should be tapped going forward, but a balance needs to be struck to attract young people.

There also seems to be no proper succession planning in place within GROs, which should adopt the Singapore method of leadership transition. Experienced leaders should be willing to guide and mentor the young generation, so that they can collectively bring GROs to new heights and continue their roles in serving residents and being the bridge between the Government and the people.

Without systematically renewing their ranks and changing the existing culture, GROs may well lose their relevance in the coming decades.

Community organisations, including GROs, remain the cornerstone of our society. I urge the People's Association to look into ways to rebrand and restructure GROs to better ensure their continuity and stability.

Sim Dian Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2019, with the headline 'Grassroots bodies need new blood'. Subscribe