SG Together movement

Citizens' panel a chance to air views, hear from others

Part-time lecturer Noor Lyna Zainuddin, who discussed ways to improve work-life harmony with 57 other citizens last year, said the experience was "very mentally tiring" but "well worth it".
Part-time lecturer Noor Lyna Zainuddin, who discussed ways to improve work-life harmony with 57 other citizens last year, said the experience was "very mentally tiring" but "well worth it".ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

When part-time lecturer Noor Lyna Zainuddin got together with 57 other citizens last year to brainstorm what more could be done to help Singaporeans achieve work-life harmony, she was taking part in a process to involve the community in collective thinking and action.

The concept of a citizens' panel, invented by American political scientist Ned Crosby, is one of the new ways public agencies are engaging Singaporeans under SG Together.

Ms Noor Lyna, 34, told reporters that the experience, over four Saturdays late last year, was "very mentally tiring" but "well worth it". "By the third session, we were ready to kill each other," she said of the discussions that went into a report.

The panellists, who included employers, freelancers, parents and caregivers, eventually agreed on some solutions to improve work-life balance. At the end of the sessions, they submitted 17 recommendations, like having companies specify flexi-work arrangements in contracts. The Government will respond to them early this year.

Ms Noor Lyna, who had quit her job in aviation after she realised it left her no time for her two daughters, said: "Opportunities like this allow you to speak to people, clarify doubts and get your voice heard."

Another new way of engaging people, the RecycleRight Citizens' Workgroup, had brought together 48 people to look at how to improve the rate of household recycling.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said the Government is committed to trying out different ways of working with people who may have different desires to shape Singapore.

Such models will have different levels of intensity to cater to how much people want to participate, and can involve public consultations and dialogues to gather feedback, or working with people and sharing data with them to come up with solutions to particular problems and to implement the policies.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah added that the Government has no set formula. She said: "We are experimenting in a measured, thoughtful way, but also ready to seize an opportunity as and when it presents itself."

 

Both ministers acknowledged that not all views can be taken on board. Mr Lee said: "Ultimately... there needs to be one outcome or a group of outcomes and inevitably, some people, some organisations, even some agencies may feel disappointed that their solutions were not adopted."

The process should be open so that trade-offs can be discussed, and once a decision is made, people will move collectively, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2020, with the headline 'Citizens' panel a chance to air views, hear from others'. Print Edition | Subscribe