Communities and Engagement

In Conscious Conversations

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Group photo with our invited speakers. Second row, from left to right: Mr Theodore Teo, Ms Chew Tai Wen, Ms Khadijah Madihi; Third row, centre: Mr Goh Ann Tat

6 October 2021

To encourage students to be more mindful in their process of engaging communities, "Conscious Conversations", a new quarterly outreach series is launched to bring about discussion on topics centred around communities and engagements.

The series aims to provide a platform for our students to interact with experienced community practitioners to discover and introduce the importance and application of strength-based approaches in community engagement such as “Asset-Based Community Development” (or ABCD).

The first of the series on 14 August 2021 brought four practitioners from different walks of life giving their insights to the NUS community.

Lee Chin Shian, a graduate student pursuing her Masters in Economics in NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), said that her takeaways from the panel discussion are that “Community programmes should ideally be designed around people and for people,” she added that “project managers and members should not excessively fixate their attention on the technicalities of the programmes, such as the programme design, or the outcomes and deliverables but should focus more on engaging their target community to better understand their needs, aspirations, and preferences.”

For Chin Shian who hopes to work in the sustainable development field in the future, she found the focus on people over programme design very relevant to the process of implementing development programmes and providing useful policy recommendations based on actual needs, wants and circumstances of the community instead of what is theoretically right. 

Willoughby Niki Lee Yan Xing, a Year 4 student from NUS Faculty of Engineering (FOE) found strength-based approaches inspiring because community members are empowered to create change by realising their assets. An example would be ground-up initiatives formed by residents with shared interests. He particularly liked what Ms Chew Tai Wen said: “People over programme, discovery over deliverables.” Willoughby also finds that the principles of strength-based approaches can be applicable to students practising in various fields such as UI/UX design, computing and engineering.

At the session, the panel highlighted the realistic challenges, such as garnering the communities’ support to participate in strength-based approaches together. For example, if communities are comfortable with the status quo, or have more pressing needs such as feeding the family, it is difficult, and inevitably so, to encourage participation in the community.

Attending Conscious Conversations has made attendees more aware and mindful of their interactions with their immediate communities. Both Chin Shian and Willoughby agreed that they would recommend the Conscious Conversations series to their friends.

As a closing activity of the event, participants described their strengths in one word. The process of discovering their strengths would lead them to contribute effectively to one another’s lives.

In Conscious Conversations-Strength in 1 Word

Participants’ submission of their strengths in 1 word

The next Conscious Conversations event will happen in January 2022. Join our NUSync mailing list here (login required) to be kept in the loop!


Community Engagement, Office of Student Affairs