Making it better together

Just the other day, I picked up Forbes magazine and the cover was a historic photo of America's legendary philanthropists beaming with their billion-dollar smiles.

Everyone has heard of their stories: Microsoft's founder Bill and Melinda Gates have given away $28 billion so far and helped to eradicate polio from India, while self-made billionaire Warren Buffett has pledged to give away 99 per cent of his fortune. Talkshow host Oprah, has been repeatedly named as the most philanthropic celebrity, focuses on educational causes. And the giving doesn't stop there. Together, Gates and Buffett have gone on to persuade 92 other of the country's wealthiest billionaires to pledge at least half of their wealth to charity through The Giving Pledge initiative.

Although it is hard for the rest of the world to relate to fortunes of that magnitude, the beautiful thing is that philanthropy is not a privilege exclusive to the rich.

A CHANCE FOR CHARITY

Here in Singapore, robust civic-minded interest groups, family philanthropists and businesses eager to pair profit with purpose have helped to cultivate a culture of giving in recent years.

As part of the government's ambition to be a non-profit hub, more than 130 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have set up shop here, a figure that has tripled since 2007, according to the Economic Development Board.

Local NGOs have also constantly worked hard to improve life on our sunny island as new social trends form. Thanks to social media, many groups, otherwise distant from the public, now have a stronger presence and deeper relationships with the community-at-large.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no longer just the responsibility of multinationals and large companies, as more small firms have embarked on efforts to work it into its culture.

While Singapore Compact for CSR, the national body that promotes CSR, positions it as a "source of competitive advantage," the Singapore Exchange has also pushed more listed companies towards sustainability reporting, as it progresses in tandem with other first world cities.

Singaporeans are generally both generous and giving - nearly a quarter of the population volunteers their time and last year, we donated nearly $1.07 billion to charities, according to the recent stats from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

Its chief Lawrence Lien, is determined that giving is at the core of being human and must be part of our cultural DNA. "At the personal level, giving not only gives our life meaning but it can also be highly enjoyable," he said. "At the community level, compassion that is manifested in action is important not only for social cohesion, but also for a thriving, engaged and happy society.

"If all of our relationships were merely transactional - defined by what we get back in monetary or other tangible benefits for what we put in - our world would be unlivable."

CONNECT THROUGH CONVERSATION

With so much going on, we have to find a channel to communicate the tireless efforts, convey those brilliant ideas and engage the people who want to be a part of this change.

BeAnIdea sprang from exciting chatter over coffee on how powerful storytelling could plant ideas in the minds of people and move them to act. It is a place to spread the ideas that make the world a better place, communicate with communities and to make good intentions accessible. Small ideas have shaped the course of history as the brave have inspired with their action and determination.

It was a dream come true to assemble our team of independent journalists and photographers, who are all passionate about their craft and cause, whatever they might be.

There's Debby, whose love for wildlife has been the focus of her journalism career and Sheralyn, who delights in healthcare writing and uses words to inspire people to take ownership of their health. Others like Justin, a guru on Singapore's visual culture, heritage and spaces and Huiwen, an ex business journo who is just plain determined to lead a meaningful life, have helped to form new bonds between their social spaces and work.

Each month, the portal explores themes related to community development, environment, healthcare, culture and animal welfare.

FROM US WITH HEART

In this wired world, where marketing messages bombard us during every waking moment and societal trends affect who we are, our hope is for BeAnIdea to be that positive seed from which change and significance germinate.

After all, it is storytelling with heart that drowns out digital noise; connection that galvanizes volunteers to action and turns apathy to empathy. We want our stories to inform, inspire and move you to learn about communities beyond your own.

Here's how you can play a part:

  • Read our stories and share them with your community.
  • Write to us and let us know what you feel and what issues you want us to highlight.
  • Join the Beancubation to receive updates on the upcoming plans we have in store.


Let's get this started!