Enabling humanised connections through the sharing of stories of our vulnerable and invisible populations to nurture a strong and caring community

Design Challenge

#2: How might we encourage our community to support one another and look out for those who are socially isolated?

Project Description

We seek to create empathy for marginal, vulnerable, and invisible communities (e.g. elderly, foreign workers) by engaging them to tell and present their stories in an open community-driven online space. We partner with relevant charities and/or NGOs to ‘buddy up’ our volunteers/contributors with the vulnerable and/or invisible members of our community. The buddies will converse, build relationships, and collect stories of their lives. These life stories of people, relationships, and community are then presented on an online platform-driven and owned by community members. Using an online platform for sharing stories, we connect and humanize the members of our community. These community-generated stories and the open forum can then be used to inform human-centered, social initiative, and pol.

Criteria #1: Value

Social distancing has socially isolated our vulnerable populations like the elderly. This is especially so for those not living with their families (or not having one) and/or lack the technological literacy/means for social interactions with extended family or peers. Living in small, cabin-fever-inducing flats, many isolated elderly venture out to meet their friends and/or hang around, at the highest risks to themselves.

Furthermore, we should also take this opportunity to reevaluate the way we have been treating the transient workers who do the essential, ‘dirty’ work that locals shun from. As people who leave their homes to make a living by building and maintaining our fine city (a foreign place for them), ]there is more we can do to welcome and integrate them into our community.

Criteria #2: Inspiration

We are inspired by Not Everyday Life (https://noteverydaylife.com/), a global crowdsourced initiative to understand life in a post-pandemic world. Over a hundred designers, researchers, and anthropologists were recruited globally as contributors to collect stories about how COVID-19 has changed people’s habits and lives all over the world. These contributors also drive the ground-up efforts to sense-make and curate these universally human stories.

It is from this example of ground-up contribution and curation of human storytelling that we model our solution to bring to light Singapore’s vulnerable and invisible populations with the efforts and ownership of our community.

Criteria #3: Impact

1. Create lasting relationships and social interaction between our members of the community especially for those who need it and deserve it.
2. Generate more empathy for and bring in the underrepresented and invisible peoples into our community.
3. Create a stronger sense of community through participation and virtual mediation (or so-called kampung spirit, an imaginary construct but can be made socially real nonetheless).
4. Use people’s stories as a way to inform and drive human-centered policy and decision making.

Criteria #4: Timeliness

We aim to be able to design and develop an MVP website and/or mobile app to support and host this ground-up storytelling initiative in 2-3 months.

We will also test the social initiative of a ground-up correspondence with people from one group of vulnerable or invisible populations first with our affiliates and peers in 2-3 months as well.

An alternative aspect of ‘Timeliness’, is how ‘Timeless’ our concept is, which is the impact of our solution goes beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Community (or nation) building has always been an existential issue in Singapore’s socio-political context.

Criteria #5: Systems Thinking

We want to tie in our project to current awareness and fundraising campaigns (run by charities and NGOs) that support the targeted vulnerable and invisible populations. We will partner with these charities and NGOs, utilizing their connections and networks to reach out to our target groups.

We also want to utilize Gnowbe, our sister company which has an existing product, a mobile learning app as a platform to support the collection and curation of stories for our contributors.