The Inaugural SSN Conference
The inaugural SSN conference took place on 20 August 2016 at Yale-NUS College. The conference was intended to launch the SSN portal, and to promote a collaborative culture between environmental stakeholders across the corporate, governmental, academic, and NGO sectors in Singapore. Organized around the overarching theme “Synergisms from the Ground-up: Building Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration for a more Sustainable Singapore”, the conference aimed to allow stakeholders to better understand one another, and to generate real solutions and commitments from all participants.
Following the opening address by co-founders of the SSN, Mr. Tan Weiliang and Ms. Chua Wan Ping, the conference kicked off with a keynote speech from Ms. Kia Jiehui from Forum for the Future. Ms. Kia spoke about her experiences in engaging multiple sectors, from co-founding the "Save That Pen" movement, which gives used and unwanted pens a new lease of life, to being a senior sustainability advisor at Forum for the Future, where she guides the private sector in successful partnerships that improve the environment. Ms. Kia's many innovative examples were an inspiring start to the conference.
The Guest of Honor address was then delivered by Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment & Water Resources, Dr. Amy Khor. Dr. Khor gave a comprehensive overview of the environmental movement in Singapore, highlighting the roles of different sectors, and focusing particularly on the grassroots community. Dr Khor shared her excitement for the SSN and the establishment of its online portal, whose goals are aligned with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. SSN is indeed honoured to have had Dr. Khor grace our event.
Following her address, Dr. Khor joined Dr. Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society (Singapore) and Senior Lecturer at the Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technology University; Mr. Wilson Ang, Executive Director of UN Global Compact Network and Founder of Eco Singapore; and Ms. Anbarasi Boopal, Deputy Chief Executive of the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) for a panel discussion on overcoming barriers to multi-sector collaboration in Singapore. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Michael Maniates, Professor of Social Sciences and Head of Studies of the Environmental Studies programme at Yale-NUS College.The panelists discussed differences among environmental stakeholders across sectors and industries, and agreed that differences were often opportunities for learning and collaboration. Audience members were also curious about the role and position of the government in supporting environmental initiatives in Singapore.
With the conclusion of the panel address, the conference shifted into a more interactive mode. Six issues were at the heart of the conference: Food Waste, Biodiversity and Education, Waste Reduction and Education, Food and Agriculture, Haze, and Environmental Education and Engagement. In relation to these issues, six practitioners presented the opportunities, challenges and experiences they encountered in their work. The challenges they mentioned then served as points of discussion to kick-start the themed solutions brainstorming session after lunch.
The catered lunch was vegetarian and served with non-disposable cutlery to encourage more sustainable logistical practices at events. Participants of the conference were also encouraged to bring their own containers to pack any leftover food home.
After lunch, the participants broke out into their chosen solutions brainstorming sessions. Facilitated by Yale-NUS students with environmental studies experience, the discussions revolved around understanding the value chain of the six selected issues, and developing operational solutions. The Biodiversity and Nature working group, for example, discussed how education on existing environmental crises such as haze could be brought into school curriculum, and the potential for university students to attend conversation field trips as part of their course requirements. The session also allowed participants to get to know each other, building partnerships across the thematic issue. General audience members attended a parallel session by Professor Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies in Yale-NUS College. The session on "Visions of a Sustainable Singapore" saw students forming small groups to develop their vision of an ideal green state. From the kampung spirit to technological solutions, the audience offered a wide variety of ideas on what it would take to transform Singapore into a truly sustainable state.
The separate groups then got together again for the final two events of the afternoon. The match-making session, co-facilitated by Mother Earth Toastmasters, saw participants networking through a "speed dating" format. The elevator pitch session had brave participants going on-stage to spontaneously share their ideas, and seek other interested participants to collaborate with.
Finally, the closing address was delivered by Professor Pericles Lewis, President of Yale-NUS College. Professor Lewis underscored the importance of environmental initiatives in tertiary institutions.
The SSN conference methodology was developed after consultations with more than 30 individuals/ organizations in the Singapore environmental scene. SSN is honored that over 200 environmental stakeholders across the government, businesses , NGOs and academia graced the conference, and witnessed the launch of the SSN online portal. We looks forward to continue its work in building and strengthening a culture of collaboration in Singapore’s environmental scene.
The schedule for the SSN conference: