Singapore shares successful youth-engagement strategies

A successful youth engagement campaign relies on empowering young people, argued Dolly Goh, Chief Executive of Singapore National Co-operative Federation. Speaking at the ICA’s General Assembly in Cape Town, Ms Goh shared some of the successful youth engagement strategies developed by SNCF.

“In today’s fast and changing world there is a need to foster a stronger and more resilient generation to deal with these complex changes. But how do we really reach out to the youth?”, she asked.

An essential element in the success of such a campaign is identifying the target audience, said Dolly Goh. “We need to be part of their world. We do this through stories, with different ways of telling them to different types of youth”. It is important to customise programmes for each target group, Ms Goh added.

The campaigns should not be aimed at children and young people only, but at their parents as well. Parents of those aged between 12 and 18 years old have a strong influence on their children and so do teachers, principals of secondary schools or head of departments. Their influence needs to be taken into consideration when such campaigns are developed, said Ms Goh.

Another important target group includes pre-school children. “They can do parents do things for them even when they have no money or no appetite".

Co-operation is key to the success of the campaign, said the Chief Executive of SNCF. She added that partners are crucial in strengthening co-operation. One such partner could be the government. Co-operatives and co-operative organisations should identify target groups and identify groups that can exercise influence while aligning with the direction of the government.

“Customise your programmes to meet the needs of each focus group,” she said.

SNCF has been working  closely the government. By collaborating with the Ministry of Education they managed to get co-operatives included in school curricula. They also work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to fund of school programmes as well as with the Ministry of Culture to develop youth-oriented cultural events.

According to Ms Gog, youth groups and youth-focused organisations form another improtant group that needs to be taken into account.

Ms Goh gave examples of some of the most successful projects developed by SNCF. They hold awareness talks in schools and have also managed to convince the organisers of a nationwide social enterprise competition to include the co-operative enterprise model. Students also get involved in a national debate are now also able to discuss on topics related to co-operatives. SNCF is committed to help form the next generation of leaders. For a couple of years they have been offering scholarships to university students. Most universities also include co-operatives as part of their business modules.

SNCF has also been successful in engaging with pre-school children and their parents. Their children book, a bestseller in Singapore, helped to teach children the values of co-operation. Minister of State Halimah Yacob also lead 15,000 co-operative members, families and the public in a chorus reading of ‘A Very Big Storm’, the first book of a series of four.

People across Singapore used these books to develop dramas, musicals and have children write their own stories based on the book.

Children drew what they learned from book and posted these as post cards to SNCF, who received over 1700 submissions.

Apart from getting youth interested in the idea of co-operation, SNCF also aims to empower young people across Singapore.

“They have more energy, they know how the target group thinks, we are just there to be their mentor”, said Ms Goh.

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