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2010 TOBER




7 / 4 2




Cancer-fighting cells get star

treatment at Health Sciences Authority.



NCSS Chief Executive Ang Bee Lian

courted by a mamasan!

40 Cover STORY


Is the “Always On” culture creeping up on us?

Even as we un-tether ourselves from our physical workspaces, the leash of work seems to get longer




Marieta’s Little Miracles Meet Dr Marieta Chan from HSA, babysitter of cancer-fighting cells

14 Perfect Tales Of Imperfect People

MCYS is reaching out to Singaporeans by telling touching stories

35 Cities For Kids?

Architect Suzanne Lennard shares her thoughts on why cities should be made worthy of a child’s affection




Your views on the July/August issue of Challenge


Word on the Street Rare Concept(ion)

Low birth rates in Singapore – what gives?


14 34

Level Up What Money Can’t Buy

Behavioural economics is spurring a rethink of the use of financial incentives


The BIG Idea Simplicity

Get to the point!


The Challenge Pull Out The Health Report Card 8 pages of tips to get you back into the pink of health

03 Your Say Will you ‘Friend’ your colleagues or bosses on Facebook?

Challenge recommends three places that will satiate your palate for altruism


The Irreverent Last Page Oh Yeah Oh Yeah Oh Yeah!

Give us ideas to organise the first Singapore Office Olympics

Readers tell us Yay or Nay

18 Thinking Aloud When Meaning Yields Sense and Cents

Leaders need to create meaning at work, says management guru Dave Ulrich


Letters to a Young Public Officer Looking At The Big Picture

Former Secretary-General of ASEAN Ong Keng Yong urges public officers to know ASEAN better

40 Life.Style Now You Can Love Your Food & Do Good, Too



28 A Cuppa With… “I Wanted To Change The World”

National Council of Social Service (NCSS) Chief Executive, Ang Bee Lian, on her social work journey

30 PERSPECTIVES The Bird Ringer

Challenge learns how conservation officer James Gan “rings” up migratory birds for research

Cover Illustration by


IN THE COOL OF THE NIGHT… Somewhere between the cool of nightfall and the dead quiet of early morning, I am here writing my ‘Hello’ note. In case you were wondering, I do have a life, really. It’s just one of those long days at work where the combination of meetings, urgent deadlines and the guilt of ignoring emails finally catch up on you... and I’m left with this sliver of a window to pen my thoughts before Bridgette (the contributing editor) throttles me. In any case, I think best with some quiet, away from the bustle of cubicle world – and near the comfort of my fridge. Welcome to our new way of working – where multi-tasking, Internet connections from anywhere and incessant time pressures are the order of the day.

Welcome to our new way of working – where multi-tasking, Internet connections from anywhere and incessant time pressures are the order of the day.

When did we slip into such a culture? And are there unspoken, inconsistent rules that have evolved with it? Challenge explores our changing work culture in our cover story, and the tensions that have arisen with greater connectivity, evolving work styles and unsaid expectations. Are we working smarter or harder? My cats are casting me disapproving looks as I type. In the meantime, Edmund is still slaving over his report, and Shaun is probably still up late. Besides watching our spouses fall asleep to the clickety-clacks of our typing (or so I hear from my married colleagues), are we counting the costs of the long hours? Missed bedtime stories? Dates? Social interactions? What toll does it take on our health? And what drives us to keep at it? Management guru Dave Ulrich shares with us why he thinks finding meaning at work is the secret to abundance. And speaking of spouses falling asleep in beds, Dr Peter Chew throws light on why Singapore’s total fertility rate ranks amongst the lowest in the world. In the still of the night, I hope you’ll find some time to ponder the whys and the whos. And please stop sending out those emails if you are. Now that I’ve come to the end of my note, I’m glad that bedtime is finally here. Good night folks. 


PS21 Office, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office 100 High Street, #07-01 The Treasury Singapore 179434 Email : Web :

For enquiries or feedback on Challenge, please write to the Challenge Editorial Team at Editorial Advisor

Agnes Kwek Editor

Tay Li Shing

Assistant Editors

Edmund Soo & Shaun Khiu Editorial Assistant

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Tuber Productions Pte Ltd

298 River Valley Road Level 2 Singapore 238339 Tel : 6836-4030 Fax : 6836-4029 Email : Web :

Management Director

Lee Han Shih

Managing Director

Weiling Wong Project Director

Liew Wei Ping


Contributing Editor

Bridgette See Sub-Editor

Bernice Tang

Editorial Assistant/Writer

Chen Jingting Contributors

Gurprit Kaur, Sheralyn Tay, Wong Sher Maine & Yong Shu Chiang Interns

Edwin Beh & Jeanne Tai


Creative Director


Associate Art Director

Jasmine Tan

Graphic Designers

Vanessa Lim, Cindy Anggono, Eva Sunarya, Marilyn Ang & Bervely Chong Production Manager

Nurul Malik

Studio Manager

Ria Silbernick Design Interns

Germaine Chen, Jill Ng & Trista Sor Associate Photog rapher

Chris Ong

Photog raphers

John Heng ( Mike Lee ( Jean Qingwen Loo ( Lumina Studios ( Norman Ng ( Challenge is published bimonthly by Tuber Productions Pte Ltd (Registration No: 200703697K) for PS21 Office, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office. Copyright of the materials contained in this magazine belongs to PS21 Office. Nothing in here shall be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent of PS21 Office. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of PS21 Office or Tuber Productions Pte Ltd and no liabilities shall be attached thereto. All rights reserved. All information correct at time of printing. Printed by KHL Printing Co Pte Ltd (Registration No: 197801823M) 57 Loyang Drive Singapore 508968



three thumbs up

for the Irreverent Last Page on Creativity Killer; it made me laugh out loud. I’m sure we all know of such accomplices around us. : )


Lee Zhuomin HSA

e rvic

Perhaps some interesting anecdotes to give a sense of the goings-on and how busy the Istana can get with state functions and hosting dignitaries.

Maureen Goh

Constance See



I have never really read Challenge since I joined the Service but the

recent ones are really worth the read.

GOOD JOB!!! (=

Janice Tan PSD

It’s fun to read the newly revamped issues of Challenge and I look forward to reading the editor’s page each time. Do keep the articles and newsy bits coming. We really enjoy them.

Enjoyed going through it. I think the magazine has become more

Penny Goh

Good job!

Nanyang Polytechnic

I like the new look and the features like Letters to a Young Public Officer and A Cuppa With...

Chng Kai Fong Civil Service College

A rare glimpse into the workings of the Istana

deserves more column inches.

good to keep updated about them...

Nice touch with Challenge.


All the President’s Men

Great photos and art direction on the Istana piece but thought it

I like your selection of topics covered – from knowledge to fun info. and activities; something old and something new; and what I like most is “hearing” from my models – PS Lim Soo Hoon and Mr Lim Siong Guan –

Well Done!

ic Se

Awards Winners

lively and personal.

Ng How Yue PMO

Good job on the Jul/Aug Challenge! I esp like the section on leadership insights from Mr Lim Siong Guan and PS Lim Soo Hoon.

First time I finished reading the full copy. Chloe Huang



Reader Kairin Simo wrote in a long letter that the articles in Challenge have inspired him and given him much food for thought. He suggested story ideas, including a look at how and why young officers are sometimes dissuaded from doing their best in their careers. Thanks for all your comments and do keep your feedback coming!

Will you ‘friend’ your colleagues or bosses on Facebook? Readers share their thoughts!

Of course! That’s a big YES! Almost everyone in my division is on Facebook, and we are Friends with each other, including our Director. We work independently and it’s difficult to catch up with each other socially. Facebook allows us to share our vibes, gossips, and thoughts and also share photos of office social events through private photo albums.

Damien Wang NLB

Facebook and Twitter can help co-workers understand each other on a deeper level and provide a platform to “s c r e a m” f o r h e l p w h e n flooded by work which can trigger other co-workers to offer help.

Dickson Teo Kian Yong NAC

If one wants privacy, keep a personal journal. Facebook is a good tool for bosses to get to know their staff better through communication on a non-formal platform, which time or space in the professional world may not always allow.

Beverly Snodgrass MCYS

I will and I have. Facebook offers my colleagues and bosses a glimpse into my private life and more importantly, happy pictures of my kids posted on Facebook are to remind all that I need to have work life balance!

Connie Siew MOH

NO WAY....

Some of my colleagues may be “sensitive” when bosses are part of the community. This will hamper free expression

and take the fun out of social networking. I prefer to keep interactions on FB simple and sincere.

Jane Chiew IDA

I’m friends with my bosses in the office but I feel that I still need to differentiate between work and friendship. I am already ‘tracked’ in office, I don’t want to be tracked in cyberspace as well.

Janet Lee CPFB

I’d rather keep office politics or gossip to my close friends, as you won’t know one day, bosses might come across your FB, knowing what you said, and give you HELL in office. Good luck to you if you do “Friend” them! ;P

Yes, I would add my boss if asked. For the next two weeks, if I have anything to share on Facebook, I will make sure I exclude my boss. Two weeks later, I will surreptitiously remove my boss as a friend. Boss will be none the wiser, as he/she would have added so many p e o p l e, h e / s h e wo u l d n’t notice one friend less.

Angeline Ng MOE

Editor: Wow, thanks for the overwhelming response! About 250 of you replied with a majority (71.7%) willing to ‘friend’ colleagues but not bosses! We ’r e s o r r y w e c o u l d n’ t p r i n t everyone’s replies but there’re more published letters online so do check out

Alvin Chong

Attorney-General’s Chambers

5) The Facebook Poke is a good way to remind my boss to clear my paper. 4) Facebook is a good way to show to my boss that my weekends are spent volunteering for charity and other activities. (Raizan has invited you to join the event “10,000 hrs of cleaning the old folks home”) 3) I now know 20 things about my neighbour that I didn’t know before.

Top 5 reasons why I would ALWAYS friend my boss and colleagues:


2) How else can I find out if that cute lady from Finance on the 8th floor is single or attached? 1) How else can I check if my colleague is really sick or having a hangover from the wild night spent partying? (Love that photo tag function)

Congratulations to Mr Raizan Abdul Razak who wins a $100 dining voucher from Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts. Now there’s a good reason to bring the “cute lady from Finance” out for a meal!

Will you respond to your boss’s SMS or phone calls after office hours? Why? Tell us at: The best entry will win an attractive prize worth up to All other published entries will win shopping vouchers worth each. Please include your name, email address, agency and contact number.



All entries should reach us by September 27, 2010.


NEWS from the


Welcome... Mr Peter Ong, who will be our new Head of Civil Service from September 1, 2010. Mr Ong will also be PS (Special Duties) in the Prime Minister’s Office and PS (National Security and Intelligence Coordination), in addition to his current appointment as PS (Finance). Mr Ong, 49, has helmed other ministries, and was appointed Second PS (Defence) in 2001, PS (Transport) in 2002, PS (Trade and Industry) in 2005, and PS (Finance) in 2009.

THANK YOU... Mr Peter Ho, our former Head of Civil Service, who retires from the Administrative Service on September 1, 2010, after more than 34 years of distinguished service in the public sector. Mr Ho was also PS (Special Duties) in the PMO, PS (Foreign Affairs) and PS (National Security and Intelligence Coordination). He will continue to serve as Senior Advisor to the Centre for Strategic Futures.

ASEAN Play and Learn Education has become more exciting with “ASEAN Chronicles: The Legend of the Golden Talisman”, an adventure-themed computer game released by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts to create interest and awareness about the ASEAN region among youths. Inspired by James Bond, Indiana Jones and The Amazing Race, “ASEAN Chronicles” was launched at the 11th ASEAN SubCommittee on Information meeting held on July 1-2, 2010. In the game, a cataclysm threatens to bring about mass destruction. Only the Golden Talisman can prevent that from happening, and the player has to travel to different ASEAN countries to find pieces of the Talisman. Download the game for free from the ASEAN Media Portal ( PSD, Unions to Jointly Train Officers The Public Ser vice D i v i s i on ( P S D ) h a s signed a partnership agreement with the unions to train officers in human resources and line management in Industrial Relations. “ W ith better understanding of each other and better collaboration among unions, employers and the Government, we will be able to respond faster, better and more cost-effectively to changes,” Ms Lim Soo Hoon, Permanent Secretary of PSD, said.

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Civil Service and Minister for Defence Mr Teo Chee Hean thanked Mr Ho for his sterling contributions saying, “As HCS, Mr Ho has steered the Public Service with visionary leadership and strategic thinking. As a strong proponent for a networked government, he galvanised agencies to work together to tackle national issues.”

Coming up... Maximising Human Capital The Singapore Human Capital Summit will see business leaders, practitioners and experts around the world sharing strategies and practices in developing and managing human capital. The event will be held on September 29-30. Visit www.

Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) SIEW is a leading energy event for top policymakers and industry players to exchange best practices. Organised by the Energy Market Authority and the Energy Studies Institute, SIEW runs from October 27– November 4. Visit www.

marieta’s miracles little

She is a guardian of things too small for the naked eye, a babysitter of cancer-f ighting cells. Meet Dr Marieta Chan, who calls herself the “mother” of three laboratories at the Blood Services Group, Health Sciences Authority. by

Bridgette See

Whether or not a doctor decides to carry out a transplant depends on our tests... So we really have no room for mistakes.

As the microscope clicks into place, a mass of tiny dots appears in focus. These nondescript blobs are, in fact, formidable immune cells that may hold the cure to cancer one day. Minute yet mighty, these cells are powerful. Studies have shown their potential to kill cancer cells so scientists are now harvesting them from both healthy donors and cancer patients, growing them to a substantial quantity, and then re-introducing them back to the patient ’s body to fight cancer. The ongoing trials depend very much on a team of unsung heroes at the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). Led by Lab Director Marieta Chan, this coterie of lab experts helps to breed the cancer-killing army at HSA’s Cell Therapy Facility. Each batch of cells requires 28 days of utmost care; one wrong move and they could perish. “ We have to feed the immune cells every two to three days,” says Dr Chan, 36, of her “babies”. Every morning, lab officers like Ms Madelaine Niam enter the lab to feed the cells. They inject shots of potent nutrients specially concocted by scientists to spur growth.

“ We even have to wash away their pee and poop,” adds Dr Chan. “I’m not kidding.” An apparatus, much like a washing machine, spins each bag at high speed and the centrifugal force generated separates waste matter from live cells. Through sophisticated instruments, the lab officers check on the cells: Are the right type of cells alive and growing well? Are there enough of them? It may seem like monotonous work but its impact on real lives cannot be underestimated. Every time the officers make a “delivery” – sending immune cells back to a patient – they are reminded that each bag they breed is a fighting chance at survival. Ms Niam recalls the first patient they served in 2006. For two years, the lab harvested and bred nine batches of cells for the leukaemia patient, who eventually lost the battle to cancer. The lab officers even kept close tabs on his health via his girlfriend’s blog. With the same care, the Cell Therapy Facility also babysits and grows stem cells, for up to six weeks each time. The stem cells will be used in another trial to regenerate damaged heart tissues in patients who had heart attacks.

“ S t e m cells have the power to develop into other cell types, so we literally ‘feed’ them with the nutrients they require, to grow them up healthy and nurture them to become the cell type we need,” explains Dr Chan. Dr Chan, who has three children, is also “mother” of the Immunohaematology and the Tissue Typing Labs. The Immunohaemotology Lab performs tests on blood samples from donors and patients to ensure compatibility before a transfusion – an exercise not as simple as matching type A donor to type A recipient. Instead, characteristics (like antigens and antibodies) in both donor’s and recipient ’s blood have to be matched – even if they are both type A. The work, Dr Chan describes, is like “matching jigsaw puzzles”. Over at the Tissue Typing Lab, officers hunt down matching white blood cells instead. For instance, a leukaemia patient requiring a blood stem cell transplant will need an exact match of his

Feature07 Dr Chan says her team is keenly aware that their work can be a matter of life and death, so the pressure is immense. “ Whether or not a doctor decides to carry out a transplant depends on our tests,” says Dr Chan. “So we really have no room for mistakes”. Staff of both the Immunohaematology and Tissue Typing Labs are on duty 24/7 because “patients require transfusions everyday and some transplantations must be performed as soon as possible. So you can’t tell patients, sorry we are closed”. “You have to see this job as service to the nation otherwise you won’t stay on,” says Dr Chan, admitting to the rigours and challenges of the work.

Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) and the donor’s HLA. The HLA (think of it as an eightpiece jigsaw puzzle) will ideally require perfectly matching pieces before a transplant can proceed. Lab officers perform tests to identify the eight pieces from the patient and all potential donors. “It ’s especially saddening to see young patients needing transplants,” says Dr Chan. “So the least we can do is to make sure our tests are fast and accurate for them, with the hope that these patients will grow up to be healthy.” The same lab runs tests to ensure compatibility for organ transplants, too. Incompatible organs can “die” in their new homes, leading to complications, even fatality.

And what spurs this “mother” and her brood is simple: “It ’s heartwarming to meet the organ transplant recipients… [They] remind me that the tests that our labs performed contributed to giving them this second chance.” And this is why nine years after joining HSA as a fresh doctorate graduate, Dr Chan remains committed and excited about the possibilities of her work.

SHE LOVES CELLS Cells, says Dr Chan, are treated with much love, and are as precious as “babies are to mothers”. Red blood cells, she says, love it cold at about four degrees Celsius, while platelets like to be “rocked” at room temperature (about 22 degrees C), and plasma needs to be frozen at about 20 degrees C.

Technology-driven mobility and connectivity is freeing us from our desks. But when work is not limited to the off ice pace, does the line between work and life become blurred? by

Sheralyn Tay

It is 10 am on a Thursday and Mr Song Kian Yong is busy at work. He is rushing a report on his laptop, but the e-mails are streaming in so he stops typing from time to time to attend to the urgent messages. His mobile phone rings – a colleague wants to check on some meetings later in the week.  All in all, it is a typical work day, except that Mr Song is in T-shirt and shorts, working from the comfort of his bedroom and soothed by the soft strains of his radio. When Ms Seow Yien Ping was considering working part-time to care for her newborn son, her director extended informal flexible hours so she could leave the office early some days of the week and work remotely from home – and still be on a full salary. For Mr Francis Kwa, an IT consultant, work is anywhere he can plug in his laptop. If you feel a twinge of jealousy that these arrangements are for the lucky few who run their own companies or are part of a non-traditional local start-up, hold on. Mr Song, Ms Seow and Mr Kwa are public officers just like you. They are part of a new wave of workers lending credence to the saying that “work is something you do, not some place you go”. “It ’s just geography,” noted one public officer who telecommuted daily for about five years. The Changing Workplace Undoubtedly technology has been catalytic in transforming the way we work, said Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School and the head of the Future of Work Consortium, a research team seeking to envision how people will work in 2025. But just as crucial has been the changing motivations of the workforce as it seeks greater flexibility, work-life balance and autonomy, she said. Prof Gratton is working with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and other leading organisations to understand the changing nature of the workplace. She will be speak-

ing at the MOM-organised Human Capital Summit on September 30, 2010 to discuss how organisational architecture and culture, and people practices and skills will change in the next 20 years due to globalisation, technology, demography and societal change. A few things are clear, she said: the traditional nine-to-five work day, top-down management and “the office”, as you know it, are on their way out. Replacing these will be barrier-free virtual teams and workspaces where quality of life, rather than menial tasks or monetary gains, takes precedence.

Companies that can’t offer the best connectivity will not be able to attract and keep the best workers. This will be key in attracting and keeping talent, said Singaporebased consultant, Mr Iain Ewing, who is Chief Executive and Principal Trainer of Ewing Communications. “Companies that can’t offer the best connectivity will not be able to attract and keep the best workers… [and will] fall behind in connectivity and competitiveness,” he noted. All this has resulted in an evolution in work culture. And for some organisations, such as United Statesbased retailer Best Buy, the transformation has been revolutionary. It turned the notion of “face-time” on its head with a Results-Only-WorkEnvironment in 2008, something Bloomberg Businessweek called a “post-face-time, location-agnostic” way of working.

10 Cover Story there is an understanding that technology has made it easier for people to work from outside the office.”

This means employees can do whatever they want whenever Cover theyStory want, as long as they meet job expectations. Goodbye clockwatching. The bold experiment saw employees leaving work in the middle of the day to watch a movie, pick the kids up from school and, in the case of one, hunting, armed Cover go Story with a shotgun and mobile phone. This turned the tide on the high turnover rate and low staff morale, increasing productivity by some 35% in the departments that were on the scheme.




Another trend is the “working beCover yond Storywalls” movement initiated by the United Kingdom government service in 2008 where public officers, including Permanent Secretary Ian Watmore, give up personal workspaces for “hot desks”, a pool of fully equipped desks that staff occupy as and when required. This has generated a more dynamic work environment, Watmore told The Public Ser vant. “There have been all sorts of hidden advantages: accessibility to staff; being able to interact with people, learn how the policies work, identify more with what is really going on in the department. It makes a massive difference culturally.” New Ways of Working The same momentum within the Singapore Public Service is also building, with flexible work options such as telecommuting, part-time work or staggered work hours. A flexible schedule also allows staff to take time off when needed and make up for it on another day. AcCover Story cording to MOM, more than 75% of its staff have benefited from these options since they were made available in 2008.

At the Ministry of Transport, there is no cap on the number of days that Division I officers can telecommute, as long as supervisors are agreeable. Mr Henry Foo, Deputy Director of Land Division said this allows his staff to telecommute “whenever they do not feel like slipping on their office outfits, hopping onto the packed public transport system and stepping into the office”. He added: “The flexibility seems to have worked wonders to [raise] the motivation levels of the employees and… [has made] the overall office environment... productive and positively charged.”

NEVER WITHOUT HER BERRY Shahrany Hassan, who works at the Subordinate Courts, is never without her Blackberry – “baggage” from her private sector days.

His staff, Ms Pamela Goh, an Assistant Director, said almost all her colleagues have opted for flexible work arrangements, and this is “a paradigm shift towards more outcome-based work performance, rather than based on a physical presence”.

I feel compelled to check my e-mail, even over the weekend when I know I shouldn't. But checking e-mails on weekends means making my Mondays more manageable. Declining to be named, a manager with the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) noted: “There have been some changes even in the short time I’ve been here (about a year), such as an increase in the number of telecommuting days we’re allowed to take each month. The fact that this has been officially done shows that

Flexibility for Ms Seow, who is an Assistant Director of the Centre for Culture and Communications at Republic Polytechnic, meant that she was “free to juggle my own time. For example, I would work at night when my son’s asleep to ensure that I’d be able to complete my work in a timely manner”.

Subtle Shif ts Apart from formalised initiatives, the undercurrents of change are already making themselves felt. You would have seen it in having a mobile number printed on your name card (instead of a landline), being issued a laptop, and getting remote access to your work e-mail. Open workspace concepts are being rolled out to ensure greater mobility for officers who are usually on the move, while wireless hotspots mean officers can work in meeting rooms or sofa corners. “Hot desking”, for example, has begun making inroads in organisations such as the Public Service Division (PSD). “Government work is still more deskbound in comparison [so this] is quite a ‘daring’ move for the Public Service,” said Mr Kwa, who is from PSD and had previously worked at multi-national IT companies where hot desking was the norm. “Most people do prefer their own cubicles and some may feel the ‘loss’ of their personal space, but there’s a lot more room for collaboration now. It also creates a shift in mindset that work can be done anywhere.”

While technology has enabled us to become more connected, productive and efficient, it is also a doubleedged sword. There is a sense that the more we un-tether ourselves from our desk, the longer the leash of work. “A sort of ‘always on’ culture has a tendency of creeping up on people,” the MICA officer noted. Ms Seow agreed. “There is increasing pressure to be checking e-mail or Messenger and to respond to queries 24/7. I try my best to reply e-mails in a timely manner (though not necessarily immediately), and of course, I would always pick up calls from my colleagues in case there is an urgent work matter that needs my attention,” she said.

The inability to say ‘no’ is chronic, whether work culture changes or not.

A United States-based study of midlevel managers and technologically supported work connectivity found that even as workers had more flexibility with increased connectivity, working hours rose in tandem and allowed “work to more easily permeate the non-work (particularly family) areas of life”.

Some supervisors also offer “off the book” flexible arrangements to those who have family commitments or other pressing personal emergencies. Ms Yeo Suat Lay, Assistant Director of Human Capital Cluster at PSD, noted that supervisors may grant time-off to staff that have put in extra hours, and it is common for staff to telecommute on an ad hoc basis. Said one officer from the Central Provident Fund Board: “My boss allows me to count [the day that I work from home] as a working day instead of it being recorded as sick leave. This way, I’m still productive.” Managing the 24/7 Worklife But even as the workplace becomes less venue-centric, tensions abound.

DESKBOUND NO MORE Armed with his laptop, senior executive Song Kian Yong is able to work anywhere, anytime.

12 Cover Story Ms Shahrany Hassan, Assistant Director of Training at the Subordinate Courts, is all too familiar with this. She carries a Blackberry – “baggage” from 10 years of working in the private sector – even though it is not an official work phone. She uses it to take notes as she goes about the various court offices to meet people, sending notes back to her office e-mail. Having a laptop and remote access means the mother of two can bring work home and avoid staying back late at work. But she admits that she can get “carried away” sometimes and just feel compelled to bring work home. “I feel compelled to check my e-mail, even over the weekend when I know I shouldn’t. But checking e-mails on weekends means making my Mondays more manageable,” she said. Ms Bernadette Sim, Director, Careers & Attraction at PSD, recognCover Story ised and noted that heightened connectivity creates perceived pressures so agencies do need to communicate and manage expectations. In fact Challenge understands that at least one ministry is clearing the air on issues over laptop, e-mail etiquette and after-hours with focus groups. And protocols concerning mobile phones have already been clearly communicated to staff.


Mutual Trust and Integrity This new workplace also means new leaders – those who are able to work in a more collaborative way and who can offer workers a high level of trust and empowerment, said Prof Gratton. Managers must also formulate new ways of assessing performance not in terms of physical presence, but in terms of outcomes and deliverables.

Cover Story

It ’s a question of having clear targets, said Ms Seow. “ Work is still work, no matter whether one is on

MOMMY WORKS FROM HOME Working from home gives Seow Yien Ping, a staff from Republic Polytechnic, more time with her children.

a flexible work arrangement or not. Personally, I still evaluate staff according to how well he or she has achieved the targets for the year. That ’s what my own RO (Reporting Officer) does as well.” Staff also have to be responsible with their new-found flexibility, added Ms Seow. “[Employees] still have to be accountable and show their supervisors that they can deliver results even when on a flexible work arrangement.” Ms Yeo of PSD agreed that trust and personal responsibility are important qualities for the new workplace. “ We need to [also] try and respect everyone’s preferred style of working as long as productivity is not compromised,” she said, noting that flexible work hours should still centre around the typical 9am-to-6pm schedule. The bottom line to all this? It is all about trust between supervisors and their staff, said those that Challenge interviewed. “ Without trust, productivity will remain low no matter what scheme we have,” said Mr Song. the right balance Overall, the evolving workplace has generated a lot of advantages – better quality of life, work satisfaction and connectedness. Still, vestiges of the “old school” remain, as some have observed. “People are not taking up the [telecommuting] options even though  they are ‘allowed or supposed’ to,” said Mr Song, who is a senior executive at PSD. Instead, colleagues tend to relegate the scheme to an “MC-like” mechanism, telecommuting only when they are ill. This reflects the “traditional” mindset that one should always be in the office, unless unwell.

Work is still work, no matter whether one is on a flexible work arrangement or not. It sometimes also boils down to not wanting to be seen as different, Mr Song added. “One challenge is managing (or rather, not being bothered by) what others perceive of you for being on an alternative work style.” Ms Renuga Johan, a senior executive from the Health Promotion Board, takes two half-days off from work each week to bring her 14-month old son from home to his playgroup. While she has a supportive team, Ms Johan is also fully aware that her flexi-arrangement may inconvenience her colleagues. “I try to make up for my time away from the office by being more productive and efficient. I am conscious not to be a ‘burden’ on my team.” And as the boundaries between work and life blur, there is also a need for balance between organisational and employee needs, said Ms Seow. “[As supervisors] we are mindful that staff have a life outside of work, and supervisors are careful about encroaching on our employees’ family time… unless it is an important matter or an emergency.”

Meanwhile the individual also needs to know where to draw the line. “ We spend so much time at work so it becomes an extension of my life,” said Ms Shahrany, who wrestles with being a career mum. “It ’s hard to compartmentalise work and non-work life, and if you have passion at work, it becomes part of you.” Mr Song said: “The inability to say ‘no’ is chronic, whether work culture changes or not (i.e. telecommuting versus fixed hours)... The challenge is to manage and live with the tension (between work, connectivity and personal life) in the hope that we can reach a compromise. We always have to remember work never ends!”


How has mobility and flexibility in the Public Service affected you? Share your thoughts and tips with us at

Perfect Tales of Im perfect People by


Chen Jingting


BEHIND THE stories The MCYS team from the Communications and International Relations Division. Mr Richard Tan Kok Tong, Director

Ms Mindy Cheong, Manager

We want to portray a slice of life and by nature, real life is not easy, real life is controversial and relationships are something that people have to work hard at. tion of Singaporeans with their controversial storylines and realistic portrayals of flawed human relationships.

A single father struggling to please his petulant daughter. A eulogy at a funeral. A cranky old grandmother and her suffering daughter-in-law. Such are the touching stories of imperfect people and families that MCYS has come up with to encourage Singaporeans to love their family. So who says government commercials are always preachy and politically correct? If anything, MCYS’s family campaign TVCs have definitely caught the atten-

S cenes

. ia l P ie ty fr o m F il

For instance, Filial Piety, directed by Hong Kong’s David Tsui, shows an elderly woman complaining about her daughter-in-law’s cooking. Her son tries to pacify her and seems to ignore his wife. This drew criticism from some netizens who felt the scene is implying that it is all right to disregard the feelings of one’s wife in order to please the mother. Why not just show a happy, loving family to avoid such negative responses?

Ms Kerry Tan, Assistant Manager

“We want to portray a slice of life, and by nature, real life is not easy, real life is controversial and relationships are something that people have to work hard at,” says MCYS’s Director of Communications and International Relations Richard Tan Kok Tong. The Ministry also respects the artistic freedom of its directors. For instance, acclaimed late filmmaker Ms Yasmin Ahmad – who directed MCYS’s TVCs Red Shoes and Funeral – was given full leeway to choose and direct her stories, and to select her cast.

Pushing the envelope

Red Shoes, which shows the struggles a single father faces in bringing up his daughter, was originally rejected by MCYS for its single-parent theme. But Ms Yasmin pressed for the story to be made. “Yasmin pushed the envelope to the extreme by using a single parent, which shows people how difficult it really is

Red Shoes

• MediaCorp Viewers’ Choice 2008

Production: February 2008 Launch: June 2008 Awards: • Phoenix Asia Awards 2008

Gold for Local Category

Silver for “Government/ Education Institutions” Category

To get Ms Yasmin Ahmad onboard this project, MCYS told competing creative agencies to persuade her and one of the agencies flew to Kuala Lumpur to approach her directly.

Silver Award in Craft Awards, Sound – Original Music Score

Bronze for “Charity/ Social Causes” Category

• Singapore Creative Circle Award 2008 Bronze Awards in the Craft in "Television & Cinema" Category


A single father and his daughter in Red Shoes.

to strengthen a relationship between a father and a child. If we were to show a proper family pushing the baby pram in the park and having a picnic, what is there to talk about?” says Mr Tan. Red Shoes has a scene in which the little girl in the story asks her father to buy her a bright red bra. Ms Yasmin had brought along some red bras when she presented the storyboard to Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon. “If they were going to be sticky about my ideas, I was going to whip (the bras) out to shock them. But they were cool about it, so (the bras) remained in my bag!” Ms Yasmin told TODAY newspaper in 2008.

Message of humanity And unlike most national commercials which have voiceovers in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, MCYS’s TVCs are made only in English and/or Mandarin, with accompanying subtitles in the other languages.

“As the Minister himself said, you can’t make a Chinese person speak Tamil. It just doesn’t sound right,” says Mr Tan. “Yasmin told me to have faith that the message of humanity, of family and community is so powerful and universal that it can transcend racial and language boundaries.” The Malaysian director then went on to helm Funeral, in which a woman pays tribute to her dead husband in a eulogy by talking about his charming imperfections, such as snoring and farting in bed. It was also Ms Yasmin’s last TVC before she passed away due to brain haemorrhage in July 2009. Funeral was launched as part of the Beautifully Imperfect campaign which encouraged Singaporeans to appreciate the flaws in their partners. The use of a funeral-wake setting was a first for MCYS. The Ministry was initially concerned about the reaction of conservative Chinese Singaporeans, who might see funerals as a “bad omen”.



w it h F u n e ra l, tu re s o f ic ) and p e n lu o b ti n P ro d u c h m a d (i A in m s r Ya d ir e c to w. a n d c re her cast

But MCYS went ahead with the idea, as it wanted a “non-typical” setting that will hook audiences immediately, explains Mr Tan.

Viral successes

MCYS also uses social media to spread its pro-family messages. It broadcast a preview session of Red Shoes for bloggers back in 2008, and posted clips of its TVCs on YouTube and Facebook. The strategy has managed to get Singaporeans to continue viewing and talking about the TVCs, even after they were no longer shown on TV. The Filial Piety clip has received more than 217,000 views on both Facebook and YouTube and its Facebook page has more than 38,000 fans from 20 countries. Meanwhile, more than 19,000 Facebook users are fans of the Beautifully Imperfect campaign and clips of Funeral on YouTube and Facebook have attracted more than three million views.


• Mediacorp Viewers’ Choice 2009

Production: March 2009 Launch: April 2009 Awards: • Cannes Award 2010

Gold Award in Local Category

Gold Lion for Direction

Advertiser of the Year for MCYS

Gold Lion for Copywriting

Most Effective Media Campaign of the Year

• Kancil Awards 2009, Malaysia Advertiser of the Year for MCYS

Grand Prix, Gold for Film Category Gold for Craft/Film Direction

• Institute of Advertising Singapore Hall of Fame 2009


Jo Kukathas, the main actress in the commercial, is well known amongst theatregoers in Malaysia as a comedian and director of a theatre company.

If these policies are not right, then no amount of campaigning is going to help as the cause of people not wanting to get married and have children may not be because they don’t want to, but because it is expensive to get housing and childcare (services). S eeing how stor ytelling has been effective in reaching out to people, will MCYS continue to use this approach in later campaigns? Not necessarily, says Mr Tan. For instance, the TVC for the Youth Olympic Games, released two months ago,

is not a stor y but a 90-second clip of a visually impaired girl who shares her hopes of attending the inaugural games. The previous TVCs were three minutes each.

Beyond a successful campaign, policies may also need to be adjusted to spur behavioural change in Singaporeans, says Mr Tan. For example, to encourage more Singaporeans to marry and procreate, policies ensuring easier ways of getting housing and quality childcare services are important.

A woman pays tribute to her husband in Funeral.

“If these policies are not right, then no amount of campaigning is going to help as the cause of people not wanting to get married and have children may not be because they don’t want to, but because it is expensive to get housing and childcare (services).” Still, the TVCs have succeeded in starting discussions among Singaporeans, which is an important first step for policy changes to be made, says Mr Tan. “It is through the conversations that you know what policies to change as people surface their concerns and fears.”

18 Thinking Aloud

When Meaning Yields

Sense & Cents Meaning comes when public servants use their strengths to strengthen those they serve. by Dave Ulrich

In the last few years, most have experienced a decade worth of change. We have categorised these changes into a STEPED model – for Social, Technological, Economic, Political, Environmental, and Demographic changes. To cope with these STEPED changes, leaders in public and private organisations need to become meaning-makers who help employees replace deficit with abundant thinking. Deficit thinking focuses on what is wrong and unfeasible; abundant thinking focuses on what is right and possible. For example, the British National Health Service has found that when employees have a strong sense of purpose, patients experience better health care. At a personal level, my father was a government employee. He found meaning in his work to protect the forest (he started as a forest ranger), then he found other meaning when he shifted to social agencies. He helped direct government funding to enable the economically disadvantaged to find work. He taught by example that when public officials sense a higher purpose in their work, they are more committed to doing it well. My sister is a principal in a middle school. She finds that teachers who are committed to helping students learn (versus simply putting in their time for a paycheck) not only have better learning outcomes, but also have a more positive outlook on life in general. Public officials who see the connection of their professional identity to the constituents they serve will be more professionally productive and personally happy. To create meaning at work, we have culled various disciplines and literatures and identified seven questions that leaders may address to produce more abundant outcomes:

1. Who am I?

Abundance inc ludes c larity about identity and signature strengths and ensures that employees will build on their strengths that strengthen others. A building inspector sees his job as ensuring the elegance of architecture and quality of lifestyle in the community he works.

2. Where am I going?

Abundance emerges from a clear sense of what we are trying to accomplish and why. A passport control officer who views his work as welcoming tourists into and citizens back into the country, finds more meaning in the work than merely checking passports and visas.

3.Whom do I travel with?

Abundance is enhanced by meaningful relationships. One of the highest team unity scores we have ever seen was from a revenue collection agency where employees relied on each other for emotional and social support.

4. How do I build a positive work environment?

Abundance thrives on positive routines that help ground us in what matters most and help us connect with ourselves and others. A leader of a social service agency began every staff meeting with stories about those they served to personalise their work, and to remind staff of the service they rendered.

5.What challenges interest me?

Abundance occurs when companies can engage not only employees’ skills and loyalty, but also their values. The most engaged employees are generally those whose work gives them the opportunity to stretch while doing work they love and solving problems they care about.

6. How do I change, learn, and grow?

Abundance acknowledges that failure

can be a powerful impetus to growth and learning. A colleague who does research on the public sector is constantly seeking ways to improve efficiency and service. That’s how she finds meaning in her work.

7.What delights me?

Abundance thrives on simple pleasures, such as laughing at ourselves, appreciating excellence, and having fun at work. These sources of delight are highly personal. One public servant wrote letters of appreciation to employees’ families on their birthdays as a way to acknowledge their good work. When leaders help employees explore these seven questions, they help create abundant organisations with positive individual and organisation results: • higher commitment, better employee health, improved productivity and retention • a leadership brand that builds investor confidence • increased customer commitment (because customer attitudes about an

organisation correlate with the attitudes of

its employees)

• increased investor confidence in future earnings and higher market value (based on intangible assets like

leadership and quality of employees)

• improved community reputation, merited by stronger social responsibility. Making meaning makes both sense and cents. D ave U l r i c h i s co - a u t h o r o f N o. 1 b e s t s e l l e r “ T h e W h y o f W o r k ”, a professor at the Ross School of Business, and a partner in the RBL Group (

er /O c to Septemb


Health Report

Are you all out of love? Some researchers believe they have found the cure. The chemical dopamine has been identified as being heavily involved in producing the emotional state of romantic love. Therefore, one could theoretically “cure” that heart-wrenching feeling by getting a dose of melatonin and vasotocin, both hormones with antidopamine effects.

pages of tips to get you ahead

19 -26

Sleepless in Singapore

Distracted by the Internet and round-the-clock entertainment, Singaporeans are more sleep-deprived than ever. Just 31% of us manage to get eight hours of sleep a day, with one in two staying awake past midnight, says a recent survey by ACNielsen Research. In contrast the Kiwis and Aussies take it easy – 28% and 31% sleep nine hours or more, respectively.


et 8

u ho





31 % g

g e t 6 -7

Stressed. Sleepless. Sickly. If these words describe just about everyone around you, you’re in bad company. But fret not – Challenge has come up with eight whole pages of tips and trivia to kick you back into the pink of health; not to mention keeping you entertained, or at least distracted enough to forget that bag of chips. ¡So vamos!

Karoshi (Death by Overwork)

The phenomenon of karōshi a term first coined during the 1960s, is persisting in Japan, with the recent economic crunch exacerbating the incidence of fatal workrelated deaths and suicides. 2,000 1,500 1,000 500



1995 – 500 applications for worker compensation due to karōshi 2006 – 1,757 claims for death or major depression caused by overwork


59 %


If you think that’s bad, 41% of Japanese get six hours or less.

ber 2010

get 5 ho

Boss overworking you? De-stress with this karōshi-inspired game:


Fighting Sleeplessness

Make a list of all the things that you need to take care of the next day, right before you go to bed. Telling yourself to go back to sleep in the middle of the night is only going to make things worse. Try distracting your mind with some light reading.

TRIVIA Breast cancer patients were more likely to have kept a dog than a cat, according to a small study conducted by researchers at the University of Munich, Germany. In fact, about 80% of all patients had intensive contact with dogs before they were diagnosed. The reason? Dogs may offer a route of transmission for the virus that causes breast cancer, the research suggests, but does not prove. Woof, anyone?

Frazzled Out

According to a Grant Thornton Survey, fewer businesses here are reporting an increase in stress levels in 2010 as compared to 2007. (We’re now below the global average of 56%.) So have we become more accustomed to stress? Take heart that this is one business chart that Singapore didn’t top. 2007


05 China

84 %

Taiwan 82% China

76% Singapore 69% Malaysia 63%


Hong Kong 67%

08 Taiwan 60%

Malaysia 64%


Singapore 45%

Hong Kong 39%

LEGEND 01. Poorly Designed Chair

Global Average 56% Percentage of businesses indicating their levels of stress have increased compared to a year ago


03. Overloaded Furniture Besides guilt, filing cabinets can also crush you if you keep more than one drawer open at a time.

Bad chair = bad back. Always choose good support for your lower- and mid-back so you can work all day, sans pain.

04. Cluttered Desk

02. Bad Air

05. The Boss

Open a window; it might actually save a life. Bad air contains mould spores caused by leaky pipes and faulty air-conditioning. Yuck!

If the constant, looming presence of The Boss is stressing you out, call the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800-2214444 for a listening ear.

A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. Save time and face by keeping things organised.

Office Hazards


stress BUSTER

Psychological stress and anxiety disorders are dubbed “silent killers”. Challenge finds out more from Dr Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist in private practice. What is the top reason for stress among your patients?



The most common reason is workrelated difficulties: long work hours, being overloaded with responsibilities, difficult bosses or colleagues, and lack of time are some of the problems my patients have complained about. Many people are not able to tune out even after leaving the office, so they go home thinking and worrying over their work problems.

How do I know if I am stressed and need help?

Stress is normal and an unavoidable part of our lives. In fact, a bit of stress is good because it pushes you to get things done. But if you’re so stressed that you can’t sleep well, have no appetite, get headaches, diarrhoea or keep falling sick, it might be a sign that your stress levels are at unhealthy levels. 06. Hungry Desk

09. Overloaded Electrical Socket

Think before you eat – your desk has 400 times the amount of bacteria as a toilet bowl, warns the American Dietetic Association.

Catch the spark that keeps you going, not the one that burns the place down. Don’t overload the electrical sockets.

07. Uncleaned Microwave Oven

10. Computer Screen

Are the microwave door handles ever cleaned? Wipe those germs off before (and after) use.

There’s now a name for your computer screeninduced woes, the Computer Vision Syndrome. Sufferers buckle under eyestrains, headaches, neck aches and blurred vision. Sounds familiar?

08. The Office Phone Getting too personal with the office phone might leave it infested with germs. So yes, clean it.

Are there people predisposed to stress due to their personalities?

Yes, some people are predisposed to being stressed. It could be genetic, meaning there may be a family history of anxiety; or it could also be learned behaviour, meaning that over the years, reacting badly to stressful situations becomes a habit they keep repeating.





















DIY Ways to

Test your Fitness Some simple exercises you can do to see how you measure up health-wise.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

To measure how efficient your heart is, do this first thing in the morning. Place two fingers on your wrist below your thumb. Count the number of beats for 60 seconds.


Upper-Body Muscular Endurance

Boost your ego! How many push-ups can you do? Tally the maximum you can do without stopping, and make sure your body remains straight without touching the floor.




61 – 80



That’s hot



81 – 100

Not good

20 – 24

That’s good

15 – 30

Not bad

101 – above

Seriously, go see a doctor

15 – 19

That’s not

20 – 24


Hips don’t lie (But people do)

Your waist-to-hip ratio gives a good idea of the distribution of body fat. Divide the widest part of your bum (don’t cheat!) by the narrowest part of your waist!

Men Women < 0.8 (Healthy) Men < 0.9 (Healthy)

Fu Office Kung up ng body. Limber Soothe your achi es. Fu-inspired stretch with these Kung

Pouncing Tiger Thunder Thrust

Yawning Cat Pose

Soaring Bamboo towards Sky Slender Gourd Monkey Crush

TRIVIA The Asian BMI According to the Singapore Health Promotion Board, Asians have a higher proportion of body fat compared to Caucasians. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) with the formula below and compare it with the Index revised in 2005 for Asian body types. BMI = weight (kg) / height (m) x height (m) BMI (kg/m 2) for Adults

Health Risk

27.5 and above

High risk

23 – 27.4

Moderate risk

18.5 – 22.9

Low risk (healthy range)

Below 18.5

Risk of nutritional deficiency diseases and osteoporosis


On the Ball! Is sitting on a chair too little effort? An exercise ball might be a good replacement for the off ice chair. Such “active sitting” strengthens your core muscles and encourages a good posture. Start out by sitting for just half an hour each day until you no longer need your off ice chair. Much effort!









Jalan Jalan








Sailing Point Walk




Beach Walk

Cliff Walk



You don’t always have to run or lift weights to keep f it. You can jalan jalan your way to health, too, with the many walking trails in Singapore.



Creek Walk Total Distance:

Kelong Walk

in Singapore


Changi Sailing Club

Ci Clu vil S b C er v ha ice ng i

SIA Sports Club

2.1km End Point

Changi Golf Course

Start Point

Changi Country Club


Changi Point has always been popular with Singaporeans, with crowds flocking to the beach on the weekends. A scenic route has been opened up along the entire Changi Point coastline in the last few years which brings you across five unique experiences away from the bustle of the city.

Double Twisting Phoenix

Screaming Eagle Back Stretch

Praying Mantis Flying Kick

Let’s Play!

Ever heard of Tchoukball (pronounced as “chukeball”)? It’s a counterintuitive game where you can score at both ends but cannot interfere with another team’s passes or movement. Find out more at the Tchoukball Association of Singapore’s off icial website:

TRIVIA Sexercise Did you know that regular sex gives you health benefits such as weight loss, a healthier heart and even better skin? Dr Desmond Ebanks, MD, founder and medical director of Alternity Healthcare in West Hartford, Connecticut, estimates that you burn 75 to 150 calories during 30 minutes of sex, as compared to 153 calories for walking, 114 for yoga, and 129 for dancing.


Cancer Fighters

Here are some wonder foods to battle cancer.

Calorie Count of Drinks

How much are you drinking? One can of Coke (330ml, 140 Calories) is equal to:

Gin / Vodka (Shot – 30ml) 56 Calories

Brandy (Glass – 177ml) 390 Calories

Chin chow (Glass – 200ml) 48 Calories

Wine (Glass – 177ml) 90 Calories

Teh Tarik (Glass – 200ml) 142 Calories

Coffee w/ condensed milk (Glass – 200ml) 116 Calories

Champagne (Glass – 177ml) 240 Calories

Beer (Mug – 355ml) 161 Calories

soya bean milk (Glass – 200ml) 126 Calories

Drinking Tips

Avoid drinking alcohol mixed with fruit juices; they come with lots of added sugars. Have a vodka with lime instead. Feel hungry after a night of drinking? Have two glasses of water and a light snack. Finishing a glass of water after each beer helps you slow your drinking down, reducing your alcohol intake. Fun Facts about Drinking Not only does alcohol increase your appetite, it slows down your body’s ability to burn fat. Put simply, drinking makes you FAT.

TRIVIA Alcohol The expression “Mind your P’s and Q’s” comes from an old English practice where bartenders would tell their misbehaving customers to mind their pints and quarts.

Cruciferous (cabbagelike) vegetables, including broccoli and Brussel sprouts, contain many antioxidants such as sulforaphane that reduce the risk of cancer.

Disclaimer Health Foods

Catechins found in green tea help reduce the risk of cancer in the colon, liver, breast and prostate.

Grapes contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage.

Besides phytochemicals, beans have a high fibre content which lowers the risk of digestive cancers.

Garlic contains helpful chemicals like diallyl disulfide that protect your skin, colon and lungs from cancer.

Are health foods really as good as they seem? We take a look at some popular choices.

Green Tea Green tea comes in just about any product one could imagine: ice -cream, health supplements, facial washes. You might want to pay a little more attention to the nutritional value though. To state the obvious, green tea ice cream is still ice cream. Stick to drinking green tea from a cup to get the full health benefits.

Vitamin-Enriched Water Vitamin drinks do sound like a good idea: nutrition you can drink. However, the Health Promotion Board cautions that the added v i t a m i n s, b e i n g wate r- s o l u b l e, pass out of the body quickly. For a healthier version, add lemon slices to a glass of plain water and spare yourself the added sugars and calories.

Diet Soda Diet versions of your favourite fizzy drinks might be lower in calories than the regular version, but not necessarily healthier. Research by the Boston University School of Medicine shows that adults who dr ink one or more soda a day, re g u l a r o r d i e t , f a ce t h e s a m e increase in risk for heart disease.

Lycopene is more easily absorbed from cooked tomatoes. It helps to fight breast, lung, and stomach cancer.

Whole Grains contain many cancer-preventing compounds such as antioxidants, fibre and phytoestrogens which help reduce the risk of cancer.

Food Label Lies What do food labels really mean? It might not be what you think!

Zero Grams Trans Fats Blueberries are the best berries to fight all kinds of cancer as they are rich in ellagic acid and anthocyanosides.

Flaxseeds contain lignans and omega-3 fatty acids, which help to protect against colon cancer.

Health is merely the slowest way someone can die. – Author Unknown

Forbidden Fruits Fruits are widely recognised as healthy foods. However, some are not as innocent as they seem. As always, remember to eat in moderation!


Grapes fight cancer but they are packed with sugar. Oranges contain 9.4g of sugar for every 100g, CocaCola 12.0g, while grapes contain 15.5g. Go figure.

According to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), any food can be declared “trans fats free” so long as it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. Note that these “trans fats free” foods add up over the course of your day, so watch what you eat!

Low Fat Durians

Th e “ K i n g o f f r u i t s” contains lots of fat, leading Thai authorities to issue health warnings in 2004 against excessive durian-eating.


An average avocado has almost the same grams of fat as an ice cream milkshake! But some studies say these healthy, monosaturated fats are great for the skin.

In order to keep food tasty when fat is removed, sugars or refined starches are usually added, negating the benefits of reduced fat. Also, labels like “less fat” literally means what it says: it contains 25% or less fat than the comparison food. You should never assume that it means the same thing as “healthy”.

All Natural “All natural” doesn’t mean organic, or healthy. Products from animals raised using artificial hormones can still be labelled “natural”. So the next time you see an “All natural” label, you might as well pretend it’s not there.

Laughter, The Best Medicine

Research has shown the medical benef its of laughter, including stress relief and preventing heart disease. Whether genuine or forced, laughter grants you the same benef its! Laughter & Happy Chemicals

Stress & Memory

Laughter stimulates pituitary gland & hypothalamus

Stress stimulates pituitary gland & hypothalamus ( Temporal lobe)

Cortisol is released from kidneys Reaches the hippocampus

( Temporal lobe)

Frontal Lobe

Producing beta-endorphins Temporal Lobe

Which goes to the frontal lobe

( Temporal lobe)

Which regulates emotions

Signalling the temporal & frontal lobes

Making you feel happier!

Affecting emotions and memory

Ergo: The act of laughing or smiling actually makes you feel happier!

Ergo: Prolonged stress makes you unhappy and forgetful.


TRIVIA Singaporeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s First Laughter Club First introduced by Zareena Bana, a Mumbai-born businesswoman, laughter therapy has been gaining popularity in Singapore. These laughter sessions include yogabased exercises. Zaibun Siraj, a motivational speaker, has been conducting these sessions for organisations as diverse as the Land Transport Authority and Far East Organisation.

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Mark Twain

Health Apps

Calorie Counter

Tap & Track

A free app by Fat Secret that tracks what you put into your body. Comes with a barcode scanner!

Calculate your daily calorie needs by applying the (apparently) well known Harris Benedict Equation with this app.

TRIVIA Stress Balls Have you wondered how squeezing stress balls help relieve stress? Apparently, the act of squeezing those small yellow smiley faces distracts your mind from stress and allows both body and mind to relax, granting the same effect as meditation. Sounds too easy to be true? Try it out!

Letters to aYoung Public Officer 27

by Ong Keng Yong Former Secretary-General of ASEAN Ambassador-At-Large, MFA

DEAR YOUNG OFFICER, I am often asked by my colleagues in Singapore whether ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) really matters and whether it can deliver what it promises. They have been affected by the public perception of ASEAN as a less than dynamic and effective forum. I asked my wife why there is such scepticism about ASEAN. She replied: “ASEAN is a political concept and not a bread-and-butter issue for the practical-minded Singaporeans!” In a 2008 survey, youths in the 10 countries of ASEAN were asked about their attitude and understanding of ASEAN. The conclusion showed young Singaporeans were least likely to identify themselves as ASEAN citizens and possessed below-average knowledge of the region. Only one in four Singaporeans polled felt a similarity with their ASEAN neighbours, the lowest among ASEAN member states. While most Singaporeans might see ASEAN as a talkshop, the reality is it is more than that! ASEAN is important to Singapore. As a young civil servant, you need to know more about ASEAN, not just for your present professional career, but for your own future.

Very often, ASEAN is seen as a slowmoving boat navigating in an irksome manner through the labyrinthine bureaucracy of Southeast Asia. ASEAN colleagues enjoy small talk and jokes as they relax after a long meeting. It is a mistake to think that they are not concerned with the urgency of the issues at hand. In fact, the unhurried way of ASEAN colleagues at meetings is often a tactic in itself – a way to buy time as the proposal on the table might be too drastic for their policy consumption. So to help ourselves, we need to know what is preventing the other delegations from going along with our proposals. The first task is therefore, to know where the other guys are coming from. If necessary, let the theatrics be performed. Then, make constructive suggestions to converge the differences. Where possible, introduce reality checks and discourage political rhetoric and overly ambitious undertaking. The mantra of the earlier generations of ASEAN bureaucrats was “step-by-step, at a pace comfortable to all”. This still applies today. In working the circuit, as a young officer, you should be patient, realistic and strategic in approach.

The ASEAN Summit in November 2007 and the APEC Summit in November 2009 in Singapore have raised the profile of ASEAN in the eyes of many Singaporeans. Most of us know our country’s prosperity depends on a flourishing regional economy. But somehow, we have a mental cloudiness about ASEAN. My ASEAN friends always talk about how Singapore would gain from their own growth and well-being. Some even said boldly that for every dollar spent in their countries, 20 to 50 cents would end up in Singapore somehow. This may be an exaggeration but it illustrates how the people around us see our magnetic hub status. In turn, we must not take the region for granted. We should be able to distinguish the differences in the diverse canvas Singapore is in, and sustain a durable relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. Let us get to know ASEAN better. The first step is to take our membership seriously. This will strengthen the sense of common purpose with our neighbours. We must see the big picture: ASEAN is a part of Singapore’s foreign policy and economic development.

National Council of Social Service (NCSS) Chief Executive Ang Bee Lian talks to Wong Sher Maine about her social work journey in A Cuppa With...

Ms Ang Bee Lian was once courted by a mamasan. As a young social worker fresh out of university, the current CEO of NCSS had knocked on the woman’s door trying to investigate if she was abusing her child.

I figured out that she was working as a mamasan.

“I was quite scared, but I figured out that she was working as a mamasan after talking to her for a while,” recalls Ms Ang. While answering the woman’s pointed questions about her own salary, Ms Ang managed to work her way to the door. “I still remember before I left, she told me in Cantonese – if you’re in trouble, come and look for Mummy! She wanted to recruit me when she realised I was earning very little!” O ver the last 30 years, Ms Ang, a decorated social work veteran who has chalked up awards including an Outstanding Social Worker Award in 2000 and the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2002, has accumulated a treasure trove of stories to tell. Inspiration She starts by telling you about her mother, who remains her life-long inspiration. “She brought us up by sewing clothes,” says Ms Ang, the youngest of

a quartet. “Even though we were poor, she always had sufficient money to lend to neighbours in need.” The former Singapore Chinese Girls’ School student who once aspired to be a Girl Scout decided after a process of elimination – “I cancelled out other careers like accountancy and engineering” – to give social work a shot. It was during the time before she entered the University, while she was trying to earn some pocket money, that she realised she had found her calling in life. A vacation job called for her to knock on doors and conduct a readership survey, asking residents of a particular HDB estate about a magazine.

She knocked on a door, it was opened, and she was greeted by the sight of two children sitting in a dark, dirty room eating their food off newspapers placed on the floor. “The whole house was bare. I had never been faced with such poverty before and it was very depressing,” says Ms Ang. “I gave the whole pile of surveys back. I said I could not do it. People are struck with poverty and here we are, trying to ask if they had read a magazine!” She did not earn the $5 per form. But what Ms Ang, who shed a few tears that day, came away with was a firm sense of how she would be relevant. She ditched her Honours year – something she now regrets as “an Honours

A Cuppa With...29 degree does make a difference in public service” – and jumped straight into the fray. S he was, in her own w o r d s , “n a i v e ” a n d “a d a r e d e v i l ” w h o ventured down dark and lonely lanes to knock on strangers’ doors, but she was very “driven”. “I wanted to change the world,” says Ms Ang, repeatedly. “Over time, you adjust that ideal to each case that you handle, but I held on to the fact that I can make a difference to each starfish that I throw back into the sea, and focus on that starfish each time.” Satisfaction W hat has given her the greatest satisfaction all these years is seeing new leaders emerge and seeing the profession grow. She says: “Never in the history of the sector has so much been done to professionalise the manpower in the sector and to increase the opportunities for people to work in the sector.”

resources. And while it’s important to prioritise the use of resources, we also need to be realistic and think of creative, out-of-the box solutions to overcome our challenges,” says Ms Ang. “Never give up. If we keep our goals and plans in sight, when the right time comes, things will move.” She herself felt burnt out once when she was in her 30s. “It was a culmination of work pressure and things which were beyond my control,” she recalls. “I felt I was in a state of helplessness. I still remember there were two days when I knew I was at rock-bottom.” She decided to pack up and headed for Hong Kong for five days. “Just being away meant I had given myself the permission to offload... I came back refreshed,” she says. She has since pushed for various sabbatical leave schemes and support so social workers can fight off burnout. Her job, to her, is what she calls a “blessing”. “I’m not navel-gazing,” she says. “I reach home every day and I am really thinking about how to make life better for others.”

It is a continuing priority for her at NCSS, to help people in the sector hone their skills and help them grow “personally and professionally”. In fact, in her entire career her personal high point was the accreditation of social workers. “It is a milestone that settles categorically and publicly that we are a profession, and that we have taken charge of who we are and what we can offer,” says Ms Ang.

The official “A Cuppa With…” Cup

It is an issue close to her heart because she wants to help social workers stay in the profession.

What’s usually in your cuppa?

Of the 16 in her university cohort, only two are still in service. “We see each other and we always ask who is going to retire first!” she says.

Preferably from a machine and

Burnout tends to afflict social workers. “I have learned that things will not change that quickly due to limited

Cappuccino or latte.

How do you like it? freshly brewed.

Where do you normally have your cuppa? At home where I have my own machine.

The Bird Ringer Conservation off icer James Gan shares with Challenge his fascination with migratory birds and how he “rings” them up for research. Chen Jingting & Gurprit Kaur Photography by Mike Lee Text by

Impressed by the colourful beauty of migratory birds and their ability to fly long distances, he decided to dedicate his life to studying them. Mr James Gan, Assistant Director of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, monitors the movement of these feathered “migrants” to Singapore, which is a significant stopover point for birds flying South during the Northern winter months. Many species can be spotted here during the migrator y season between September and March. “A colourful kingfisher and a bee-eater with a strikingly long tail that I saw one day spurred me to find out what kind

of birds they were. I was still a student then,” recalled the 40-year-old. One way of tracking the birds’ movement is through a research method known as bird-ringing. A ring is attached to a leg of the bird, which acts as the animal’s unique identification tag. This enables researchers who re-capture the bird in future to contact Sungei Buloh, recognised internationally as an important site for the conservation of these birds. James, a bird-ringer for over 10 years, says there is much to learn from these flighty creatures.

BAGGING IT James weighs a bird.

“There are many Singaporeans who will be amazed by the stories uncovered by this type of research, such as the long-distance journeys undertaken by the migrating birds and (how) they can double their weight before they begin their migration.” For example, the Pacific Golden Plover, weighing about 150g and the size of a handphone, can travel over 10,000 km from Siberia to as far south as Australia every migration season!

Perspectives 31

Keen to know more?

Follow James as he goes about his conservation work at Challenge Online

Rare( on) i concept Falling in love and starti ng a family, it’s as natural as the birds an d the bees. But as a good doctor and some of his pa tients attest, sometimes patience, planning and a little effort are needed. by

Yong Shu Chiang Birds do it, bees do it… So goes the line from a famous Cole Porter love song. When it comes to the birds and the bees, it seems Singaporeans are having a harder time than expected. Starting a family is no longer as common as it was. There were just 39,570 live births in 2009, and Singapore’s total fertility rate of 1.22 – the number of babies expected from a woman’s childbearing years – ranks among the lowest in the world. Are hardworking Singaporeans just too busy, or tired and stressed-out, to make babies? To a certain extent, that ’s true, says Dr Peter Chew, a senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. “Nowadays, because of globalisation, many people travel for work,” he says. “And Singaporeans’ work lives are terrible, they are so tired – how to be intimate?” When intimacy comes at a premium, it has a clear knock-on effect: the less couples are intimate, the less often they have intercourse, the less likely they would conceive children. According to the Durex Sexual Wellbeing Online Survey 07/08, just 62% of Singaporeans have sex weekly.

Singaporeans’ work lives are terrible, they are so tired – how to be intimate?

A lack of intimacy, both emotionally and physically, is also problematic for another reason, says Dr Chew. It means couples may be less open to discussing family planning, talking about their sexual relationship, and becoming aware of the issues that face couples trying to conceive.

Word on the Street Couple time According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization, and numbers from the Ministry of Manpower, Singapore workers work about 46 hours weekly.

Challenge asks Singaporeans how they ensure quality couple time.

Even a short chat during lunch break over the phone would be good, something

With such long working hours, it stands to reason that couples tend to have less private time to themselves.

I am still doing after 20

The solution? According to Dr Chew, who is also the chairman of aLife, a non-profit Voluntary Welfare Organisation that promotes family life through reproductive health, couples need to make time for themselves, especially when both parties in the relationship are working.

senior executive

years of marriage. - Pauline Tay, 47,

Planning together at the start of the week to decide time alone helps to lessen the

On weekends, for instance, couples can block time off to be together. Dr Chew also advises couples to be innovative in “optimising” their time together. If a couple is trying to conceive, and they are too exhausted after work, he suggests considering morning intimacy, after a good night ’s rest.

- Wang Shu Zhen,

Being relaxed and maintaining the desirability of intercourse is also important; if it starts to become a chore, couples would be less likely to engage in it. According to the Durex survey, only 35% of Singapore respondents said they were satisfied with their sex life. “Some couples just go through the motions,” says Dr Chew. It ’s important to avoid this, find conducive moments for sex, communicate during intimacy, and make it an enjoyable experience for both parties – on an emotional level as well. Plan ahead, be aware Undeniably, more Singaporeans are staying single, as indicated in the Singapore Department of Statistics’ Population in Brief 2010. Those who do marry tend to do so later in life. Between 1999 and 2009, the median age of citizens at first marriage increased by one and a half years from 28.4 to 29.9 years for males, and from 25.9 to 27.4 years for females.

Ms Magdalene Ho, 35, says she and her husband waited five years after marriage to start a family. “ We thought things would just happen once we tried. Then we realised it was not so easy.” After a fruitless year, Ms Ho consulted Dr Chew, then realised she needed surgery for endometriosis. Meanwhile, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.

on a day to spend

frustrations in

Things don’t always go to plan when couples finally decide to start trying for a baby, says Dr Chew, who sees one or two couples each month for conception issues. Apart from couples being unaware of the frequency of intercourse recommended – two to three times a week – he adds that medical factors could come into play.

our marriage.

Fortunately, with the health of the couple on the mend, they managed to conceive in early 2010.

27, manager

As my wife is doing shift work, I would fix my rest days to coincide with hers to enjoy our off days together. - Kelvin Ji, 27, IT specialist

I believe in quality couple time but haven’t had the luxury to enjoy it as the demands from three young kids are enough to overwhelm and exhaust me. - Elaine Khong, 30, consultant

“ We’ve had our ups and downs, but I would advise that couples monitor their bodies, start planning early, and adopt a positive attitude.” Another patient of Dr Chew, Lynn (not her real name), also learned of medical issues afflicting her and her husband after six unsuccessful months of trying. “I thought ‘ Why me, why not other people?’” she says. Lynn and her husband, both in their early 30s, had waited more than two years after marriage to start a family. Now with child, Lynn advises couples: plan early, consult a doctor, be aware of family planning and your own health. “If you want to have a child, you may not be able to have one right away.” The birds and the bees aren’t as easy as ABC after all – at least not for everyone.

Later marriage, and putting off starting a family for career, financial or personal reasons, makes conception harder for couples who start to depart from their years of prime fertility.

Have an issue that you hope we will discuss? Email us at: psd_challenge@

34 Level Up

What paying someone to do something may have the unexpected and unintended effect of reducing effort.

New perspectives

In the Singapore context, public policies have mainly been shaped by the standard economic theory that assumes human beings are rational.

With the rise of behavioural economics, Singapore policymakers are rethinking the use of financial inducements. by

Gabriel Wong

In an experiment in Haifa, Israel some years ago, several childcare centres imposed a fine on parents who turned up late to pick up their children. The plan backfired. Instead of fewer late pick-ups, there were more. And, significantly, when they stopped imposing the fine, the incidence of late pick-ups did not revert to the original level. Why?

Because the rational person is assumed to weigh the costs against the benefits of the choices he faces, standard economics says that using price incentives is the most effective way of affecting people’s decisions. The Singapore government has paid a great deal of attention to getting incentives right. For instance, Singapore embraces (almost unilateral) free trade: there are no tariffs on imports and no subsidies for domestic producers. This ensures that domestic producers have maximum incentives to be as efficient and productive as possible. With public services such as health care and public housing, the government places a heavy emphasis on co-payment to ensure that users have the incentive to economise and consume these services prudently. By not muting or distorting price signals, and by letting most markets function with minimal state interference, the government promotes the efficient allocation of resources.

The researchers who ran the experiment concluded that by introducing a monetary penalty, the childcare centres replaced social norms with market norms and removed people’s natural feelings of guilt in being late. People’s natural motivations, once undermined, cannot be easily restored.

However, in future this approach – while still an essential part of the policymaker’s toolkit – will have to be supplemented by new perspectives. Recent debates about organ trading and parenthood policies highlighted the limitations of a purist economics approach. A broader, “context-sensitive” approach will be needed.

The experiment is cited by the authors of Freakonomics and there is growing evidence elsewhere in behavioural economics literature that, in certain contexts,

This new approach must recognise an individual’s decisions are shaped not just by his cost-benefit calculations, but also by social norms, subtle features of the

t ’ n Ca uy B

social context, his cognitive biases and limitations, and even how the decision is presented and framed to him.

Parenthood policies

For example, in Singapore’s parenthood policies, focusing on incentives may be counter-productive. Instead of providing more financial inducements to couples to have children, the emphasis should be on making quality childcare highly affordable and accessible, promoting work-life balance, and creating a more child-friendly environment. Of course, many of these efforts will cost money as well. But the point is that the manner in which the state’s financial support is provided, and the way that this support is presented, matters just as much – if not more – than the mere fact of provision. The lesson of behavioural economics for policymakers is not that the financial incentives or disincentives do not work. It is that in many areas of public policy, context matters. How is the policy framed and presented? Does the policy work with and support desirable social norms? Does it try to harness people’s motivations to “do the right thing”? Behavioural economics asks policymakers to consider the different social and psychological factors that might shape a person’s decisions, and then to think much harder about how a policy is designed, implemented and communicated. Behavioural Economics is included in the Civil Service College’s six-day course, Economics for Policymakers Programme (EPP). The EPP is meant for public officers with little or no background in economics but who require a good understanding of economic principles and how they apply to policy formulation.




Feature 35


tr lus






Has it ever occurred to you that cities should be designed with kids in mind? Dr Suzanne Lennard, Director of International Making Cities Livable Council, says cities must be made worthy of a childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s affection. The architect, who recently spoke at the World Cities Summit, shares why this is important for our future.

36 Feature How do children grow up to become c ar ing and responsible adults, committed to the welfare of others, and capable of experiencing beaut y, joy, good health, and success? The built environment plays a role in shaping our children, facilitating or hindering every developmental task, encouraging or discouraging a healthy lifestyle.

To encourage exploration, the environment must offer attractive goals and beguiling discoveries along the way.

D e ve l o p i n g s o c i a l s k i l l s requires a rich and diverse community, what we call a “village”. Here, a child can obser ve the diverse ways in which people interact with one another, and imitate and participate in the dialogue. Talking to people of all ages, from various cultures and from all walks of life, is important for intellectual development, enlarging a child’s vocabulary and understanding of the world. Children gain a sense of who they are through their interactions with others. While parents, teachers and school friends are most important, an extended network of adults in the community nourishes a child’s sense of identity.

PHYSICAL SPACES FOR SOCIALISING The best place for community interaction is a central, multi-functional square where familiar community members gather for a variety of reasons, pass through on a regular basis, pause to chat, and enjoy socialising with one another. If we neglect to offer young people human fellowship in real places, the opportunity to enjoy everyday community social life and to be engaged as full participants in celebration and festivity, then their models for conduct and their sources of fantasy will be drawn from their experience with the world of media, where they are increasingly exposed to images of destructiveness and the horrible. Good social skills are essential for coping with adult life, handling differ-

ences of opinion, finding a life partner, raising children, or interviewing for a job. Poor social skills lead a child to solve problems through violence and bullying others, or to retreat from life out of shyness and lack of confidence. The Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori (shut-ins) and teen suicides are extreme results of the lack of opportunity to develop social skills.


Exercising independence is an essential aspect of a child’s growing sense of identity. At every age, children need to take steps on their own, safely, and unaided by parents. It is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that they achieve this independence in a safe context. It is the city planner’s responsibility to ensure that children can safely achieve independent mobility outside the home and in the city. Young children need to play apart from the parent but within sight of home, and within calling distance. Active building facades make the streets safe. Shopkeepers along the way and regular shoppers, elders and those at outdoor cafes, people walking to work or overlooking public spaces become familiar adults, and act “in loco parentis”. Twelve-year-olds should be able to safely get around the whole city on their own or with friends.

Independence promotes self-assurance and life skills. To encourage exploration, the environment must offer attractive goals and beguiling discoveries along the way. There must be left-over corners children can make their own, whether a “secret cave” beneath a bush, a sculpture to climb on and make “home base”, or steps on the square where they can “hang out” to meet friends. Children prevented from exercising independence cannot develop good spatial skills because they do not learn to pay attention to where they are, or how to find their way around, and their lack of practice makes them more accident-prone. They may become overly dependent on parents, or erupt in self-destructive acts.


Every creative scientist and artist has a certain “childish” quality, taking pleasure in “playing” with concepts or materials, combining apparently incompatible objects, and looking at things from different perspectives. How is creativity nurtured, and can the environment play a role? Helpful is a built environment in which a child discovers that objects can be safely used for a variety of different purposes – that steps, walls and planter ledges can also be used to jump off, balance on, or to provide seating to watch the drama of community life. WALKING SCHOOL BUS This idea was introduced in Waitakere City, New Zealand, where children, led by an adult, walk to school instead of hopping onto a real bus. This slows down the streets, making streets safer, and giving children the opportunity to observe city life.


Multi-functional places stimulate creativity: a market place that transforms into a community festival, then into a place for play, for outdoor restaurants, or theatrical performances, prompts a child to imagine what else might happen there. Diversity, complexity and detail offer unexpected discoveries in the built environment, stimulating exploration and creativity. Monotonous environments limit imagination. Creativity is nurtured by free play with “loose objects”, par ticular l y those found in nature, such as pebbles, leaves, twigs, sand and water. “ Wasting time” is also necessary for the creative process, allowing a child to process and creatively “play around” with her experiences.

TREES FOR BABIES Families in New Zealand can name trees after their newborns.

It should be possible for children to get to know their city inside out, to ‘hold their city in the palm of their hand’. They are, after all, the ones who will inherit the city, and become responsible for its future.

FUTURE GUARDIANS OF THE CITY Of course we want our children to get a good job, to be technically skilled, and to contribute to the economy. Paradoxically, however, the more we channel their efforts into these narrow goals, the less likely they are to achieve them.

WALK & FLIRT Professor Jan Gehl, an architect and retired professor of urban design in Copenhagen, suggests a transport plan that incorporates one hour of walking or c ycling into ever y citizen’s daily lives. While walking between the public transpor t hub and your destination, you can “walk n watch” your fellow Singaporeans, see the sights, browse the shops; “walk n wink” by flirting with people; “walk n talk” with friends; and “stop n talk” with people you run into. This creates opportunities for people to interact so they feel like a part of their city.

TREES FOR BABIES Mayor Robert Harvey of Waitakere City, New Zealand has ideas to endear his city to its children. Like his “trees for babies” day, where parents can plant trees in parks and name them after their newborns. Or his “walking school bus” initiative that has children walking to school together with an adult leading them instead of getting onto a real bus. This also serves to “slow down the streets” and makes the city safe.

CAR-FREE CITY Indeed, reclaiming the streets from automobiles seems to be the central theme in many cities today. In Melbourne, Australia, aLord Mayor Robert Doyle is considering banning motor vehicles from the major thoroughfare to return the streets to the people. “Great streets make great cities,” he said.

Success is fuelled by enthusiasm for life. The desire to learn more and become more proficient is nourished by an environment rich in rewarding experiences, beauty and living entities (including other human beings) that elicit affection. As I have said elsewhere, “We must make cities that are worthy of a child’s affection, in which they can feel at home, and find ‘their special places’; it should be possible for children to get to know their city inside out, to ‘hold their city in the palm of their hand’. They are, after all, the ones who will inherit the city, and become responsible for its future.”

The modern city planner knows there is a link between how space is designed and the social consequences. To make our city liveable, we need to focus on the living – the people. Some experts at the recent World Cities Summit 2010 shared ideas on how.

Dr Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard is Director of the International Making Cities Livable Council and Organiser of the International Mak ing Cities Livable Conferences, held in Europe and North America. The IMCL Council is dedicated to an interdisciplinary and international approach to increasing the livability of cities, towns and suburbs, especially for the children.


itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your choice

The Big Idea 39

Challenge ta f altruism kes you to three places wh ere the cooks throw in a dash o to get you thinking beyond your plate. by

Chen Jingting

Life.Style 41

He gives up all to help others

Ever yday, customers flock to Wow Wow West, a Western food stall, for its signature dishes. But for Mr Eric Ng, 46, his stall exists for a greater purpose than making money from selling good food. Mr Ng set up Wow Wow West in 2008 at ABC Brickworks Food Centre to support the Yellow Ribbon Project. He employs ex-offenders who were once drug addicts or gang members. “When my daughter ran away from home, I prayed and told God that if He brought her back, I would serve Him my whole life. Now I’m fulfilling my promise,” said Mr Ng. Besides teaching ex-offenders how to cook, he also counsels those who struggle to adapt to life outside prison and helps their family members. So great was Mr Ng’s desire to help ex-convicts that he even gave up his previous Western food stall to a former inmate – an incredible act of generosity since Mr Ng, a father of three, was then left with just $700. He needed about $28,000 to start this new stall at ABC Brickworks Food Centre, which he eventually managed to pay off in instalments. Yet he sees his own sacrifice as a worthwhile move. “Last time he (the ex-inmate) took drugs. Now he has a family, goes to church and has reintegrated into society.”

est ks Wow Wow Wer ah #0 1- 13 3 AB C Br ic kw or

ki t M 6 Ja la n Bu e 15 00 06 Su nd ay s re Si ng ap or ), cl os ed on Fo od Ce nt am to 9p m 30 s ($ 5) 0. ip (1 ch ily d an O pe n: Da op ($ 5) , Fi sh Ch ic ke n ch sh M us t Tr y: di ai n $5 fo r a m Pr ic es : Fr om

Last time he (the ex-inmate) took drugs. Now he has a family, goes to church and has re-integrated into society.

They are Earth crusaders

Food #03 is truly a green cafe. The vegetarian eatery in Little India uses recycled paper to decorate ceiling lights, collects used cooking oil to make biodiesel, and composts food waste into enzyme cleaners that are used for washing dishes.

It is possible to make ethical business decisions and still earn money.

Started by artist Woon Tien Wei and his friends in 2007, Food #03 also donates 30% of its profits to Post-Museum, an independent cultural space. “In the United Kingdom, I did an art project called Food #02, where I cooked for the lecturer and students in a studio while we talked about art. I got the idea from an artist in the late ’60s who created a restaurant named Food. So I wanted to do another art project called Food #03 and this time it will be a real restaurant,” explained Mr Woon, 35, who studied visual arts in UK.

Food #03 also opens its kitchen on Mondays to volunteers who cook for the elderly living in nearby rental flats. And it supports the fair-trade movement that advocates higher wages for coffee and tea producers in developing countries, by serving up only fairly traded brews. Mr Woon said: “I’m really happy that I can run a sustainable business and contribute to society. Also, it is possible to make ethical business decisions and still earn money.”

Food #03 Post-Museum 109, Rowell Road T: 6396 7980 Open: Tue – Thu (5pm to 10.30pm), Fri (5pm to 12am), Sat (1pm to 12am), Sun (1pm to 10pm), closed on Mondays Must Try: Dugu Burger ($11), Petai pizza ($6) Prices: From $8.50 for a main dish

Life.Style 43 They want to open our minds When one thinks about education, the typical image that comes to mind is that of children learning in a classroom. But Ms Kuik Shiao-yin and her partners who run Food For Thought aim to do education differently. They hope to educate adults about global problems through a more palatable platform – good food. So they started the first of two Food For Thought cafes in 2007 to support five main causes: eliminate poverty, provide clean drinking water and education for children in developing countries, feed the poor, and inspire kindness. Paper placemats with information on these causes were designed for the cafe located at 8 Queen Street. Ms Kuik, 33, said: “We want to help people understand what is going on around the world. The restaurant is the easiest way to help people gain access to what we do.” She hopes to bring customers, especially adults and teachers, on learning journeys to developing countries such as Cambodia. This, after observing that many students who go on such overseas trips organised by schools fail to see the “ingenuity of people in those countries – how they survive and thrive (despite the harsh conditions they live in)”. Ms Kuik said: “Don’t just come back with this message that we are lucky and they’re not. It’s a bit superior and it doesn’t give the poor dignity.”

Food For Thought 8 Queen Street T: 6338 9887   Open: 9am to 10.30pm Must Try: House Works – scrambled eggs, bacon, toasted brioche, hash brown with roasted tomato salad ($12), Mixed berries pancakes ($10), Crispy curry chicken and spicy chilli fries ($18) Prices: From $12 for a main dish

Don’t just come back with this message that we are lucky and they’re not. It’s a bit superior and it doesn’t give the poor dignity.

44 The Irreverent Last Page


! ne O e h are t

Do you fly like a firefly and swim like a swan? If so, the Challenge PE Department wants YOU for Singaporeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first Office Olympics. Tell us in less than 50 words what Office Olympics sport we should organise. The top 10 ideas will win a specially designed Office Olympics souvenir! Send in your entry by October 13, 2010. Remember to leave your name, agency, email address and contact number.

Need We Say More?

Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s where we let the humour loose, and learn to laugh at ourselves a little more. Have ideas or jokes about the Public Service? Email us:


In 2009, the top cause of death for Singaporeans aged 15 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 59 years was________. A. Stroke B. Heart Disease C. Cancer D. Road Accidents

are the best berries to fight all kinds 2. ________ of cancer as they are rich in ellagic acid and anthocyanosides.


A. Strawberries B. Raspberries C. Blueberries D. Cranberries

The 8 x 8 rule (drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day) is the widely used approach to fluid replacement. However, drinking too much water can result in a potentially fatal condition known as________. A. Water Intoxication B. Hyperhidrosis C. Liquiditis D. Fluid Poisoning

4. The American Dietetic Association warns that the average office desk has about ________ times the amount of bacteria as a toilet bowl. A. 100 B. 200 C. 300 D. 400

5. Encouraging workplace health contributes directly

to a companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bottom line by improving ________. A B C D

Productivity Morale and employee satisfaction Health of employees, hence reducing absenteeism rate due to illness All of the above

Submit your answers by October 13, 2010 at: Website



6333 4010 Please include your name, email address, agency and contact number. All winners will be notified by email.

Challenge Magazine  

a bi-monthly publication by the Public Service Division, under the Prime Minister's Office (Singapore)