Bringing Back The Kampung Spirit – Using The A b c d Model

In the Singapore of the 60s and 70s when many citizens were still living in kampungs or villages, when a person required help, they went to their local neighbours for assistance. Today however, when a person in Singapore requires help, they are most likely to turn to the State for assistance. Voluntary welfare organisations thus operate in a “needs based”scenario, and have created “clients” or “recipients” out of beneficiaries. People have stopped seeking organic support their own social networks. Residents within a community tend to think that they are not skilled or qualified to help their neighbours or people from their communities, and this had led to the increased reliance on “professional” help from external agencies. This loss of social capital is regrettable, as this has eroded the strong sense of kampung or community spirit in the neighbourhoods of the past. A structured attempt to bring back this mutual help approach is a model called the Asset Based Community Development methodology.

This methodology community engagement was created by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in the United States. In their co-authored book released in 1993, “Building Communities from the Inside Out”, they outlined a different perspective to the most commonly used needs-based narrative used to describe poor communities.

The key principals behind the ABCD model are:

Asset-based
Strength based instead of deficit based. There are inherent resources in every 
individual or community, even while there are negatives and problems.

Full participation/full contribution
Everyone is important and all gifts and all creativity can be mobilized.

Relationship-driven
Conversations, dialogues and discussions are channels for ideas and solutions

Internally focused
While resources outside of the community are welcome, the focus is on garnering local solutions within the community

Creates citizen space
Engagement and dialogue allows for the active exercise of true citizery

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The Kampung (Village) Spirit

In the 60’s and 70’s in Singapore, people lived in small groups or communities of families. These one story attap houses are home to a cluster of families (up to a few hundred) where people lived and interacted closely with one another. Everyone knew one another by name and looked out for each other. A mother could rely on a neighbour or a sibling to look after her children while she worked and someone in need of financial need could ask for a loan. 

This is now sadly lacking in modern Singapore as families now live in high rise apartments and are no longer in close engagement with one another. Those in need turn to institutions and welfare organisations or the government for help.