Youth dialogue should address diversity and 'so what' issues

The launch of a series of dialogues called the Youth Conversations, to inform the young about important national issues, is encouraging (Youth Conversations dialogue series among outreach efforts; March 9).

But, thus far, it is not clear whether the Government has considered the feedback from similar outreach efforts in the past, both to ensure a broader diversity of participants as well as to articulate a more coherent "so what" vision: So what happens at the end of the process?

And more importantly, since Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu has said the Government will be more open, is it also open to ideas or projects which may run counter to what it expects, for youths may not necessarily find solutions together with it?

Preceding the Youth Conversations were the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) series from 2012 to 2013 and the SGfuture initiative announced in 2015.

Despite tweaks to this upcoming dialogue series and plans for a new online platform, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, however, has said little substantive about the overall vision of the dialogue series - the guiding principles, the topics for discussion, even how this might differ from other MCCY or non-government projects, for instance, and how the profiles of participants may be diversified. In other words, the young people participating in the Youth Conversations could end up having very broad exchanges, but among others from fairly similar backgrounds.

And what may emerge are tired points or generic policy recommendations, which may not be of much value.

Instead, a more productive approach might be to first establish what was gained through the OSC and SGfuture, and to identify other problems which surfaced in addition to the challenges of diversity and the "so what" vision.

Next, the MCCY could come up with a more precise road map for the Youth Conversations, and also outline how different sessions or themes relate to one another.

Above all, such outreach efforts should include individuals who manage meaningful endeavours independently or without the support from the Government.

It is tempting and convenient to engage with only those already familiar to the MCCY and agencies like the ministry, especially through networks involved in the Government's initiatives.

This may lead to perspectives that are likely to be limited.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Youth dialogue should address diversity and 'so what' issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe