BY JOHN CHUA & RUSSELL YIP
With in-person classes fully resuming at Harvard for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, we’re excited to announce that the Singapore Policy Journal will be up and running in the new academic year. We write this letter as Singapore crosses an important milestone in its national vaccination programme—as of 29 Aug 2021, more than 80% of the total population has completed the full regimen. The inching towards “Transition Stage A” has been accompanied by the gradual lifting of border restrictions with new air travel passes and vaccinated travel lanes, as well as a return to large-scale social activity with plans for an eventual increase in the permitted size of events.
Yet, as the public health narrative shifts towards endemicity and finding ways to live with the virus, the questions initially occasioned by the shock of COVID-19 are all the more urgent for us as a publication. Can the crisis prompt reflection on the assumptions that undergird our social and economic order, our relationship to nature and the environment, and what we owe to each other? Does it expose and challenge any of our previously sacrosanct values, modes of thinking, and methods of governance? Will we emerge from the pandemic as a society with deepened fissures along lines of race, religion, and class, or one with a renewed sense of solidarity and a shared commitment to building back in more resilient and equitable ways?
2020/21 in review
The Journal is proud to have played a part in contributing to the emerging conversation on these issues in the past year. We curated and published 13 original articles on a range of topics that spanned sustainability, tech ethics, state-society relations, diversity in scholarship recipients, and housing politics. These research papers, op-eds, interviews and letters to the editor found a wide audience through our digital publication which received over 50,000 original visitors in the 2020 calendar year.
We brought policy to the community by organizing seven public-facing events, offering a platform for individuals and groups with diverse views and interests to discuss, argue and learn from one another. These events included Singapore’s first-ever exit interview with a panel of outgoing Nominated Members of Parliament, bringing together members of the 14th NMP cohort for a public conversation soon after Parliament was dissolved in 2020 for that year’s general election. Likewise, we hosted a closed-door session featuring speakers from the private sector, academia, and Government to discuss data governance in Singapore, following the spotlight that TraceTogether placed on the issue.
Broadening our target audience from students in the Boston-area to Singapore at large, the Journal built partnerships with like-minded student groups with local universities including CAPE, Tembusu Polity, the Roosevelt Institute at Yale-NUS, and the Sessions from the NUS University Scholars’ Programme. We organized regular discussion events on contemporary policy issues as well as a screening of Wild Rice’s play Merdeka. The previous academic year also saw the launch of our first-ever Reading Group, convening students from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, LKYSPP, NUS, and Yale-NUS for peer-led colloquiums and discussions with experts about tech policy in Singapore. Our events were well-attended, and we collectively engaged participants from 17 local and overseas universities over the course of the academic year.
Plans for the year
As we move into a new semester, we will resume our core business of curating and publishing thoughtful and exemplary articles about policy issues in Singapore. Even as the discourse about academic freedom in Singapore takes shape, we remain guided by our commitment to creating and holding space for open and honest conversations about Singapore policy, and the philosophy that we as a society thrive only when our lovers are critical and our critics are loving. As such, we welcome op-ed and research paper submissions on all topics and with all manner of views, so long as they pertain to Singapore policy. Our only criteria for publication remain rigour, relevance and readability.
As it gradually becomes clear that the fallout from the pandemic will be enduring and profoundly felt by many, we are conscious of our deep privilege as a Harvard-based publication, and our responsibility to ensure that our work and resources are directed towards the unique challenges and demands of the current moment. We are also mindful about the need to broaden the diversity in the authors represented on our platform.
Therefore, while we will continue to accept submissions from all, we are particularly interested in receiving submissions from practitioners and community-engaged scholars. This includes, but is not limited to, social and community workers, activists, members of nonprofits and ground-up movements, and academics and students involved in community-based or participatory research. We are also keen to center minority and underprivileged voices in our publication, and we would be glad to feature pieces from individuals in these communities that draw upon their rich, diverse and instructive lived experiences.
Our regular programming will also grapple with the pressing social and civic challenges that confront Singapore. In the past academic year, we experimented with a range of offerings including speaker sessions, discussion events, a film screening and a reading group. We will work towards sustaining this slate of initiatives in the upcoming year. Public health circumstances permitting, we aim to organize another iteration of the Singapore and Southeast Asia Forum, our annual forum in Harvard University with panels of experts on topics important to Singapore and the region.
As in-person classes resume for students in Boston, we will return to our original goal of creating community for Singaporeans in the area and those interested in Singapore policy through regular events and socials. At the same time, we will continue to engage those in our home of Singapore by leveraging the virtual modality normalized after the pandemic, ensuring that our offerings remain accessible to all.
Finally, we hope to carry on working with like-minded groups to advance the conversation on Singapore policy. We will continue to develop different modes of partnership including co-hosting speaker events and webinars, cross-publication of articles, and invitations to closed-door SPJ discussion events. We are happy to explore opportunities for collaboration with individuals and organizations—please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I get involved?
If you are interested in our content or events, please refer to the links below to get updates for upcoming events and publications:
- Subscribe to our website: Get notifications when we publish new pieces
- Like our SPJ Facebook page for updates on pieces and to see when we hold discussion events in Boston
- In Boston? Like the SSEAF page for updates when we hold panels and events with distinguished academics and thinkers
- Want to write? Submit an article to this email address.
- Interested in responding to one of our published pieces? We welcome Letters To The Editor