Biz Sch News 18 December 2015

A gracious and kind Singapore

The spirit of philanthropy is strong in Singapore.

While an earlier survey found that Singaporeans view their society as materialistic, the truth is that the sense of community has been strong and enduring since the end of World War Two, according to Pauline Tan, co-author of Philanthropy on the Road to Nationhood in Singapore.

Co-author Pauline Tan

Co-author Pauline Tan

Produced at the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, the paper highlighted the contributions by philanthropic players to the national development in Singapore.

Together with co-author Roshini Prakash, they studied company reports, historical and media records, as well as conducted interviews with individuals and organisations that are active in philanthropic activities throughout Singapore’s history.

One of the earliest example was that the local community quickly formed relief centres when the Japanese occupational forces pulled out of Singapore at the end of World War Two. The British administration government were still weeks away from arriving at the island.

“Everyone came together to help, even the secret societies volunteered as fire wardens,” said Prakash.

Co-author Roshini Prakash

Co-author Roshini Prakash

Over the years, groups would emerge to provide support to divorcees and migrant workers. Corporate organisations ventured into niche giving activities such as helping needy children  and supporting sporting events.

The authors observed that the emergence of the Internet and subsequently crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo has resulted in a wave of what they termed as ‘grassroots philanthropy’. This is where either small groups or individuals would provide direct support to causes or needy persons. There have been examples where people would set up online donation platforms to collect funds.

“The overall trend is that of community driven social change with an increasing recognition of social problems arising from rampant economic growth and otherwise,” said Tan.

“This has led to greater individual empowerment to take ownership of community-based solutions to address these issues through sustainable institutions such as charities, social enterprises and long-term grassroots projects.”