Campaign to tell the lived experiences of the low-Income in Singapore

The Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), a research center under the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore (NUS), has just launched an online campaign to raise awareness on poverty in Singapore.

The central theme of the month-long campaign, titled “Singaporeans Left Behind”, is to highlight the poverty experiences among the low-income in Singapore, bringing attention to the challenges they encounter in their everyday lives.


The campaign was conceptualized by an advisory committee comprising 10 men and women from low-income communities across the country. Over the course of 7 months, the advisory committee came together to discuss and identify key issues faced by the low-income in Singapore and communicative solutions to tackle these problems.

In collaboration with the NUS research team, the advisory committee designed the campaign and the key messages in the collaterals. During the advisory board meetings, the committee also voiced that they felt “left behind” amidst Singapore’s story of progress even though they were Singaporeans too, giving rise to the campaign name.

The media campaign will include a print advertisement, an online video advertisement, a dedicated website, social media outreach, and a documentary film. Towards the end of the campaign, a documentary screening and panel discussion will be organized to facilitate public discussion on this issue and collective solution-making from the ground up.

Guided by the tenets of the culture-centered approach (CCA) pioneered by Center Director, Professor Mohan J. Dutta, this research study began with the understanding that community members are their own best problem configurators and solution providers.

Professor Dutta shares: “From earlier culturally-centered projects, we have seen how the absence of voices of at-risk communities from policy-making platforms can be tied to their impoverishment. Without input from these community members, policies and initiatives designed to help them may not resonate with their lived experiences. However, when safe spaces for listening are created and communities are invited as co-participants, solutions to their health and well-being emerge from their lived contexts.”

In conjunction with the launch of the campaign, CARE has produced a White Paper presenting the key findings from two years of ethnographic field work and 180 in-depth interviews with low-income individuals in Singapore.

The five main themes emerging from the interviews include (a) access to housing; (b) healthcare access and affordability; (c) application for financial assistance and services; (d) food insecurity; and (e) stigma and alienation.

The findings of the White Paper indicate that the poverty experience in Singapore is multidimensional and the various challenges the low-income face are often overlapping and intertwined, contributing to negative effects on their health and mental well-being.

Although there are multiple resources available to the low-income provided by the government, private charities, and civil society, some of the barriers faced are communicative in nature. The low income may not be aware of the resources available and may find the process of application challenging, adding to the already burdensome experience of being poor.

This paper serves as an entry point to listening to the voices of the low-income in Singapore, and dialogically engaging the community in conversations to understand their experiences which can then inform stakeholder decision-making.

Within the next month, two additional White Papers will also be published on the solutions proposed during two community dialogue sessions organized to bring together community members and key stakeholders, including policy makers, service providers, and evaluators.

PDF file of the White Paper produced by CARE can be found here.