A national programme launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in February 2006, the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) brings together people from different communities in Singapore to work with each other to ensure social harmony in our society. Taking a bottom-up approach to outreach and community bonding, the CEP involves five community clusters, covering (i) the grassroots, (ii) religious groups, ethnic-based organisations and voluntary welfare organisations, (iii) educational institutions, (iv) media and the Arts community, and (v) businesses and unions.
Each cluster represents a key pillar of Singapore society. The CEP is primarily concerned with the social resilience of our communities. In the event of a crisis such as a terrorist attack, would we be able to stand united and strong as one people? Or would our society fall prey to suspicion and distrust resulting in conflicts and disunity?
Although Singapore has enjoyed many years of peace and harmony among our different races and religions, this cannot be taken for granted. We need to equip our communities to deal with crises by ensuring strong community ties are built and crisis response plans are put into place.
The CEP brings together the Community and the Government to accomplish these two aims. Ideas and activities under the CEP are initiated and implemented by the various communities involved, while the government plays a supporting role in terms of providing resource support and helping communities network among each other.
The Businesses and Unions Cluster
In the case of the businesses and unions cluster, a tripartite approach has been taken towards the CEP. This is to leverage on the strong, existing tripartite network in Singapore and harness our combined strengths to reach out to workplaces throughout the country.
In October 2006, a Tripartite Panel on Community Engagement at Workplaces was established to provide direction and guidance for CEP initiatives in the cluster. Chaired by Minister of State for Education and Manpower, Mr. Gan Kim Yong, the Panel comprises key and influential leaders from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), and the Chinese, Malay and Indian Chambers of Commerce.
On the recommendation of the Panel, a Tripartite Workgroup on Community Engagement at Workplaces was also formed in November 2006 to help formulate and operationalise CEP plans in the cluster.
Cluster CEP Workshop
On 13 March 2007, a group of close to 70 representatives from key participating agencies, including SNEF and its Industrial Relations Panel, came together for a Businesses and Unions Cluster CEP Workshop at the Orchard Hotel. This inaugural event brought together influential business and union leaders to share ideas and thoughts on the CEP. Members of the Tripartite Panel on Community Engagement at Workplaces were also present for a panel dialogue with participants on the challenges of implementing the CEP at workplaces.
Chairperson of the Tripartite Panel and Minister of State for Education and Manpower, Mr. Gan Kim Yong, was the guest-of-honour at the event. In his opening address, Mr. Gan highlighted the important role businesses and unions have to play in the CEP.
“Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the SARS crises, businesses have become more mindful of business continuity planning. The workplace is also a key component of our Social Defence network. In times of crisis, the responses and behaviours of owners of businesses, managers and workers can make a great difference in strengthening the resilience and unity of our society.”
In recognition of this, key business and union leaders have been identified to take the lead in implementing the CEP in companies and unions. Known as Community Leaders, they have lent their support and influence to promote community bonding and ensure crisis preparedness at workplaces.
National Seminar on CEP
Thus on 24 March 2007, Community Leaders from the businesses and unions cluster attended a National Seminar on CEP at Suntec City. The seminar brought together community leaders from all the five clusters for a time of sharing and learning.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr. Wong Kan Seng, graced the event as guest-of-honour, while other VIP guests included members of the Tripartite Panel on Community Engagement at Workplaces.
A key highlight of the seminar was the launch of the Singapore United portal, www.singaporeunited.sg. The portal is a shared common space for community leaders to interact with and engage each other.
Your Role in CEP
While the Cluster CEP Workshop and National Seminar on CEP succeeded in bringing together community leaders on a common platform for networking and mutual learning, the CEP is really about the everyday – ordinary people and the things we do on a daily basis.
As the workplace occupies a central position in many people’s lives, businesses have an important role to play in the CEP. Be it as an employer, Human Resource practitioner or employee, you have the ability to make a positive difference in your colleagues’ lives. Your participation in the CEP can help to make your company a more safe and conducive place to work in. Here are some suggestions on the kind of things you can do to achieve this:
• Take time to understand each other’s cultural practices and preferences and bond with one another.
• This can be as simple as lending a listening ear to one another or finding out more about each other’s likes and dislikes to get a conversation started.
Leverage on existing activities
• Most companies organise community bonding activities such as celebrations of racial and religious festivals, Dinner and Dances and recreational activities like Sports Day.
• Ride on these existing activities to promote the CEP and encourage employees and colleagues to build stronger ties with each other.
Promote fair employment practices
• Apart from formal programmes and activities, a company’s day-to-day operations and practices are also key to fostering social harmony at the workplace.
• Fair, consistent and transparent employment practices signal management’s commitment to inclusivity, and would help to avoid discriminatory practices and employees’ unhappiness as a result of it.
Enhance Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)
• As part of their BCPs, companies could help to ensure that during crisis time there is a prompt and orderly means of communicating important information/instructions to employees.
• It would also be useful to equip management to offer assistance and resource support to employees facing problems arising from the crisis situation, ie. Childcare needs or emotional trauma.
• These simple measures would go a long way in reassuring employees and maintaining morale and unity at the workplace, thereby contributing towards crisis preparedness in businesses.
Outlined above are just some suggestions on how you can contribute to the CEP. This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Exercise your creativity to look at how your company can promote harmonious social ties at the workplace. For more ideas and inspiration, do check out the Singapore United portal at www.singaporeunited.sg!
Want to find out more about how you can be a part of the CEP in your organisation? Feel free to contact the CEP liaison officer from SNEF, Shaun Hou at 6827 6951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for photos for past events and seminars