6 principles on impactful ageing & community development

It is all about knowing the community and empowering them.

Associate Prof Albert Teo, director of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Chua Thian Poh Leadership Programme, spoke at the recent Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Diploma in Gerontological Management Studies (GEM) (the only diploma in Singapore specialising in the business of ageing) forum about impactful community development with seniors and six guiding principles he has learnt from doing this work:

1) Before doing interventions, you need to talk to the community to find out the challenges.

2) Find out the dreams and aspirations of the community – “We cannot impose our own aspirations onto a community as it doesn’t work. We always think we know what is best but that is the wrong approach,” said A/Prof Teo.

3) Understand priority needs of the community, not just the needs – “You need to talk to and listen to the community members,” he said.

4) Move beyond a needs-based community development as this does not encourage the community to be self-reliant. “It causes the community members to see themselves as deficient and incapable of taking charge of their lives and community,” he shared.

5) Asset-based community (ABC) development is a better approach as you can identify community strengths and assets, and get the community members encouraged to work together in harnessing and mobilising these assets, so as to build up the community. By using this approach, you see the gems in the community,” explained A/Prof Teo.

A/Prof Albert Teo

Examples of community assets can include individuals’ skills, expertise and knowledge, families’ history, families’ cuisine, individuals’ personal income, kinship ties and social networks, businesses (e.g. shops, factories and farms) and services (e.g. education, healthcare, transport, water, etc), and physical structures and spaces (e.g. houses, schools, libraries, religious buildings, etc). “You need to do mapping of these assets and use them to build up the community,” he shared.

6) Make sure you obtain a buy-in from community members for planned intervention programme(s) – “This ensures participation by community members and it creates conditions necessary for community members to empower themselves and to live with dignity. The community developer is only a facilitator and catalyst of social change.”

A/Prof Teo shared several examples that follow the principles he mentioned above including: RSVP and its social enterprise arm, Proguide; Silver Spring; and Chinatown Social Enterprise.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: Paper people, spekulator, free images)



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