Important for social workers to innovate: Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin at the speech and dialogue session at Gardens by the Bay.
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin at the speech and dialogue session at Gardens by the Bay.PHOTO: SINGAPORE ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS

SINGAPORE - Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin was like a "social worker" to hundreds of social workers at a dialogue on Tuesday (March 21).

For about half an hour, he fielded questions on topics such as how to be innovative while managing bureaucracy and risk-averse leaders in organisations.

He was at a Social Work Day event, which about 600 people attended. The annual event is organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers, and the theme for this year was "Fostering Innovation in Social Work Practice".

One participant said innovation often requires buy-in from an organisation's leaders, but the leaders were not open to new ideas.

Mr Tan replied: "If you have some level of autonomy, then whatever that sphere of influence may be, exercise the autonomy that you have and innovate within that space... Sometimes by doing, you demonstrate to your superiors that this (idea) makes sense, and when you get feedback from clients, it encourages the superiors and gives them confidence."

Another participant said innovation is limited by bureaucracy and asked how to work around this.

Mr Tan said bureaucracy is important as it helps to create systems which then make it easier for ideas to be replicated and scaled up.

But he said that having too much bureaucracy is a problem, and suggested people give feedback so the authorities can fine-tune processes.

Earlier in a speech at the event, Mr Tan said innovation was important not only in the business sector, but in social work as well.

While it is vital to have a heart for people in caring for them, "it's important to have sound minds... to put in place structures and processes to support the work that we do, so that we continue to do good work for a long time," he said.

There are 1,600 registered social workers here.