Dialogues to gather views of youth kick off at conference

SINGAPORE - A series of dialogues to capture the views of young Singaporeans kicked off on Saturday (April 7) with 150 tertiary students and working adults discussing climate action, racism and job security.

The three topics were part of the Youth Conversations, announced during this year's Budget debate, and in the same vein as 2012's Our Singapore Conversations.

These dialogues aim to inform the young about important national issues, as well as help them work out their differences by listening, negotiating and finding solutions together and with the Government, said Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Grace Fu, who attended the event on Saturday.

Ms Fu said she hoped that such dialogues would connect youth who are passionate about certain causes with others who have local knowledge about where these solutions could be implemented.

"We want to see how we can help the youth scale up their projects," she said. "We can provide them with resources, but they will still take charge... They would feel more empowered."

Ms Fu acknowledged that participants at such events may be self-selecting, since they are often already passionate about certain causes, but added that there is still diversity in the mix.

Participants, she noted, come from various schools or workplaces - diverse enough to "allow activation for that partnership to see more youth-initiated projects on the ground", she said.

The Youth Conversations are targeting about 2,000 young people at conferences and roadshows at schools or parks, and thousands more through its social media channels, by the end of the year.

The National Youth Council is conducting an ongoing online survey to get a sense of the topics youth are passionate about. It is also using different engagement models, such as video game simulations and longer workshops, to get them interested.

Saturday's conversations were part of a larger Singapore Youth Conference organised by the National Youth Council and the People's Association.

Among the participants was Mr Sujandren Alaghimanvalan, 21, a soon-to-be undergraduate. He decided to sign up for the workshop on racism to share his experiences and listen to others.

In a few hours, he and his teammates came up with suggestions on how to tackle racism in Singapore, including raising funds for lectures and training themselves to facilitate conversations among races.

"I have a strong passion about this, and I want to see how I can help my friends and neighbours tackle any misconceptions they may have," he said.

Another participant, community intern Elizabeth Tan, 18, attended a climate change workshop. While she found the duration too short to make an immediate change, she said she was inspired to join an organisation to combat food wastage and raise awareness about climate change.