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Following up from my first career blog post “Maybe Its Time to take my Leap“, over the past few months I have been embarking on conversations with leaders and individuals, to better understand the current business landscape of Singapore.

It has been an enriching journey thus far to say the least. Discovering the many diverse organizations and each of their unique socially driven agenda has been quite inspiring. And I am really humbled to have had the time to converse with many of these leaders of organizations, and to learn more about the aspirations and drive of each company.

What surprised me the most is how people have carved out their own diverse niches, to be able to work on what they believe in and run a sustainable business through that. It is refreshing coming from the profit obsessed corporate sector to find organizations and their leaders seeking to make a more substantial social change in the community.

The summary below is completely my own recollection and perspectives of the many insights and lessons that I have been able to draw from my time with these leaders. This is by no means a representation of the perspectives and positions from these organizations, please visit the respective organizations to learn more from them. I am ever grateful in their willingness to share their time and experience with me, in my own quest to seek for more meaning in the 21stcentury.

The Hidden Good

The Hidden Good aims to be a community platform that reveals the good in society and the world us. They carry out this strong social agenda through social experiments, guerrilla movements of kindness and youth activation.

From my conversations with them, I gained perspective of their social mission of celebrating a culture of positivity, gratitude and appreciation. I was then further involved with their Hoodie Lab initiative, which seeks to develop a platform to empower Changmakers from the community to carry out a Social Intervention that we are passionate about.

  • I relate deeply with their causes on empowering people in the community to uncover the hidden good within all of us and to be in touch with our collective human values of kindness and compassion.
  • Taps well on the current trends of social media and method of publication. Main platform of community engagement is through videos on Facebook as a medium to reach the largest market share of viewers
  • Has efforts to scale up these initiatives of kindness through viral video sharing, but also building their own community of changemakers, empowering voluntary members to carry out their own forms of social good.
  • Still a new company finding a firm way to monetize for long term sustainability. Right now is mainly a content media creation organization as their main product, concern with its over reliance on social media and trends to as a metric of performance.

Key take away: They showed me how they created a very genuine internal community. One that can both empower its members but is also a supportive space for all demographics of society to be inspired, learn and grow together towards the unified cause of social good.

The Thought Collective

With the main ideology of building up Singapore’s social and emotional capital, I feel that The Thought Collective has one of the more profound and needed social directives to fill. They have developed a whole community of social enterprises to meet various demands throughout their journey of growth. TTC now consists of an education center to shape the minds of the future generation, a magazine publisher to produce content for their students, a public eatery and coaching arm as an outreach to the adult demographic.

They were sharing with me the holistic vision of TTC in creating their very own Civic Centre that seeks to bring together different social enterprises to collaborate and cross pollinate ideas.

  • I relate deeply with their causes to question our society’s underlying values and identity in this modern age of hyper globalization and where Singapore as a nation wants to position itself.
  • Very visionary in their future plans in creating a new form of collaborative Social Services in Singapore. Has enough influence and business experience to ensure that their model is sustainable for the future.
  • Intent on creating a very sustainable organization and is clear on what the essence of his collaborators are. An organization that knows how to understand their team thoroughly and work with their strengths

Key take away: How to develop a Centre that seeks to become more than the sum of its parts. The steps of building on a long term vision, while collaborating with likeminded individuals to stay united. Gave me a strong insight to reevaluate the purpose of education: to change our perception from what am I achieving in education, to the idea of how is education equipping the future generation to play its role in society.

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Participate In Design

PID prides itself of its goal for Community Centric Design that aims to bring together public institutions and designers with the actual stakeholders of the built environment. They have a strong mission towards empowering the community to participate in and influence the design and planning process of their environment.

I have had the pleasure of volunteering with them throughout this year as a Facilitator, Note Taker and Community Outreach roles. I was part of their WOBY project at Tampines, Tampines NRP project and Hack Our Play at St James Kindergarten.

  • Was part of the process in creating projects that create communities and develop a sense of ownership with their built environments. I relate well towards their ideas of the built environment and its impact on society.
  • As an organization, they are very willing to collaborate and explore different avenues in the idea of spatial design and building communities
  • Has a strong niche in the design industry as a platform to bring together both parties. Finding its innate business model that will allow it to scale and bring a larger impact to society.

Key take away: The ability as a designer to learn from the communities that you are designing for. I feel that we as Architects are always too proud in our design process, thinking we know what is best for the community. But through active engagement with different demographics, we uncover a more solid foundation that can inform our design decisions that work for the communities that need us the most.

ThinkPlace

ThinkPlace is a design consultancy that has a strong interest in developing the social and public sector and help them solve their problems. Its mission is to develop a positive future world that balances the needs of the collective and those of the individual.

  • Has a strong holistic approach to design thinking, understands that there are multiple layers and networks involved with social services and how do we then work with them.
  • Their mission has a strong focus to the humanistic side of problems. Targets the Systems and Services portion of consultancy and not the Products and Branding side of services.
  • Their niche is their focus towards the social sector and NGOs, they understand the need there for Design input and a new way of systems thinking.
  • Started with people from the public sector, understanding the values and trying to invoke change from the private consultancy side. Takes on a very sensitive approach within the humanistic issues that they work on.

Key takeaway: The importance of Design Thinking and Systems Thinking in solving the very human problems within the Social Sector. Trying to understand the important questions that need to be addressed while maximizing efficiency in what they can achieve with a limited budget.

COLOURS

Collectively Ours is seeking to develop a discipline for collaborative public space design. They are a design consultancy with a mission to design urban community spaces that collaborate with the community to bring about ideas of diversity, flexibility and empowerment.

I joined them for their first time at their Ang Mo Kio Community Hub Residential Engagement. This was to present the finalized design of the community hub and to receive feedback from the residents.

  • They are currently collaborating with a lot of diverse parties within the public realm, and are trying to push the concept of Collaborative Design Consultancy as a profession
  • They have a close relationship with SUTD, this allows them to test computational design methods that can respond to the needs of the community. This gives a very human centric input into computational design methods.
  • Has the ability to engage in both mandarin and English fluently which is an important skill to grasp the feedback of the wider demographics within Singapore.

Key take away: The ability to bring computational design methods to the community. To develop a more human centric approach to computational design, while giving the community a more responsive built environment.

SkillSeed

It was born from the frustrations of educators who realize that there is a lack of meaningful projects in schools for youths. The aim is to educate and empower the youths and community partners to reshape the volunteering landscape of Singapore and the region. Currently works closely with schools to provide them a new form of skilled volunteering experience that seeks to empower the students and the communities that they impact.

  • Looking to expand their collaborations with partners locally and in the ASEAN region, has strong fundamentals in achieving more with likeminded partners
  • Seeking to expand its community of volunteers and to capitalize on each of their own talents, to provide meaning and form a movement for a greater cause
  • Has strong connections with partners in the ASEAN region and is a strong bridge between our neighbouring cultures.

Key takeaways: The potentials for tapping into the needs and opportunities of neighbouring regions. There is a wealth of opportunity to give and learn from the diverse cultures of ASEAN. And to equip the youths with the skills to empathise and connect with the local communities that they are involved with.

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OWMF

I came across OWMF from their design of the Lo & Behold HQ — Looksee Looksee. OWMF strives to invent new spaces and forms through rigorous testing and experimentation. From what I understand, their focus is not purely on the visual impact of a design but also on the methodology of how they arrived at their design.

  • Interested in achieving masterpieces of Architecture for Singapore, looks to push boundaries in craft and workmanship through the testing of ideas.
  • Understands the context of Singapore and its current lack of appreciation for art and culture. The monetary focus and emphasis on cheapest has affected the quality of craftsmanship in Singapore.
  • Involved in education at Bold at Work — with a mission of expanding the recognition of society towards craft and good design, wants to move the society away from its fixation of price.

Key takeaway: The current context of Singapore for many designers is the paradox of wanting good design but with the unwillingness to pay for quality. The systemic loss of this form of appreciation within society, and the loss of respect within this industry on the importance of methodology rather than the focus on aesthetic forms.

Genome Architects

Genome Architects is an Architectural firm with the focus on Residential and Public projects. Their methodology draws from a diverse range of disciplines from the natural systems of biology, culture, context, heritage, substance and time.

I first came across Genome at the ArchiTours in 2015. Yen Yen was presenting their work on the Golden Ratio house, which was a quaint residential home for a family of 2 children. They wanted the Golden Ratio principals to permeate through the structure and design of the home.

  • Smaller and more intimate scale of Architecture. I was really impressed with the sensitive approach it takes towards the stakeholders and the narrative of design. They are not bogged down by design ego, and are very willing to learn from others.
  • Strong focus on pushing the boundaries within Architecture, want to create a community within the studio to test new ideas within and outside architecture.
  • Is involved with practice, academia and the professional body simultaneously to get a solid understanding of Architecture holistically.

Key takeaway: The importance of grasping a holistic understanding of the Architecture field, learning from academia, the professional body and a professional practice. This gives us context on the overall growth and direction of the profession. Has a long term vision on using the smaller projects as test beds and to then scale up their ideas towards larger public projects.

SAA Architects

SAA Architects approach Architecture with a very distinct set of values. They believe in the Optimistic, Humanistic and Urbanistic approach which gives their projects a lot of humility and social engagement. In my conversations with them, they believe in the larger role Architecture can play towards creating habitable spaces for society.

  • The leadership understands my compassion for the social side of Architecture. They are united in their cause for benefiting society through Architecture and design.
  • Understands the importance of their team of invested designers and manages to create a community within the company that will continue to grow. Prioritizes a flat hierarchy to spot talent and help them grow from within the company.
  • Launches many different initiatives like Arkidtecture as a CSR arm to help Architecture reach other parts of the community.
  • Has design principals of not needing to build beautiful Architecture, no design gurus and no design that is too precious to change. Shows a strong sense of humility within design and the ability to adapt to the needs of the future.

Key takeaway: The importance of developing a unified value system within the company, how do you engage your talent to keep them invested in a larger purpose and also help them grow along the way. The fine balance of Architecture between the idealistic vision of a social architecture, against the realities of clients and budgets of a project.

RT+Q

RT+Q is a globally recognized firm that works on individual houses, condominiums, resorts and commercial buildings. The office has a design focus that has roots within a Classical background, while still finding new ways to reinvent design. Each project is an attempt to find a rhythm of space and a melody of proportion that seek to bring order to chaos.

  • The long term vision of RT+Q would is to continue on its current trajectory and size which focuses on houses and a small scale firm.
  • Very family oriented in the firm, ability to develop a casual and cohesive atmosphere that promotes people to bring their best selves to work
  • Has a strong methodology on Classical design and the ability to follow the rules and disciplines of space, gaining world recognition

Key takeaway: The importance of an intimate bond within the firm. This is one of the few firms that feel like a genuine family, everyone knows each others peeves and are comfortable working together. This allows them to play hard and work hard within the tight confines of Architecture. And also allows them to punch above their weight in being recognized by the Architecture world.

Social Innovation Park

Social Innovation (SIP) is a home-grown not for profit organization founded in 2006. Their aim is to be an incubator of social entrepreneurs and to be a bridge between Private, Public, and People sectors.

  • The main intention is to link startups with businesses that want to fund CSR projects, leverages on both business networks and social networks.
  • Has a strong drive for sustainable and long term projects, main focus is on ideas that can run itself financially, and scale for the long term.
  • Is exploring a diverse range of platforms for Social Enterprises, explores the potential of farming, F&B, product design and forums of exchange.
  • Has much success in its earlier projects, want to form test beds and innovation platforms for the community in Singapore. The longer term is to develop a culture for social exploration.

Key takeaway: The importance in understanding the business plans and finances. Finding social causes and problems are not the hard part, the difficulty is on designing businesses that can work in the long term and be sustainable themselves.

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Padang & Co.

Padang & Co. is an Open Innovation company that seeks to create an ecosystem for Social Innovators and business to develop meaningful outcomes for affecting change in society. They seek to collaborate between diverse members of their community from technology, data innovation and startups to create innovative solutions to many 21stcentury problems.

  • The success of the Foundry Model — which aims to develop innovative spaces within the companies itself to breed innovators and collaborators on solutions.
  • The importance of developing the quality of startups, how do you create a sustainable culture of innovation and skills development in the startup community.
  • Has a strong focus on covering the range of Social enterprises and private businesses, as they know each sectors has their own benefits in affecting change. Businesses with scale and the money to effect change, enterprises with their idealistic goals to society.
  • Willing to bring together vastly diverse disciplines to develop novel solutions. Always open to listening and learning to spot for new opportunities.

Key takeaway: The importance of opening yourself to new opportunities, just need to find topics and events that intrigue, and to follow your curiosity that leads you to serendipity. The potential of bridging between industries and disciplines in finding novel ideas towards business problems, and the quest on creating spaces for innovation and creativity.

Chemistry

Chemistry is a Design Consultancy that practices empathic research and observation techniques for business solutions. Through the use of Design Thinking, they are able to engage with a diverse range of industries to produce creative and structured methodologies.

  • Design consultancy that is exposed to a diverse range of projects and problems. Strong advocate for Design Thinking in approaching the diverse problems.
  • Design Thinking is to actually change our archaic way of learning from the past, it is to actually test hypothesis out ourselves and to be able to learn from vigorous experimentation.
  • Their creative process is exposed to a lot more uncertainty in comparison with Architectural projects, as buildings are defined by many parameters of what makes a building functional.

Key takeaway: The nature of Design Thinking and how it can be applied to various industries to solve diverse problems. The overall market for design consultancies in Singapore is gaining relevance, but it is really about convincing organizations on the need for change and innovation.

R/GA

R/GA is a full-service agency for the digital age. Designs solutions to address the changing business and consumer needs of the 21stcentury. Their solutions are rooted in technology to push the conventional industries into untapped opportunities of the digital space. R/GA is a global brand that transforms businesses by designing new business models to outpace disruption.

  • Forward looking leadership, with their ability to conceptualize future ideas on tech trends, advertising trends, consumer trends. Ability to understand the scope of change from both the macro to the micro level.
  • Willing to experiment internally to find solutions and to challenge conventions of the industries. Has clients that are willing to explore new ideas
  • The need for businesses to change and respond to disruption, to innovate intensively or be left behind.

Key takeaway: The need to understand disruption in this current digital climate. The movements of trends and industries progress very fast, how are we able to stay nimble as a team to take on new skills, adapt to new needs of users and to respond to disruptions from technologies. The importance of innovation and growth from within to develop novel solutions for the clients.

CapitaMall Labs

CapitaMall Labs is an innovation lab within CapitaMalls that seeks to develop new Retail solutions to better engage with customers. They explore User Experiences, Data Analytics, Spatial Design and Mall Operations. They work with both Retailers and internal divisions to develop a mindset of embracing change and experimentation

  • Engaged with pushing Innovation in Retail to utilize the rising trends of technological advancement, data analytics and the person to digital interfaces. Willing to explore diverse avenues but the underlying goal is on Retail relevance.
  • Spearheading new technologies but also have to invoke change within the many layers of CapitaMall. Balancing between the practicality of a developer and to also explore these ideas of creativity.

Key takeaway: The intricacies of working as the Innovation arm, being caught between spearheading a new and innovative solution, but to also needing to change the mindset of the overall corporate culture. How do you bring together all the diverse disciplines such as data analytics, spatial design and mall operations to develop a solution to Retail.

Originally published at qpskpii.wordpress.com on February 25, 2018.

Written by

Programme Manager @ Padang & Co | Architectural Designer | Startups, Participatory Design and Social Enterprise sectors https://www.linkedin.com/in/llqingping/

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