Singaporeans long for the sense of community in the kampung, yet many would rather go through their town council to address issues than speak directly with their neighbours. Foundations and corporations generously channel resources to disadvantaged groups, but sometimes gifts have the unintended consequence of reducing local initiatives to provide self-help, and mutual support. Well-meaning voluntary welfare organisations that strive to provide better-quality and professionalised social services may focus on the individual client and their personal problems rather than engender communities with a shared stake in public issues.
Community development in Singapore is full of tensions and contradictions, yet two case studies on voluntary efforts also show its promise and potential. This workshop looks at two organisations and their approaches to community development. Beyond Social Services adopts a strength-based approach to help disadvantaged children and youth escape the poverty cycle, while ArtsWok Collaborative harnesses the power of the arts to engage the community in creating dialogue, inviting social participation and building strong bonds.
What is community development, and what does a strong community look like? What is the role of an organisation invested in community development, and do the arts have a place in its work? What exactly is a “community”? This workshop aims to shed light on these questions, and prompt broader reflections on the potential of social media in community building, the role of the state in community development efforts, and the question of “scaling up” community work.