New centre to shape social innovations

28 April 2015 | Community
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On stage to officially launch the SSR were (from left): Prof Cheung; Mr Phillip Tan, Chairman of Community Chest and member of the NUS Board of Trustees; Mr Chan Heng Kee, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Social and Family Development; ESM Goh; Prof Tan Eng Chye, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost; Prof Brenda Yeoh, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; and Assoc Professorial Fellow S Vasoo, Dept of Social Work

A new centre, the first-of-its-kind dedicated to social intervention research in Singapore, was launched at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on 24 April. The Social Service Research Centre (SSR) aims to bring together resources and ideas to test social innovations and build a fresh social service infrastructure for Singapore's next phase of social development.

“I can see an avalanche of social issues coming…The social challenges of Singaporeans in the next 50 years will be drastically different from those in the last 50. We need to think ahead of the curve, and evolve a new social service infrastructure,” said Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong, Guest-of-Honour at the launch at Kent Ridge Guild House. ESM Goh is an Advisor to the SSR.

In an age where social needs are increasing faster than public budgets, the establishment of the SSR, with support from its partners such as the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Community Chest and investment management firm Quantedge, is timely to ensure the effectiveness of social services provision for those in need.

To carry out its goals, the SSR will employ rigorous evaluation methods and social analytics and work in tandem with government agencies; sector organisations; professionals; and academia, explained SSR Director Associate Professor Irene Ng of the NUS Department of Social Work. Assoc Prof Ng will lead the Centre, together with Professor Paul Cheung, Chairman of the SSR Steering Committee.

Poised to tackle the next phase of the country’s social development, it will look at complex issues such as a demographic shift and growing income inequality that have taken on a more prominent role as Singapore matures. In response to these challenges, it will, for a start, focus on three main research areas including low-wage workers and their families; children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds; and elderly and their service needs.

One major project commencing in May, is a longitudinal study of 1,500 low-income debt-laden families. The project will be carried out in collaboration with Methodist Welfare Services, Care Corner Singapore and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities and involve at least 28 partner Voluntary Welfare Organisations.

In conjunction with the launch, SSR held its inaugural conference titled “Transforming Social Services: Innovation, Evaluation, Impact” which was attended by leading social service experts from Indonesia, United Kingdom, the United States as well as Singapore. The event served as a platform to share experiences in overcoming challenges in social service evaluation and how these can contribute to the development and shaping of future social innovations, as well as bridge the understanding between researchers and practitioners with the hope of facilitating future research partnerships.

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ESM Goh (far left) having a conversation with the invited international speakers at the conference