SINGAPORE - Voluntary welfare organisations should be called social service enterprises instead, said the head of the national agency overseeing the social service sector.
The change in nomenclature 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 on Tuesday (July 19) 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 the Mandarin Orchard hotel, and attended by about 600 people, including those from the corporate and government sectors.
Findings from the survey guided the discussions, and the ideas those engendered will be developed further in smaller focus group dialogues, said the NCSS. These in turn 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 name, 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.
"We cannot serve (the community) anyhow, we must have the necessary professionals to step in to meet the needs," she said. But volunteers are still important, though they should be supporting, and not running, the VWO, she noted.
"Personally, I don't like the idea of corporatising ourselves, but 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 - and that's what we need," she said, adding that it was important for VWOs and their programmes to be run in a sustainable way.
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 manually monitored.
Collaborations also help to build a caring nation, he said.
"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."