You have the power to transform communities

This story first appeared in The Straits Times' IN on Sept 8, 2014

You want to help your community, but you do not know where to start.

This sentiment tops the feedback list on volunteer work in Singapore, published by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) last year.But that feeling could be about to change, with new initiatives by the MCCY, chief of which is the inaugural MCCY-Straits Times Idea Jam.

Its aim is to inspire and enable young people to be the change they wish to see in society, as they build a “democracy of deeds”, said an MCCY spokesman.Taking place this year from Oct 1 to 4, the Idea Jam will give teenagers and young adults a platform to engage with people from marginalised communities in Singapore so they can make a difference in their lives.Helmed by Mr Chris Sopher - a journalism programme associate with the Knight Foundation, an American journalism foundation -  the civic engagement event will impart principles of impact journalism to young people from post-secondary and tertiary institutions.“We want to connect their intentions with invention, in the same way that good journalism results in a positive impact on society, by identifying issues surrounding marginalised groups,” said Ms Serene Goh, The Straits Times’ Schools editor.

The Straits Times Schools team, which produces IN and Little Red Dot, its sister newspaper for primary school pupils, helped design the programme.Idea Jam participants will learn and practise research and communication skills through interactive workshops and practical sessions. These include interview skills, data analysis methods, news writing and public-speaking techniques.To give these young people an authentic learning experience, a journalist from The Straits Times will lead each team of five participants in using the skills they pick up to uncover problems faced by marginalised communities. Together, they will craft effective solutions to help them.

The programme culminates in a pitch presentation on the final day of the event.Taking place in the style of a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk - a conference at which speakers present their thoughts in a creative and exciting manner - each team’s representative will address a panel of judges, outlining the issues faced by its chosen community and detailing some solutions.The winning prototypes will receive implementation seed funding of up to $3,000 from the Young ChangeMakers Grant, a disbursement from the National Youth Council, which is supporting the Idea Jam.This means, instead of just coffee-shop talk, you can go one better – to serve folks in need.

Read about three teenagers who are making time to volunteer.Who would you help through Idea Jam? Tweet your thoughts to @STSchools_