Designer profile

Bringing about social good via community design

25 Aug 2020  •  6 min read  •  GDR First Call Stories (Part 2 of 6)


COVID-19 has added to the financial, social and mental stress for many of us, but not everyone has the same access to resources to weather the challenges.

Through their Good Design Research project, Common Ground plans to map human systems, uncover shifting power dynamics, diagnose emotional and narrative energies, and develop a strategy to most effectively bring social good for pressing national concerns.

The diversity of people who live in Singapore’s dense urban infrastructures often form communities that could live isolated lives, or be in conflict with different cultures.

In 2017, the Institute of Policy Studies' (IPS) study on Social Capital In Singapore found that this divide is not caused by race and religion but by social economic factors such as living in private versus public housing, or going to an 'elite' vs 'non-elite' school. Inequality happens not just when there is unequal access to financial capital, but also social, intellectual and cultural capital.

However, the same study also found that found that diversity in social networks among Singaporeans strengthens social capital, trust, national identity and national pride.

Thus, civic facility Common Ground have embarked on a project to address this topic, titled "Designing Communities for Sustained and Inclusive Growth". The project is one of the seven projects supported by the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg)’s Good Design Research initiative, and it is formulated on the belief that inclusive and responsive communities can be built through community design. This can be done through an integration of disciplines of place making, organisational development and social service delivery.

This project aims to use the disciplines of place making, organisational development and social service delivery to build an inclusive and responsive community.

Project Plan

Support from the Good Design Research initiative will allow Common Ground to conduct ethnographic research on the communities in Jurong district. This will help them to develop a design framework for understanding the places of community, belonging and opportunity. They will then prototype hypotheses and test community interventions to bring about cultural shifts. This will result in the innovation of a new way that communities are designed and built.

Upon development of a proof of concept of their design framework, Common Ground will engage organisations with a vested interest in community health and vibrancy (e.g. MOH, URA); civic development and place-making in heartland spaces that are being hollowed out by 'hub' development, for a longer-term intervention engagement.

Tong Yee, Executive Director of Common Ground

At the end of the project, Common Ground will conduct a sharing session at the National Design Centre to shed light on what it takes to shift and sustain the culture of a place, to ensure inclusive and sustainable development. The findings will also be shared with the public in an e-book and microsite on the community design process and methodology. Stay tuned for that!

Find out more and be plugged into the Good Design Research community.

Tong Yee

Executive Director • Common Ground

A civic facility that seeks to facilitate the critical partnership between people, public and private sectors. It aims to design and implement relevant social innovations that can address issues of pressing national concerns.


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