Singapore Together: Shape Your Somerset

Shape Your Somerset is a youth engagement exercise to find out what youths and other stakeholders want in a revamped Somerset Belt, which covers *SCAPE, the Youth Park, TripleOne Somerset and the Skate Park. This is part of a larger plan to rejuvenate Orchard Road, and a project under the SG Youth Action Plan to envision the future of Singapore with youth.



Number of participants: Some 45,000 youths

Stakeholders involved:

  • A Working Panel of youth leaders from various sectors, co-led by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Baey Yam Keng, and Dione Song, Chief Operations Officer of Love, Bonito;
  • An organising team from the MCCY and National Youth Council; and
  • Placemaking consultants Shophouse & Co.

Period of engagement: Nine months (April to December 2019)

Engagement methods used: Participatory planning via online conversations, comments, polls, and face-to-face engagements

Henry Joseph Prakash
Senior Manager
Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth (MCCY)

Joseph joined the Somerset Belt organising team in August 2019, as they were mid-way through developing the Somerset Belt masterplan.

With appointed consultants Shophouse & Co, the organising team designed and ran the engagements with youths as well as other public and private stakeholders. The face-to-face engagements included on-site walkthroughs and a one-day hackathon to brainstorm ideas that were eventually prototyped publically.

The placemaking process involved getting participants to share ideas, having physical prototypes of those ideas for further feedback, and voting for various options before drafting the masterplan.

Some of the ideas from youths included adding colour to the space with vibrant floor murals and night lights, and modular furnishing with fun seating options and a space for outdoor film screenings.

Phase 1 – May 2019: Online and face-to-face engagement for ideas begins

Phase 2 – July 2019: The Working Panel recommends improvements to the shortlisted concepts

Phase 3 – November 2019: Public voting on prototypes and Somerset Belt masterplans

The Working Panel studied the youths’ proposals, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Singapore Tourism Board sharing expertise on what will complement the intended rejuvenation of Orchard Road.

After public voting on shortlisted proposals and further engagements to get a deeper understanding of what youths want in the space, these insights were used to craft the final masterplan, which will be made public in February 2020.

For Joseph, what surprised him most was the level of interest from a wide range of people, from youths to government agencies to commercial organisations.

Joseph said the process has made the team more aware of the need to be open and multi-dimensional in engagements, such as not being fixated on a single point of view. He added: “We also saw the need to be honest in what we put across, reflecting what youths wanted – even if that would sometimes conflict with our presumptions.”

“The real impact of the process will be seen in time to come when the masterplan gets implemented and more tangible change is seen.”

Learning points

Be clear what you want to get out of the engagement
State your intent upfront to the people you are engaging. If there are boundaries and restrictions, talk about them early on rather than at the end, so it doesn’t lead to disappointment.

Consider the different points of view on any subject
Different stakeholders have different needs. Many issues we deal with or projects we want to implement are quite complex, so broaden the reach of your engagement and use various online and offline modalities to get a wider range of perspectives. Don’t worry too early about divergent views. Gather all the views first. Then use your set objectives and outcomes to make sense of your data.

The process is as important as the endpoint
Stakeholders need to see that you are sincere in wanting to speak to them and that it’s not just a means to an end, especially for projects that have long-term implementation timelines. Building trust early is important.

    Jan 24, 2020
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