I have been told that we are not doing enough to engage the community. So I asked around, what is community engagement. But no one could give me a clear answer.
Is it defined by the number of events organised and people who attended these events?
Is it visibility – getting reported in the media every other day?
Is it, as one newspapers suggested, the level of awareness among a random population sample? How many people know that we are hosting YOG in August next year – hands up.
I thought about the students and youth that our CEP colleagues have been working with – 40,000 when we last counted. Many of them have taken the effort to find out about YOG to create activities like card games, and organise events – 80 events so far – that are centred on the YOG.
Or they have done research about the NOCs that they are twinned with in order to prepare for exchanges with their twinned schools and put up exhibits for the World Culture booth.
I thought about our quarterly Singapore 2010 CAN! and how each main event is preceded by a street rove. Invitations via emails, facebook and twitter would be sent to ask the people take part in the rove. And they showed up on those weekends, learned the moves and went onto the streets to do flash mobs, all in the name of publicising YOG and CAN!
Or when we had the logo launch, how a group of NTU students had designed and built the launch mechanism – a Rube Goldberg machine that activated the countdown sequence to unveil the logo. It had everybody in the audience spellbound.
I thought about Johnny, a one-man mission, who has worked with the university and partners to create YOG-themed curriculum. He provided us the opportunity to meet the students to talk their design concepts. From these sessions, we enlisted four students who now draw comic strips for our fortnightly e-newsletter and give their take on YOG subjects.
I thought about the New Media team of volunteers, who spent their time after school, to take pictures and write about events, providing contents for the WhyOhGee site.
I thought about how Harold, the Head of Media Publicity, has been involving a group of polytechnic students in our events so that they can use YOG as subject for their media studies.
I thought about the throngs of students who made day trips to our YOG Learning Centre to learn about the values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect.
I thought about the Teck Whye rappers who performed at the launch of the Million Challenge Deeds Challenge, and how spending two afternoons with us prompted them to write in to say they want to be involved in YOG events again.
And how the taxi academy had initiated a meeting with us to see how they can be part of YOG when the Games take place next year.
YOG is an event where everyone can be part of, where they can contribute, play an active part, make something of their own, where they will be engaged meaningfully and their experience with YOG a special one. To me, that will be community engagement.