Tuesday 23 October 2012

Scenarios of S'pore's future - in an interactive play

IPS distils three scenarios on how people want nation to be governed
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2012

A LOCAL think-tank is aiming to get Singaporeans to think about how their country should be governed 10 years from now, by coming up with three possible scenarios that will be presented in a play at the theatre.

Crafted following discussions with nearly 140 people, the Institute of Policy Studies' (IPS) scenarios revolve around three key factors: how much people trust the Government, how society values success, and how much in terms of resources is given to the elite and the broader population.

The three options are what the IPS has dubbed "SingaStore.com", "SingaGives.gov" and "WikiCity.sg".

The first scenario envisions a Singapore that is pro-growth and pro-business, where people trust the Government to provide jobs for them.

In the second, the country settles for lower growth but enjoys greater welfare and more subsidies.

In the third, citizens largely rely on community self-help in the absence of a strong government.

To turn these scenarios into a form that Singaporeans can relate to, the IPS is getting local theatre group Drama Box to weave them into an interactive play next month.

When the play is performed, the audience can join in the action on stage as they imagine the future, pen their thoughts and take part in a survey that will get them to mull over their choices.

The findings from these activities will then get an airing at an IPS conference on governance in January that will include a dialogue with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The exercise is part of the IPS' Prism project, which aims to explore how Singapore will govern itself in 2022.

IPS senior research fellow Gillian Koh said using scenarios makes it easier to engage the public. "This is just a thinking tool in order to question our assumptions, to have a discussion, son to father, granddaughter to grandmother, doctor to patient, politician to citizen," she said.

IPS came up with the exercise after last year's general and presidential elections, which saw Singaporeans embracing a more diverse range of political views and ideas on what the country's future should be.

"We just wanted to, as a think-tank that is not Government, create a process that is non-partisan, to help people pause and ponder," Dr Koh told the media last week.

As for the innovative approach, she explained: "We actually had to go beyond ourselves and say, we'll go into the arts medium and make these scenarios accessible."

IPS' exercise also comes amid the national-level Our Singapore Conversation on the country's future.

Dr Koh said IPS had conceived its exercise earlier, but hopes it will supplement the larger national conversation.

IPS director Janadas Devan said scenario planning is usually carried out by military planners and civil servants, but rarely used to engage the public on a country's governance.

The discussions had involved 137 people from various sectors, from businessmen to civil society leaders.

Over a month, they came up with 61 sets of scenarios, but whittled them down to three sets.

These were then put to a vote, to choose the final set of three scenarios that will be presented to the public from Nov 8 to 14 at the National Library building in Victoria Street.

Said one participant, Dr Jeremy Lim, 39, chief executive of Fortis Colorectal Hospital: "What we sought to do was to try to craft scenarios that were plausible... but at the same time, we wanted them to be somewhat provoking."

Mr Devan, who is also the chief of government communications, hopes that at least 3,000 members of the public will participate in the IPS' exercise, which can also be viewed online.

For more information on IPS' exercise and the full list of scenarios, visit www.ips.sg/prism or www.facebook.com/ipsprism

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