SINGAPORE - A new nationwide effort to engage Singapore's youth will be launched in April this year.
Dubbed the Youth Conversations, it will aim to understand the views and concerns of youth and also provide more support for them in generating and implementing their ideas in contributing to society, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Thursday (March 8).
"Through conversation and dialogue, we hope that our youths will be informed on important issues, listen to one another's views, negotiate differences and find new solutions together and with the Government," said Ms Fu during the debate of her ministry's budget in Parliament.
She added that the new initiative will be different in two ways from previous efforts to engage youth.
First, the Government will be more open.
"We will be sharing more policy thoughts and considerations with our youths," Ms Fu said. "We will listen more to understand our youth's views, concerns and aspirations. We will provide more support for our youth in generating and implementing their ideas."
Second, there will be new ways for the youth to get their voices heard. "We are experimenting with different and novel modes of engagement," Ms Fu noted.
"Participants can expect the conversations to be more candid and interactive. The conversations should broaden their horizons. This will be a platform where youths meet not just like-minded peers, but also make new friends who may come from different backgrounds, and hold different beliefs and perspectives."
She added that new methods like hackathons, or mass hacking events, and citizen juries will be used to engage the youth.
A new online platform is also in the works, said Ms Fu, without giving details.
The new national conversation with youth is among new initiatives announced by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on Thursday.
This year, the ministry will be launching Our SG Heritage Plan, a long-term national drive to preserve and promote Singapore's heritage.
It will also be expanding the scale of its programmes to encourage racial and religious harmony. The MCCY will use social media to get more people to join dialogues on sensitive topics such as race and religion, Ms Fu said.
In the field of sports, the ministry announced that a new sports centre in Sembawang will be completed in the next few years, while older sport centres like those in Delta and Chua Chu Kang will be rejuvenated.
Four new Active Health Labs will be set up in Sengkang, Woodlands, Bishan and Jurong, while two mobile ones will be deployed at community clubs and residents' centres in Housing Board estates.
These labs, run by national sport body Sport Singapore, will help Singaporeans assess their fitness levels and maintain active lifestyles.
In a wide-ranging speech in Parliament that covered community, sports, heritage and youth issues, Ms Fu said that her ministry was set up five years ago but its efforts in several areas "have borne fruits".
More people are taking part in sports, arts and culture activities, she noted, and in volunteerism.
"Our volunteerism rate doubled from 18 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2016, and donations increased by over $200 million from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion in 2015," said Ms Fu, citing previously reported figures.
She noted that globalisation and other forces are pulling societies apart. Singapore too faces the challenge of strengthening its social fabric in the light of such forces, she noted.
The minister added that MCCY will focus on three areas this year: Encouraging Singaporeans to care for one another, promoting greater social cohesion and building a confident nation through arts and heritage programmes.
The debate of MCCY's annual budget on Thursday wrapped up a marathon eight days of Parliament sittings. It is the last of the government ministries and organs of state to have its budget scrutinised and approved by the House.