ASEAN Social Innovations Programme

By Sonia Maya (22A01C) and Sophie Goh (22S07B)

Sharings on blockchain by NUS Fintech lab, lively project discussions with foreign students, and a chance to try traditional Filipino sapin-sapin: these are all activities students of the ASEAN Social Innovations Programme (ASIP) enjoy during a typical session.

A fresh addition to RI’s collection of Wednesday Enrichment Programmes (WEP), the ASIP seeks to equip students with invaluable digital skills to construct innovative solutions to everyday problems. 

Through research, idea generation and project development, the programme exposes students to innovations in up-and-coming areas, such as Fintech and social entrepreneurship. The programme also situates students’ learning within the ASEAN context through its geographical focus on Singapore and the Philippines. 

In ASIP, RI members collaborate with students from MINT High in the Philippines to craft problem statements centering on prevalent social issues. Industry players like Stashaway and MAS also give talks, allowing participants to be better equipped to deal with the issues faced by organisations in the industry. 

ASIP: A Sip Of Industry Exposure

During their weekly Wednesday sessions (now held over Zoom), participants first learn and hone their digital skills, a valuable asset in the program. Thus far, students in the programme have undergone modules on a myriad of subjects, including user experience (UX), User Interface (UI) and digital marketing.

Participants try out yoga poses for their icebreaker activity.

Subsequently, participants break off into assigned groups and discuss problem statements for a plethora of social issues ranging from improving the financial literacy of adults to enhancing the contact tracing system in the Philippines. Groups then tidy up their solutions and prototypes before presenting to the class at large. 

However, these presentations came with their fair share of challenges. Carlos Garcia, a student at MINT High, shared, “A lot of the time, we needed to be able to clearly demonstrate what our problem statement was, rather than presume a solution.”

Being a programme focused on digital skills, various platforms were aptly employed, from Zoom, Discord, and Slack (a handy instant-messaging platform designed for workplaces) for communication, to others like Miro and Figma for mind mapping and prototyping. 

Discussions on Slack for the Professor Brawn Cafe project.

A Cup Of Learning 

With regard to their favourite aspect of the programme, the opportunity to meet new people and make friends with foreign students was a common response from participants.

According to the teachers, the students have since become “more in tune with the cultural nuances of our neighbors”. They had hoped that through the programme, students can experience cross-border teamwork and get accustomed to foreign norms and habits, whilst gleaning new perspectives of ASEAN, which is something Lao En Xing (22S06M) felt is “really important given Singapore’s position as a regional hub”.

Besides opportunities for cultural exchange, the programme is also a good chance to learn many valuable digital skills, some which are particularly applicable in various up-and-coming industries, or for those looking to start their own businesses. Daniel Ching (22S06E) remarked on the usefulness of the programme in “teaching [them] various fundamental skills that would not come packaged together nicely in a different course”. 

This programme, however, is far from just a passive learning experience. Students also get to apply their new knowledge through developing their own no-code websites, and even work with Professor Brawn Cafe here in RI to create a marketing plan and pre-order website. 

“Be excited and not daunted by digital skills. The future is remote and digital – the sooner we acknowledge this and learn to navigate it, the smoother and less disrupted you will be.”

Mr Melvin Yeo and Mr Lee Kahhow

Even with the challenging workload, the rigour of this programme certainly seems enriching and enjoyable, especially for the self-directed learner. If you’re interested in digital skills, filled with fresh ideas, and looking to broaden your cultural horizons, this enrichment programme might just be for you. 

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