Voluntary welfare organisations should be called social service enterprises instead, said the head of the national agency overseeing the social service sector yesterday.
This would signal the change in help approaches and management needed by such organisations to be successful, said Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, the president of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).
Speaking at the inaugural Social Service Summit organised by the NCSS, he said: "The term voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) is inadequate to describe what we can and should be. 'Voluntary' does not bring across the professionalism that is needed of the sector, while 'welfare' denotes handouts rather than empowering (people)."
An NCSS survey of about 350 people, mostly from the welfare sector, found eight in 10 said more need to be done to grow an innovative culture in VWOs.
Similar numbers said VWOs were not successful in developing an effective brand, and that it was difficult to develop leadership capabilities in these organisations.
The need for VWOs to become more like businesses was a key point at the summit, held at Mandarin Orchard Hotel.
The survey findings guided discussions, and the ideas those engendered will be developed in smaller group dialogues which will contribute towards a five-year strategic plan for the social service sector, to be drawn up next year.
There are more than 2,200 charities in Singapore.
Mr Hsieh said the term, social service enterprises, "better embodies the spirit of creation, innovation and empowerment to bring about the change we need".
Nominated Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong, who is also president of SPD, which helps people with disabilities, agreed on the need for a mindset change.
"... there are many good things that we need to learn from commercial entities...
"There is accountability. It is not just about heart; it is also about the head, wisdom, prudence," she said.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin encouraged VWOs to innovate and collaborate with others, both within and outside the social service sector.
Regarding innovation, he cited an example of using cameras with video analytics technology, which can recognise movement patterns indicating a fall and send alerts, unlike typical CCTVs that need to be monitored manually.
Collaborations help build a caring nation. "When these social service organisations begin to mobilise the wider community, such as volunteers, corporates and schools... (we have) a more impactful sector and compassionate society."