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UniSIM Hosts 19th International Symposium Of The International Consortium For Social Development

From 7 - 10 July 2015, SIM University (UniSIM) hosted the 19th International Symposium of the International Consortium for Social Development (ICSD 2015), co-organised with various agencies and institutions of higher learning. This biennial event provided a platform for over 400 delegates from 38 countries to share their commitment and dedication to the promotion of community leadership and social development.

Themed Transforming Society: Trends And Models In Community Leadership And Social Development, ICSD 2015 focussed on community leadership for societal transformation and key international social development issues. The symposium brought researchers, scholars, practitioners, educators, faculty and students together to explore vibrant models and discuss latest trends to build societies that are inclusive, cohesive and resilient.

The opening ceremony was graced by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, who was warmly received by Mr Gerard Ee, Chancellor and Chairman of the UniSIM Board of Trustees; Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President of UniSIM; Professor Barbara Shank, President of ICSD; and Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, Dean of the School of Human Development and Social Services at UniSIM, and Chairman of the ICSD 2015 Organising Committee.

In his welcome address, Professor Cheong shared UniSIM's mission to equip learners for a better future and serve society through lifelong education, emphasising that universities play a significant part in transforming society by training leaders who will change the world for the better. He drew attention to UniSIM's programmes which address the growing need for effective leaders who can play a progressive role in Singapore's social development. Professor Cheong also highlighted that institutions such as UniSIM will need to partner other like-minded organisations, the government, the industry and social entities to develop good leadership programmes so as to produce leaders who have a multi-disciplinary understanding of and approach to deal with the challenges faced by communities worldwide today.

Professor Shank then took to the stage to congratulate and thank all relevant parties for making ICSD 2015 possible. She expressed her thoughts that the need for leadership to developing global partnerships and collaboration was more pressing now than ever before, and that countries needed to work together to find peaceful solutions to tackle the increasing challenges faced by the world as we progressed into the 21st century. Professor Shank, who currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Council of Social Work Education, and member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Social Work Education, urged all to be active members in their respective organisations to make a difference in the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable members of societies.

In his speech, DPM Tharman explained that the overall approach taken by the government was to empower people and aspirations, and to encourage and reinforce personal and collective responsibility. He touched on key challenges in shaping social policies, including sustaining social equity between generations and developing an effective public administration infrastructure free of corruption. DPM Tharman added that education was critical for social mobility, and that Singapore's public education system enabled students to have similar experiences, but at the same time, was customised to cater to different learning needs. 

Three distinguished keynote speakers presented at this year's symposium. Dr Noeleen Heyzer, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and Special Advisor of the UN Secretary-General to Timor-Leste, kicked off the conference with her address on "Sustaining Social Development In The 21st Century". Professor Michael Sherraden, George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor and founding director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University, presented a talk on "Fifty Years Of Social Innovation: Reflections On Social Policy In Singapore". It was a treat for many to hear from Professor Sherraden, one of TIME magazine's top 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. Mr Ang Hak Seng, Chief Executive Director of the People's Association (PA), delivered the third keynote address, touching on the topic of community leadership in Singapore.

Plenary speakers presented on topics including social development in the Asia Pacific region, social work education and the implications of the newly-adopted Global Definition of the Social Work Profession for social work practice. A special "Tribute To Pioneers" session, hosted by Professor James Midgley, the Harry and Riva Specht Professor of Public Social Services and Dean Emeritus of the School of Social Welfare at University of California, Berkeley, paid tribute to the extraordinary men and women who helped found ICSD and pioneered the organisation's development.

UniSIM also had the honour of having Mr Lawrence Wong, Singapore's Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Communications and Information, as Guest-of-Honour at the ICSD President's Dinner, held at The Grassroots' Club. Minister Wong delivered a speech at the Daniel S. Sanders Memorial Lecture, during which he suggested that technological advancement was a double-edged sword that would pose a threat to traditional employment models and render entire groups of workers redundant, and that governments and other players needed to act strategically to promote lifelong learning and strengthen social security nets so that societies could flourish. He also underlined the importance of philanthropy as an integral part of the solution in strengthening the social model, giving examples of what the government has done to nurture the culture of giving. At the dinner, Minister Wong also presented plaques to five ICSD pioneers to thank them for their hard work.

Besides attending the plenary sessions, delegates had opportunities for more intimate interactions in the form of poster presentations, roundtables, workshops and breakout sessions, with close to 300 papers being presented throughout the four-day event. They also had further discussions with community workers, grassroots leaders and volunteers when they visited Singapore's community clubs and organisations.

Click below for:

  • Professor Cheong Hee Kiat's welcome address at ICSD 2015
  • Dr Barbara Shank's speech at ICSD 2015
  • Dr Noeleen Heyzer's keynote address at ICSD 2015
  • Professor Michael Sherraden's keynote address at ICSD 2015
  • Minister Lawrence Wong's speech at ICSD 2015

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DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam (centre) looking at one of the exhibits at the symposium.

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 Professor Cheong Hee Kiat welcoming the delegates in his opening address.

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Professor Barbara Shank thanking the organising committee and supporting partners in her speech.

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DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivering his speech.

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(From left) Dr Noeleen Heyzer in a discussion with the audience following her keynote address,
with Professor Barbara Shank as the moderator.

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Professor Michael Sherraden touching on Singapore's social policies in his keynote address.

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Mr Ang Hak Seng introducing the delegates to community leadership in Singapore.

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A delegate posing a question.

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(From left) Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, Professor Michael Sherraden, Mr Gerard Ee, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam,
Professor Barbara Shank, Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, Dr Noeleen Heyzer and Mr Ang Hak Seng.

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(From left) Professor James Midgley, host of the "Tribute To Pioneers" session, with panellists Professor Barbara Shank; 
Professor Chuck Cowger, past president of ICSD; Professor Dave Hollister, Professor in University of Minnesota's School of Social Work and one of ICSD's pioneers; Professor Michael Sherraden; and Professor Vijay Pillai, current editor of
the Social Development Issues journal. 


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An enthralling opening performance by the Drum Prodigy Ensemble from the Down Syndrome Association.

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Performers from PA Talents captivating the audience with their dance moves
at the opening ceremony held in UniSIM's Performing Arts Theatre.


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Thunderous applause for all the performers.

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Delegates tucking in to a sumptuous welcome dinner at UniSIM's Grand Hall.

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"Water Lilies" – a unique performance combining an erhu number with an Indian dance –
entertained the delegates as they enjoyed their dinner.


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Minister Lawrence Wong delivering his speech at the Daniel S. Sanders Memorial Lecture.

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The delegates had opportunities for in-depth discussions at workshops.

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