Like most new initiatives rolled out by the National Youth Council (NYC), INSPIRIT – “a new community that brings young adult leaders together to advocate for youth interest on national and community issues and champion youth causes” – was introduced to much fanfare earlier this year. Since then, the INSPIRIT, with members aged between 28 and 35, has had two dialogue sessions: the first on land transportation in a train in Bishan Depot; the second on the rehabilitation of felons, held in the Singapore Changi Prison complex. Rather interestingly, this was what The Straits Times reported in April (emphasis mine):
NYC chairman Chan Chun Sing, who is also the Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports [MCYS], said yesterday that through the group, he hoped to groom a generation of diverse leaders who “not only have depth of experience in their own respective domains, but have a breath of perspectives from different domains”.
He added that in time to come, some of these youth leaders may take on leadership positions in Singapore politics. He said: “We want to draw political leaders from all walks of life. Some might come from this group.”
I am not the biggest fan of the NYC and its corresponding activities (here), and this sentiment partly explains why my perspective towards INSPIRIT is laced with scepticism. I am in no position to doubt the sincerity and passion of the 120 participants; nonetheless, I question the overall effectiveness of the endeavour, and its potentially negligible outcomes.
I posit four specific shortcomings (or areas for improvement).
1. The INSPIRIT community has not shown the ability to go beyond the rhetorical dimension, to effect tangible change or propose relevant policy recommendations. As with most dialogue-based initiatives, the biggest questions remain unchanged: are there any follow-up actions; how will long-term changes be introduced; what will be done from this point on? At the present moment, the interactions appear to be the be-all and end-all.
2. Did NYC factor in the concern over sustainability? I am interested to see the direction charted by the organisation, as well as the long-term plans for the group of individuals; otherwise, the project runs the risk of fading into obscurity in a few months’ time.
3. On that note, why not adopt a web-based platform to inform the public about various developments, or the takeaways from the purportedly informative dialogue sessions? I think it is crucial to increase the level of transparency, so as to provide more details about the plans and proposals beyond superficial press releases or news publications. This can be done through media interviews or written commentaries, on the socio-economic issues highlighted.
4. It is positive that the relatively large community is divided into respective focus groups for more in-depth, constructive discussions before they come together to consolidate the ideas brainstormed. The NYC could also consider the plausibility of establishing similar channels for younger, possibly schooling Singaporeans, who would have useful insights on more specific issues (for instance: education, community service, volunteerism).