Over the years, the applied research conducted by LCSI has evolved into a community-engaged model. In 2014, SMU Change Lab which was formed to support this research model, with collaboration as its pivot. It is an action-oriented research and design programme within the LCSI that investigates and responds to unmet social needs in Singapore.
SMU Change Lab works with community members, voluntary welfare organisations and students to use qualitative primary research to collaboratively (re)design innovative responses to social needs. The objective is to suggest new or improved support mechanisms, services, practices or policies to meet the needs of the various vulnerable groups.
SMU Change Lab has tried various approaches to participatory action research by looking closely at three vulnerable communities in Singapore – the elderly, persons with disabilities and single-parent families. The intent is to find practical applications from the research findings for issues that affect vulnerable communities.
The Straits Times has written a 1-page spread on the three articles. Asian Scientist has also published a report on the research, and Lianhe Zaobao also published an article on how the elderly had hoped for transport services to be more elderly-friendly and to be provided with more care centres. A SMU Perspectives write up of the SMU Change Lab launch can also be found here.
1) Elderly Population in Singapore: Understanding Social, Physical and Financial Needs
Who are Singapore’s low-income elderly? What makes some resilient in the face of multiple challenges? What are their social needs that might be filled by additional interventions via civil society or government programmes? These are some of the questions this publication tries to understand.
It does so not by surveying the elderly, but via intensive interviews with 100 residents of one low-income neighbourhood in Singapore. Whereas surveys can help gather generalisable data, interviews can help us see the ‘story behind the story,’ illuminating potential causal connections and providing hints regarding possible effective ways to intercede. We followed this up with a series of small-group conversations with our participants, as well as ‘social conversations’ with representatives of Singapore’s leading civil society organisations.
From this we discovered important insights about social isolation, financial deprivation and physical challenges amongst participating elderly. We have already started to apply these tentative conclusions to work with our VWO partner and other engaged parties. This puts ‘action’ into our research – the proactive use of research results to make a change and co-create tangible improvements. Download PDF
2) People with Physical Disabilities in Singapore: Understanding Disabling Factors in Caregiving, Education, Employment and Finances
The publication concerns the unmet social needs of people with disabilities in Singapore. Researchers from the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, along with students from Singapore Management University, interviewed 100 people with disabilities over a period of several months. These in-depth interviews were designed to elicit detailed stories from the participants, which would inform our understanding of their needs and how services might be improved to better meet those needs.
The rich data collected from these interviews paints a picture of a community which has faced barriers in many spheres and stages of life. From major life issues like education and employment, to everyday concerns like transportation and negotiating crowds, the decisions of our interview participants are heavily circumscribed by their disabilities. This publication explores Singapore’s commitment to becoming a more inclusive society, and offers in response the stories and suggestions from people with disabilities that might help to point the way towards this goal. Download PDF
3) Single-Parent Families in Singapore: Understanding the Challenges of Finances, Housing and Time Poverty
This publication documents the unmet social needs of single-parent families in Singapore. It specifically focuses on four key areas; employment and finance, housing, social networks and time poverty. In-depth, qualitative interviews were completed with 88 low-income single parents across Singapore. These interviews provided the opportunity to truly explore the stories of these single-parent families, displaying the complexity and interplay of the issues they faced.
Our findings display the huge responsibility that single parents carry as they balance the caregiving and financial needs of their family, alongside negotiating policies that are largely suggested to support the “traditional” family structure. While respecting that dignity and pride prevents many individuals approaching family, friends or support services for assistance, this publication offers some suggestions as to how to improve support systems to offer long-term solutions, rather than short term fixes, to the issues faced by single-parent families. Download PDF