How to add strategic value to the party
The PAP Policy Forum (PPF) has come a long way since its inception in 2004. It has been evolving to keep abreast of the aspirations of rank-and-file party members.
As the PPF turns 10, it is timely we take stock, allowing us some introspection into its current role and the future. The PPF was established to provide a platform for rank-and- file members to engage party leaders on government policy.
This novel approach not only enhanced the understanding of policies and the policy making process, it also helped to strengthen the openness and trust between party members and leaders.
The mechanisms that the PPF would use to engage party leaders were not prescribed. However over the years, its main outreach efforts focused on seminars and forums.
While such platforms provided for a consistent and familiar format for PPF members to get involved in and foster a regular formula for both sides of the discussion, it also meant the PPF was confining itself to being an organiser of dialogue sessions.
During the 4th PPF Council (2010-2012), there were discussions to get its members involved in understanding policies as well as engaging them as a sounding board to collate feedback for use in the policy-making process. Some senior comrades suggested the PPF as the relevant platform to undertake feedback collation.
Work undertaken by 5th Council
As chairman of the outgoing 5th PPF Council, one of the tasks that my team and I undertook when we began our term in October 2012 was to review the PPF's role, and to assess if it has been effective in fulfilling its aims. We were clear about one thing - that the PPF should not confine itself to being an "event organiser", and should have a more strategic focus.
Beyond dialogues, party members needed a more intimate participation in policy-making if they were to have a better grasp of the rationale behind policies. This would not only empower them to provide constructive and more accurate feedback to party leaders. It will also equip them with a deeper understanding and appreciation of policies so that they could convey their rationale and intricacies to those around them.
To achieve this, we overhauled the PPF structure to broaden participation from members.
We re-grouped into teams based on the Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs) so that each PPF team could work with their respective GPCs on policies that came under their purview.
These efforts to deepen PPF members' participation in broader initiatives were also reflected in the 2013 Party Convention, which the PPF Council organises biennially. For the first time in 2013, the PPF led a ground-up initiative by more than 500 members to table a resolution at the convention.
Staying relevant and responsive
As I pen this article, the PPF is heading towards elections to appoint new members, who will in turn elect the 6th PPF Council. The incoming Council will inherit a PPF that is more relevant and effective with the times. However, as with all young groups, the PPF will continue to evolve to respond to the changing landscape.
There are already some questions that the 6th Council will have to address. For one, as talent becomes an even more critical factor in Singapore's political landscape, the PPF may want to explore how it can help the party attract, groom and retain talent within its ranks. In doing so, it may wish to come up with more sophisticated ways of engagement so that the PPF appeals to members of diverse backgrounds.
There is also room to deepen thought leadership among rank-and-file members so as to increase its strategic value to the party. After all, being a young grouping of only 10 years old and still in its formative stage, the PPF can be nimble and chart its direction. At the same time, though, it also has to mark out its niche and strategic value soon enough, amidst this flexibility, so as to ensure its own sustainability.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS OF THE PPF
• Council expanded to 25 members • Re-structured along teams similar to GPC
• Spearheaded ground-up resolution tabled and adopted at Party Convention in Dec 2013
• Drafted Terms of Reference as a guideline for best practices
• Marked 10th anniversary
• The 6th PPF Council, comprising 25 elected council members, was formed after the PPF's biennial elections on October 18, 2014 at the PAP HQ.
Malminderjit Singh was the chairman of the 5th PPF Council. This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of Petir Magazine.