Fostering Community Action for Municipal Issues

Oct 23, 2023


High willingness among Singaporeans
to be involved in building better neighbourhoods: Studies

·       8 in 10 want to foster positive relationships with their neighbours

·       5 in 10 willing to personally resolve municipal issues as a first step

            To foster deeper and more sustained community action, the Municipal Services Office (MSO) has commissioned two social research studies to understand residents’ attitudes towards municipal issues, including their willingness to be involved in improving their living environment. Both studies, which support the Forward Singapore exercise, reflect high willingness among residents to participate when provided with appropriate resources and support.

Background of the two social research studies commissioned by MSO

2          Supported by the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the National Parks Board (NParks), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), MSO in 2021 collaborated with the Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities, under the National University of Singapore (NUS) College of Design and Engineering. The aim was to look into ways to enhance the cultivation of positive social norms and values within Singapore’s high-rise, high-density housing environment. As part of the two-year research collaboration, Toa Payoh East Constituency Office worked with NUS to pilot the Dragon Heart Community Platform[1], and a community-led project to address the improper disposal of bulky waste in their neighbourhood.

3          MSO also worked with RySense in 2022 on a separate study to segment the resident population based on their level of involvement in the community, and their willingness to resolve issues personally versus involving the authorities. RySense has since conducted focus a series of group discussions and an online survey with around 1,050 respondents for the study.

Key Findings of Both Studies

4          The NUS-led study showed that residents can be empowered to participate when provided with appropriate resources and support, and that they are more inclined to join rather than lead neighbourhood projects. The study also highlighted the need to build a pool of community facilitators to help navigate funding and bureaucratic procedures for community-led projects. These facilitators would play a key role in driving sustained engagement of the residents through clear and regular communication, such as providing proper closure and impact evaluation of projects.

5          The findings from the RySense study are aligned with that of the NUS-led study, highlighting a sizeable portion of surveyed residents who are willing to be involved. The key findings are as follows:

a)    8 in 10 of those surveyed agreed that having a good social relationship with their neighbours were important to them.

b)    4 in 10 said that they are willing to give back to their communities, including partnering government agencies and grassroots leaders to develop solutions to key neighbourhood issues, such as excessive noise, cluttering and second-hand smoke.   A similar proportion also reported willingness to participate in neighbourhood gatherings and initiatives.

c)     5 in 10 Singaporeans reported a willingness to address municipal issues personally as a first step. However, if the situation does not improve, of this group, 6 in 10 would go on to lodge a report to the authorities. If the situation still does not improve, 9 in 10 believed that the authorities should then take stricter enforcement measures.

6          RySense has also developed the following four key profiles based on the sampled residents’ satisfaction with municipal issues, actions they would take to resolve issues, and level of involvement in the community:

a)    Champion Charlie, who is most willing to be involved, comprised 37% of the sampled resident population;

b)    Neutral Nancy, comprised 21%;

c)     Tolerant Tina, comprised 21%; and

d)    Quiet Quinn, comprised 21%. 

Follow-ups on the key findings

7          MSO has been running broad-based community activation initiatives since 2018. For example, the Love Our ‘Hood initiative invites residents to co-create solutions to address municipal concerns in their neighbourhood. The Love Our ‘Hood fund was also set up to support the implementation of the solutions on the ground. To further sustain, expand and deepen partnership with community stakeholders, MSO subsequently set up a OneService Kakis (OSK) network in 2021, where it curates programmes designed to engage and sustain relationships with our community stakeholders.

8          Drawing from the findings from the studies, MSO is enhancing the structure and programmes of the OSK network to promote community activation. This includes training active members of the network to become facilitators, so that they can lead and sustain community-led initiatives at the local level. MSO will also review our engagement initiatives to make it easier for participants to join, plan and implement projects.

9          Following the profiling of residents from RySense study, MSO plans to develop a profiling tool, which will be made available publicly on MSO’s website mid next year. Residents can take a short quiz to understand which profile they fall under.  Community leaders can also invite members of their network to access the tool and use the findings to guide engagement efforts at the local level.  

10        Senior Minister of State for National Development, Ms Sim Ann, said: “One of the key thrusts of our Forward Singapore exercise is to empower Singaporeans to have a greater stake in addressing municipal issues on the ground. I am heartened that the studies show a sizeable proportion of residents who are ready to help shape their living environment. MSO will work closely with the relevant agencies to review our engagement efforts to better support the community in taking the lead to address municipal concerns on the ground.”

11        Principal Investigator of the NUS-led project, Associate Professor Cho Im Sik from the Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities under the NUS College of Design and Engineering, said: “Through our study, we learnt that fostering community mindedness is a marathon and not a short sprint. The study has shown that increased and sustained participation from residents could eventually reduce inconsiderate behaviour and build their sense of attachment and social capital in the neighbourhood in the long term. We hope the study’s findings will help government agencies to refine their approaches in partnering the community and sustaining their involvement on the ground.”

12        Ms Lee Shu Hui, Group Director of RySense Ltd., said: “The study has enhanced our understanding on the propensity of our residents to be involved in resolving municipal issues in their neighbourhood. We hope that the findings will help better inform the government on engagement strategies with the community.”   

13        Mr Saktiandi Supaat, Advisor to Bishan-Toa Payoh Grassroots Organisations, whose constituency led a project to address bulky waste disposal as part of the NUS study, said: “The research has provided useful insights on how we can organise grassroots leaders and residents to take greater ownership in addressing municipal concerns. I am very happy that our residents in Toa Payoh East have actively participated in the research process. We will continue to work with MSO and other Government agencies to support ground-up efforts to improve our living environment.”


Issued By       : Municipal Services Office (MSO)
Date                : 23 October 2023

[1] Aimed at providing residents with the opportunity and resources to participate in community-led solutions to municipal issues in their neighbourhood, the Dragon Heart Community Platform is a pilot project consisting of a webpage to provide ideas for solutioning, a WhatsApp chat group for residents to organise and implement their projects, and physical touchpoints for residents in the form of mobile carts. Refer to on launch of the Platform. Following the completion of the pilot and related research study, the webpage’s info was integrated into MSO’s website, the Whatspp chat was closed, and mobile carts were transferred to the care of Toa Payoh East Constituency office.