Help residents with 'touch and hold' approach

SINGAPORE - The grassroots movement must remember its core mission and put residents first in all its activities, People's Association (PA) deputy chairman Lim Swee Say said on Saturday.

Charting the direction for the PA, he called on grassroots volunteers to do more and do better, and suggested they move from a "touch-and-go" approach in dealings with residents to a "touch-and-hold" one.

Addressing more than 1,000 grassroots volunteers at Orchid Country Club, he said there was a perception that grassroots leaders and organisations exist to help the Government, the PA and grassroots advisers who are mostly People's Action Party MPs.

But this was wrong, he said. "Your main focus must be the residents... the PA and our advisers are here to support you, not the other way around."

Next, he said, grassroots organisations should avoid working in silos, but do more to partner interest groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Volunteers would then be able to tap into the expertise of the community to, for instance, help the less fortunate.

"We need to have more hands, more heads, more hearts to work with us," Mr Lim said.

Finally, he said, volunteers need to have closer interactions with residents.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Office told reporters later that the changes he proposed were not a defensive move, but a proactive one.

"No matter how resident-centric we are today, we can always be more resident-centric tomorrow," he added.

The grassroots should also lead the way, Mr Lim said, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call in his National Day Rally speech for the community to do more for individuals.

But despite the shifts, the PA's core mission - to connect people, provide feedback to the Government and explain policies - will not change, Mr Lim added.

Agreeing, Dr Kee Wei Heong, chairman of Bukit Gombak CCC, cited how a large-scale bursary presentation with a grassroots adviser as guest-of-honour was split into many smaller sessions this year.

In the past, at least several hundred students and their families would turn up over a weekend for the event.

But with the change, there was less pomp and the atmosphere was more cosy, and students did not have to wait as long to go on stage to receive the award.

"Sometimes it takes just small changes to put residents at the centre of the whole show," the 64-year-old said.

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