BetterSG (BetterSingapore)

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BetterSG (BetterSingapore) : An initiative on designing with people to build community-owned solutions

Singapore, SingaporeSingapore, Singapore
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We help neighbourhoods in Singapore design community-owned spaces and solutions - by providing tools, methods, and networks with creative professionals and individuals at the hyperlocal level - to create designs that are fit-for-purpose, well-used and well-loved by the communities affected.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if people can influence and make positive change to their own neighbourhoods?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Design and planning practices in Singapore have traditionally been characterised as being top-down and dogmatic, resulting in a limited sense of responsibility and ownership towards public and shared spaces today. An alternative approach to understanding the role of everyday people is needed to build resilient, empowered communities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We have developed the BetterSG Blueprint, which lays out steps, methods and tools to creating a community-owned solution in Singapore. This Blueprint aims to (1) Offer a new framework for designers and citizens to create with people - as opposed to for people - so that people will feel a greater sense of ownership towards these spaces (2) Empower people by giving them the necessary tools and resources to design and build community-owned solutions for their neighbourhoods (3) Enable more small-scale community actions that will contribute positively in making Singapore a better place to live.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In a particular neighbourhood, a high number of senior citizens who live alone face dietary problems. Volunteers at the local senior activity centre have suggested establishing a community kitchen in a vacant space in the neighbourhood. How might we engage the seniors and neighbours to create a space or solution that will be well-used and loved by the community? By facilitating a participatory design process using the BetterSG Blueprint, we can develop a deeper understanding of people's needs, leverage the different strengths and interests within the neighbourhood, and open up the ways in which various individuals can get involved, to ensure long-term community ownership of the design outcomes.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

While the impact of a participatory design approach can be difficult to quantify, we have developed, as part of the Blueprint, a list of indicators to measure how successful we are in building up people's capacity to participate on issues concerning their neighbourhoods and built environment. These include qualitative data such as people's attitudes towards participation, sense of ownership to the place, level of neighbourliness, etc.; and quantitative data such as no. of repeat volunteers, extent of people's involvement at each phase, rate of usage of the design outcome, etc. We will measure these through interviews, survey and observations with members of the community as well as designers involved in each project. Our desired impact is to develop a greater sense of belonging and ownership, spirit of participation and volunteerism, and awareness of one’s capacity to contribute.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The BetterSG Blueprint will be made available open source, to encourage more people to adopt a participatory design and community-driven approach to problem solving in Singapore. To ensure that full impact is achieved, we intend to test and prototype the feasibility and impact of the Blueprint through built projects with selected communities, so that we can continue to refine it and share it with others, while allowing more people to experience the benefits of the approach. Key partners have included neighbourhood-based grassroots and community organisations and educational institutions.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Revenue streams include design consultancy projects commissioned by public agencies and community organisations in Singapore, using the Blueprint to design and build spaces/solutions with their constituents; workshops/training programmes with schools and design firms, on implementing the Blueprint in service learning and CSR projects. These will fund education and advocacy programmes, special projects, research and development of tools, overhead.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In recent years, we have seen growing interests in a participatory approach to design and planning, although there are no similar organisations in Singapore that adopt this approach at the hyperlocal level. In cities such as New York and Copenhagen, the participatory design scene has been more established compared to Singapore. Similar organizations include Project for Public Spaces and 12Byer. However our experiences in working with local communities tell us that Singapore requires methods and tools that are better designed for its social culture and political environment.

Founding Story

As designers, we have been working on various community-based projects over the years but always wondered if there were better ways to create the impact we imagined. While we were greatly inspired by examples from around the world, we also knew that we belonged to a different cultural and political context. What if these methods were adapted for our own country? What if there were a toolkit that could guide us on making positive change in our own neighbourhoods? What if there were some way to demonstrate that what we wanted to achieve for the spaces around us was actually possible? We believe that there is great potential for Singapore to grow into a city where designers work with everyday people to create places that the latter can own.


The project is currently run by a group of designers with industry experience in design thinking, architecture and planning, and industrial design. We are supported by an extensive network of volunteers from multidisciplinary backgrounds including engineering and art that we tap on as per the requirements of each project, and an esteemed committee of mentors from both private and public sectors. Looking for a Communications Associate.
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Organization Country

, Singapore

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Singapore

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Foundations, Other.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

We have received the Philip Yeo Innovation (PYI) Fellows grant in 2014.

Where have you learnt about the competition?

A friend recommended us to apply for Change Makers!

Tell us about your partnerships:

We have not established partnership at the moment.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Apart from the usual challenges such as securing funds, managing time,and finding the right people to collaborate, here are two major hurdles(1)Openness to culture change-Culture is always in flux, however, the best way to drive such change is to demonstrate how participation can help to solve an everyday need in small but significant ways(2)Awareness of the 'greater good-Sometimes people fail to consider the needs of others because they are uninformed about what others struggle with.Bringing people of different needs together and the opportunity to understand other's perspectives.