Our tiny island nation has come a long way. Being a 3rd generation Singaporean myself, I have very little awareness and cannot fully empathise with the struggles that our forefathers have gone through to bring this nation from a messed up rojak (a delicious local salad) to a 1st world country it is today. We have essentially moved the key national discussions of addressing our daily bread to staying abreast and even ahead of the global economy needs now. Many up and coming bottom-up initiatives are trying to bridge the gaps that our current good economy can contribute to addressing global issues. One of them would be BOP Hub: a platform to aid designing businesses to end poverty.
With the recent progression in WeCreate Studio, we started asking ourselves, what do we stand for and how would we want to be perceived when we bring our Singapore design brand overseas in our capacity as an architecture consultancy delivering for the social good? Singapore, with the knowledge, resources and human capacity that we have now, being surrounded by developing countries, how can our local industries and design assist and collaborate with these nations?
Being an Inclusive and Empathetic Nation
We believe that we should pass on the blessings we have received from our forefathers. Generally, most of us in Singapore do not have a problem meeting our daily needs. The extra resources we have could be shared with the less privileged communities, both within and outside of Singapore. We must be attuned to the needs of our broad and diverse community - the young generations' to our seniors' to persons with disabilities - we are but just one global community. What if this individual attunement one day leads to the magnanimity of our social fabric, and eventually forms part of the national identity?
Empathy not Sympathy
While many of us eagerly seek to help or assist the less privileged, we have to be conscious to move our approach away from sympathy. None of us need sympathy nor pity, it will not get us anywhere. Empathy is much stronger than sympathy as it goes beyond the feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else. In IDEO’s Human Centred Design Toolkit, empathy is explained as a ‘deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for’. It involves learning about the difficulties people face, as well as uncovering their needs and desires in order to explain their behaviours. As such, with empathy will we eventually get us somewhere and allow our efforts to see more effective solutions. And with this framework, creativity can then be laid and manifested with purpose, in order to create an empathetic Singapore.
With this National Day 2021, why don't we let go of the different pressures that we are holding on to for a moment, think through what sort of Singapore would we want to emerge from the murky past 1 year and what future would we want our next generation to be proud of.