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Welcome Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat At The International Consortium For Social Development

Welcome Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University, At The 19th International Symposium Of The International Consortium For Social Development (ICSD 2015) On 7 July 2015, 4.30pm, SIM University

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance; 
Mr Gerard Ee, Chancellor and Chairman, SIM University; 
Dr Barbara Shank, President, ICSD; 
Distinguished Guests; 
Ladies and Gentlemen; 

  1. Good afternoon. 
  1. It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to ICSD 2015, and specially welcome delegates who have travelled from overseas to Singapore for this conference. It is particularly good to see gathered here over 400 delegates from 38 countries.
  1. SIM University, or UniSIM in short, is privileged to host ICSD this year – it is especially meaningful to us as we celebrate not only Singapore's golden jubilee, but also UniSIM's 10th anniversary this year.
  1. A key thrust of the conference theme is the emphasis on leadership for social change and societal transformation. Universities have a significant role to play in this – to serve society by training leaders who will make a difference and change the world for the better. While the institutions may do this in different ways, the underlying enabling is the provision of quality tertiary education of the right type and tenor to steer graduates towards serving the community well. And, providing education that is flexible, continuing and professional – developing skills necessary for building a better future for all. At UniSIM, we strive to do just that – equipping learners for a better future, and serving society through lifelong education. 
  1. To address the growing need for effective leaders who can play a progressive role in Singapore's social development, UniSIM offers a Master programme in Community Leadership and Social Development, in partnership with the National Community Leadership Institute of the People's Association. We also offer undergraduate programmes in a host of areas such as social work, sociology, gerontology, counselling, human resource management that raise the professional manpower needed for good social development. The development of expertise in community leadership and social development is increasingly needed in a rapidly-changing world. Look at the challenges confronting communities worldwide – rapid population ageing, social divides, widening income gaps, issues of social integration, long-term unemployment (particularly youth unemployment) that takes away the hopes and dreams of an entire generation, environmental mismanagement. These challenges require a multi-disciplinary understanding and approach that leaders of community and social development need to arm themselves with to be effective. Institutions like UniSIM will need to partner with other like-minded organisations, the government, the industry and social entities to develop good leadership programmes. 
  1. Besides providing educational pathways, UniSIM also focuses on applied research that benefits society. One example of this is a recently-concluded cross-disciplinary study by four of our academics covering social, informational and design aspects of how the elderly in Singapore use technology, in particular government web-applications providing economic and social services to the citizenry. This team, which found that socio-cultural factors are key to preventing a "silver" divide, is currently working with SPRING Singapore to develop a guideline on designing web products for senior citizens. 
  1. But, leaders are not made in the classroom. They will need to have the knack of turning theory into practice, to get their hands dirty, as it were, to know what are the issues on the ground, connect with the stakeholders, and they will need to learn from other leaders and practitioners who have experience to share. On the last point, conferences like the ICSD are great events to bring like-minded people to share experiences and new knowledge. Many social development issues are generic but nuanced by local socio-economic context, cultural, religious and ethnic slants; so we can all learn principles and good practices from one another here and adapt them for our own use. We have brought ICSD here for that purpose. I hope we can achieve this and more at ICSD 2015.  
  1. In this conference, as you debate social issues and actions that transform society and build communities, you will partake of the services of social enterprises we have engaged to provide the materials for this conference. The conference bag you have been given, and the food and beverage that you will be enjoying over the next three days are provided by these enterprises.
  1. For our intellectual food, we have lined up an eminent group of speakers to tickle our minds and challenge our thinking in how to transform society. I trust that each one of you will find these sessions engaging and beneficial. And, there will be strong partnerships forged to turn talk into actions and projects. 
  1. Thank you, DPM Tharman, for your presence and support. To all participants of ICSD 2015, I hope that you will have a most inspirational and fruitful time. 
  1. Thank you.

 

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