The Birthday Collective

DESIGN intergenerational Arts culture and heritage enviromental sports Community Learning

The Birthday Collective aims to be a “Brain, Heart and Hand Trust” for Singapore as it deals with an increasingly unpredictable and complex external environment, and increasingly acute domestic constraints. Both the external and internal challenges pose risks but also opportunities, if we remain optimistic and are creative in our approaches. 

As a Trust, our project focuses on the gifts it can offer to future generations. Unlike usual brain trusts, which tend to be mostly about talk, The Birthday Collective’s focus on the Heart and Hand emphasises that ideas are important but not enough; they need to be acted on, to create a sense of national drive and belonging even as individual aspirations are nurtured and lived out. 

“The Birthday Collective” aims to lead and steward a range of “products” that serve as gifts to our nation; the inherent diversity of these gifts will be helpful in reaching out to a range of contributors. Collectively, these products are known as “The Birthday Suite”. 

Our first and flagship product in 2016 was “The Birthday Book”; 51 contributors (to commemorate Singapore’s 51st birthday) were invited to send their thoughts (800 to 1000 words) on the prompt “What is Singapore’s Next Big Thing?”. Being an annual publication, each year’s Birthday Book will examine emerging challenges and opportunities for Singapore, and will be published to coincide with National Day. The number of writers each year will match Singapore’s age - 52 for 2017, 53 for 2018, and so on. The focus will be on canvassing views of Singaporeans younger than 45, who will soon inherit the mantle of national leadership across their respective sectors. 

Other projects will include the following, all inspired by the desire to create, catalyse and sustain a movement that is critically engaged with, and contributes constructively to Singapore’s future. 

Birthday Presence – Bi-monthly public dialogue sessions involving 3-5 selected writers from the most recent Birthday Book, covering similar themes. 
Birthday Lessons – Bi-monthly schools dialogue sessions involving 3-5 selected writers from the most recent Birthday Book, covering similar themes. 
Birthday Bash – A yearly launch party and discussion session for each new edition of the Birthday Book. 

The 2017 Birthday Book will be launched on 9 September 2017, a month after National Day, with a conference extending to more than 100 attendees. Other Birthday Lessons and Birthday Presence sessions will take place progressively from October onwards. 

Our inspiration for the project stems from a steadfast belief in the cause that we are advocating – it matters to us that there is a ready generation of young leaders for Singapore in all sectors. Finding good writers/contributors is never easy; we engage in a year-long process of spotting interesting people and cultivating their interest in contributing to the Collective. Our core team, and many of the Book contributors, are also friends and collaborators in different projects. This social capital keeps the project moving, and ensures that we are motivated by deeply personal and not just abstract reasons. 

Setting aside time is also a challenge, given that all our organising team and Book contributors are volunteers. But we are getting better each day at identifying people with intrinsic motivation, who somehow find the energy to contribute to multiple efforts larger than themselves!

The Birthday Collective

DESIGN intergenerational Arts culture and heritage enviromental sports Community Learning

Aaron Maniam & Malminderjit Singh

09 Sep (Sat) 2017 - 09 Sep (Sat) 2017

Ongoing

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