Complaining might be a favourite pastime for all Singaporeans, but what if there was a way to complain effectively so that you can be heard?
This is where Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home (REACH) comes into the picture.
Beyond communicating government policies to citizens, REACH provides a wide array of platforms for citizens to share their views with the government. These feedback would then be shared with government agencies to consider or act upon.
It’s not an understatement to say that all of us want to share our views on policies that affect us directly, and citizen feedback is a crucial factor for public policy to remain robust.
According to REACH’s recent 2021 Year-in-Review findings, REACH has managed to speak to more than 70,000 people last year. How was this done, especially with all the Covid-19 restrictions?
Stretching its REACH online
Prior to the pandemic, REACH used mobile feedback booths, called Listening Points (LPs) to gather public feedback and sentiments.
It also regularly organised dialogue sessions for citizens to have deeper discussions with government leaders and fellow citizens.
With the onset of the pandemic and the restrictions around it, REACH had to quickly embrace technology and adopt digital outreach efforts.
Instead of face-to-face LPs and dialogues, citizens can now participate in virtual LPs via QR codes. They can also join dialogue sessions via Zoom or Clubhouse, in which they can engage government leaders from the comfort of their own homes.
Beyond moving existing platforms online, REACH also worked with partners to engage more citizens.
For instance, REACH collaborated with food delivery platforms such as Grab and foodpanda so that users can do a quick online REACH survey while waiting for their food to arrive.
Besides the customers, REACH’s collaboration with foodpanda also provided food merchants and delivery riders a convenient way to directly share with REACH how they are coping during the pandemic.
Today, this mix of physical and digital platforms enable REACH to better engage a broad segment of Singaporeans.
This is the philosophy that REACH stands by — trying our hardest to make sure that no voice is left unheard and every voice matters.– Minister of State Tan Kiat How, Chairman of REACH
REACH-ing out to youths: empowerment, Rachel Reach, and the F-word
Besides going digital, REACH also made a concerted effort to engage youths in 2021. And what better way to engage youths than to tap on youths themselves?
REACH brought in a team of 15 youth Supervisory Panel members – who represented all six local autonomous universities, all five local polytechnics, three ITE colleges, and one arts institution – to advise them on what would work with people their age.
One of these ideas was REACH’s “Let’s F******* Campaign”. Yes, that got everyone’s attention, but it’s not the F-word some are thinking of – the ‘F’ in this F-word campaign refers to ‘feedback’.
“There were different opinions even within the REACH team, but this is nonetheless a bold, tongue-in-cheek approach to encourage Singaporeans to rethink what feedback means to them. Our youth representatives loved it, so we went ahead and it worked,” explained Yip Xin Ying, manager and architect behind the F-word campaign.
The campaign eventually gathered close to a million views on TikTok, and the “F-word” video was well-received by netizens.
Following the successful campaign, REACH hired “closet cartoonist” and talented artist Shen Jia Hui to further connect with youths.
She came up with different characters – Apathetic Andy, Inquisitive Ivan and Skeptical Susan – that Singaporeans can relate to when dealing with issues and sharing their views.
Jia Hui also created a half-AI, half-human character named Rachel that epitomises the enthusiasm at work displayed by the REACH team.
“I am happy that REACH has given me a platform to do something I love, and we are using these new characters to open new ventures and trigger new outreach ideas – from polls on InstaStories to a new online game that REACH is launching in 2022,” shared Jia Hui.
You can download stickers of these fun characters on WhatsApp and Telegram, which you can send to your friends in chat groups, as well as catch their adventures on REACH’s social media platforms.
REACH also worked with enterprising youth-driven groups like Varsity Voices, Friendzone, and Mental Health Collective SG to better support and connect with youths living through the pandemic, as well as discuss different issues such as sustainability, women’s development and mental well-being.
“Varsity Voices provides a critical space for youths to constructively discuss hot-button socio-political concerns, transmit feedback on policies and air their views on prevailing national issues as part of healthy political discourse,” said Singapore Management University (SMU) student Samuel Kwok Jun Hui, who is also the Deputy General Secretary of Varsity Voices.
“REACH’s involvement in facilitating this engagement (with Varsity Voices) sends an important signal that the government is trying to be inclusive and willing to incorporate diversity of perspectives in policy making.”
This year, REACH has also forged new partnerships with the Young Sikh Association and the Yale-NUS College in an effort to expand their engagement with youths on critical national issues and topics that are close to youths’ hearts.
What’s next for REACH in 2022?
It’s clear to see that REACH is pulling out all the stops to reach out, listen and gather feedback from all citizens. For them, “every voice matters” is not just a mere hashtag but an ethos that is deeply enshrined in their work.
This year, the core mission of REACH will stay the same, though the team will continually look for new ways to better connect with citizens online and offline.
REACH hopes to make it easier for Singaporeans to voice their opinions, and in that process, do their best to ensure that every possible voice – not just the loudest – is heard.
That said, if you have any opinions or ideas on how REACH could engage citizens, check out REACH’s social media channels and available platforms to discuss your viewpoints.
This article was written in collaboration with REACH.