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NUS establishes Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund to expand social service research in Singapore

10 April 2017 | EducationResearch
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S$2.37 million fund promotes research collaboration between social workers and NUS researchers to enhance service delivery and raise competencies

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences today established the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund to promote applied social work research with the aim of enhancing social service provision and delivery at social service agencies. 

The new research fund is established through a philanthropic gift of S$2.37 million from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund. This gift is eligible for the Government matching grant. Administered by the NUS Department of Social Work, the new research fund will support practice research projects that promote collaboration between practice and research. 

In practice research projects, practising social workers and NUS researchers will work hand in hand to address real-world challenges in Singapore’s social service sector, and in the process, social workers could build their capacity and capability to handle a variety of local issues. Findings from such research projects will also contribute towards improving the accessibility, delivery and design of social services; enhancing the well-being of service users, as well as contributing to policy discussions at the service providers and government levels. 

Associate Professor Esther Goh, Head of the Department of Social Work, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said, “We deeply appreciate the generous gift from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund to support the NUS Department of Social Work’s initiative to expand social service research in Singapore. This is a timely development, as there is a pressing need for more practice research in the social service sector to drive evidence-informed policy-making, resource planning and training of social workers to serve Singapore’s multi-cultural population.”

“The Department of Social Work is in a strategic position to host the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund to collaboratively conduct practice research with practitioners that will positively impact service users. The synergy between the extensive research competencies of our academic staff team and the ground expertise of social work practitioners will generate research findings that could build the knowledge base for social work practice in Singapore and enhance the well-being of the clients we serve,” Assoc Prof Goh explained.

Philanthropic gift from Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund

A trailblazing woman of her time, Mrs Lee Choon Guan championed many causes, including women’s education and reduction of child mortality. Through the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, her great-grandson Mr Keith Chua, who is Trustee for the Trust Fund, continues to support her causes in education and health care in Singapore and abroad. A long-time supporter of education and research initiatives at NUS, he first initiated the idea of philanthropy as a subject to be offered at the NUS Business School, which culminated into an initial gift of S$1.5 million to support the establishment of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy at the NUS Business School in 2009 (later renamed Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy in 2011). 

Mr Keith Chua, Trustee of the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, said, “In our earlier years as a developing country, Singapore naturally drew on the experiences of other countries adapting good evidence based practices in the delivery of our social services. As economic advancement brings about improved standards of living and quality of life, we are now able to increasingly deliver our social services in ways unique to our society. We are pleased to play a part in this stage of our nation’s history to find better ways through collaborative research to continue to build an inclusive and caring society. Every society will have social needs. It is imperative that we pool our collective resources to keep developing appropriate and effective evidence based interventions. Our Trust Fund is pleased to continue this working collaboration with NUS. By partnering with NUS, we hope that research emanating from this initiative may also be found helpful in other communities, regionally and internationally.”

The Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund

The Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund will provide funding for social workers to carry out practice research projects that will benefit service provision and delivery at social service agencies. Depending on the viability and impact of the projects, successful applicants can expect to receive funding that ranges from S$20,000 to S$30,000 for each practice research project. Each project is expected to be completed within a three-year period. 

Social workers applying for the funding will be matched with researchers from the NUS Department of Social Work, who will partner them as co-principal investigators for the research projects. The practice research projects will involve service providers, service users, and caregivers in the conceptualisation, implementation, analysis and utilisation of the research findings.

Applicants must be a practising social worker with a keen interest to do practice research. They will also need to secure endorsement and support from their employers. In addition, project proposals must show feasibility and have the potential to translate into training or teaching materials.

The NUS Department of Social Work envisions that these practice research projects will have the potential to improve the accessibility, delivery and design of social services; enhance the well-being of service users, as well as contribute to policy discussions at the service providers and government levels. 

The first call of applications for the fund will be announced in 2018. In the year ahead, the NUS Department of Social Work intends to increase the awareness of and impart competence in conducting social work practice research, by holding a series of public lectures and conferences on practice research. It will also conduct visits to social service agencies to explore possible research areas as well as conduct clinics to train interested social workers in conducting practice research.

Expressing support for the establishment of the new research fund, Ms Ng Hwee Chin, Head of Direct Services and Principal Social Worker, Children’s Cancer Foundation said, “Practice research is an integral part of the provision of effective programmes. It contributes to ensuring good stewardship of publicly raised funds by designing programmes that benefit the clients. By conducting practice research the practitioners gain systematic and in-depth understanding of clients’ experience as recipients of help. Heeding the voice of clients is key to Social Work as a helping profession.”

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