Key social sector trends in Singapore that every social organisation needs to know

Updated: May 26

The social service ecosystem in Singapore is subject to rapid-changing trends and social expectations. To ensure your sustainability, you need to be on your feet and stay in the know about these developments. In this article, we provide you with a rundown of three important trends that have characterised the sector.

#1 Of disruption and competition

According to Hsieh Fu Hua, former President of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the social sector is experiencing considerable disruption as for-profit organisations are entering the sector to offer services in a more cost-effective manner. For example, many nursing homes are now operated by private operators such as ECON Healthcare Group and Orange Valley Nursing Homes Pte Ltd. Amidst tough competition, social organisations may see an increase in cost as they strive to improve their service quality. Moreover, social organisations have to be adaptable to the disruptions in an economy in which ebbs and flows are highly dependent on the outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, President Halimah Yacob encourages social enterprises to “switch business practices or adopt new technologies quickly to respond to the changing dynamics of business today.”

Dealing with disruption is never an easy task. Social organisations have to devote time towards their re-assessment of the relevance of their activities. They should also redouble their efforts to innovate and harness fresh opportunities that come their way. To this end, a change of mindset is first needed. A survey conducted by the NCSS in 2016 revealed that 8 in 10 people felt that more had to be done to grow an innovative culture in social service enterprises. It is high time for local social organisations to embrace the wave of creation and change, and take on technological solutions to empower their services.

#2 Collaborative ecosystem

Rome was not built in a day, and it certainly was not built with just a pair of hands. Likewise, collaboration is needed within the social service ecosystem to better respond to the needs of beneficiaries. Indeed, various areas of the local social service sector are already moving towards collaborating and coordinating their service delivery with the ‘wraparound’ concept. This means that different agencies will be working together to offer a good range of services to their beneficiaries. Not only will this lead to greater allocative efficiency, but it can also result in a user-centric distribution of services. Social service organisations are also encouraged by the government and other leading sector actors to look beyond state initiatives, traditional funders and charity organisations for collaboration or assistance. Rather, they should attempt to mobilise the strengths and resources of other players within the ecosystem. According to the Speaker of Parliament and Advisor to the NCSS, Tan Chuan-Jin, collaborations help build an inclusive and caring nation: "When these social service organisations begin to mobilise the wider community, such as volunteers, corporates and schools... [we have] a more impactful sector and compassionate society."

#3 Volunteer retention

Volunteers are the unsung heroes of every society. They form the backbone of social organisations and work tirelessly behind the scenes to empower communities. However, Singaporeans are volunteering less as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an article by The New Paper, non-profit organisations here have seen a dip in the number of volunteers over the course of the pandemic. A Channel NewsAsia article had also documented the way in which local food charities such as Willing Hearts were hit by a major volunteer 'wipe-out' as Singapore hunkered down during the nation-wide Circuit Breaker measures. It is without a doubt that manpower shortages and volunteer retention form the biggest headache for many social organisations today.

As we settle into a new normal, however, there is cause for hope. The good news is that many individuals are becoming more passionate about social issues such as environmental protection, income disparity and gender inequality. Better yet, they are keen to support your mission and strategic objectives in areas such as digital marketing and data analytics. How can you tap on the competencies of these individuals and expand your volunteer pool? Thankfully, you need not do the heavy-lifting. Skills for Good is already home to this ready pool of high-calibre skills-based volunteers. We provide a cost-free, one-stop volunteer matching platform where skilled volunteers are best matched to projects with your social organisation. Let us know how we can best serve your organisational needs here.

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