“Harness the activism spirit through cities” … “Become a sanctuary for office workers to take a break” … “Have a learning centre where youth can teach the elderly and vice versa” … “Have a living museum that reflects the organic and dynamic stories of the community”.
These ideas to upgrade a community centre in Telok Ayer – a historic district in Singapore’s Chinatown – were submitted by citizens via Imagine 2065: a new platform to crowd-source visions for Singapore's future communities and social spaces.
Imagine 2065 is just one initiative from The Thought Collective, a Singapore-based group of social enterprises which share the aim of “building up Singapore’s social and emotional capital”.
It all began with the desire to engage young people with their civic environment, explains founder Tong Yee. “We truly believe that in any form of solution, if you don’t understand the context, you’re not going very far. If you look at a young person, you have to ask, ‘How do I give you the context that will allow you to be a much more strategic thinker and partner in the future?’”
The first enterprise in the group was School of Thought – a citizenship education project for Singapore. It exists on the private market, as The Thought Collective’s ‘cash cow’. “No one was going to pay money to become a better citizen”, admits Tong Yee. “So we disguised it as an English tuition programme. We work in classes that help grow the students' character and voice.”
Image credit: Telok Ayer Green, Lim Leong Seng
Levels of engagement with Imagine 2065 suggest that it is possible to build ‘social and emotional capital’ in a city through profit-making enterprise. Will our voices become our most prized assets?