When I was younger, I did not really know what ‘grassroots’ meant.
I think I had an impression of grassroots volunteers being the ones flashing their wide smiles at the camera, posing with a spade into the soils of the newly planted trees around different neighbourhoods.
Turns out I couldn’t be more wrong.
(Must be the words ‘grass’ and ‘trees’ at play.)
As I grew older, I realised that being a grassroots member meant more than that.
It also seemed to bring about certain benefits.
I’ve heard gossips from friendly neighbours about having increased chances in primary school ballots by joining this seemingly elusive club.
While most of us have heard of the involvement of grassroots leaders in community events and activities, we probably didn’t look much into it.
Which was what piqued my interest to find out more about this.
What do you have to do to become one, and what could this experience possibly bring you? 🤔
If you’re interested to find out, we hope that this article can help to provide some information on what being in a grassroots organisation means!
What Is a Grassroots Leader?
Let’s begin by first understanding what’s a grassroots organisation.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary,
Grassroots are the ordinary people in a society or organization, rather than the leaders.
Grassroots organisations usually use collective action to drive change at a local, regional or national level.
In Singapore, the People’s Association (PA) is in charge of more than 1,800 grassroots organisations (GROs).
These GROs are managed by volunteers appointed by the PA, who are the grassroots leaders (GRLs).
There are about 38,000 GRLs as of July 2016.
While we usually associate grassroots organisations with Residents’ Committees (RCs), there are in fact a number of organisations to volunteer at.
Some of these grassroots organisations include:
|Grassroots Organisation under the People's Association (PA)
|Function of Organisation
|Active Ageing Council
|Champions the cause of active ageing and creates a supportive environment for active ageing elements
|Community Club Management Committees (CCMCs)
|Help build, manage and maintain all our Community Clubs (CCs)
|Community Sports Clubs (CSCs)
|Foster community bonding through a wide array of sports activities for residents to participate and interact with one another
Flagship programmes include the PAssion Children’s Football Programme, the Singapore Community Games (SCG) and the Community Sports Day (CSD)
|Community Sports Club Council (CSC Council)
|Foster community bonding through sports in collaboration with the Community Sports Clubs (CSCs), other grassroots organisations and other sporting bodies
|Community Emergency and Engagement (C2E) Committees
|Organises exercises and Emergency Preparedness (EP) activities to stay prepared and ensure operational readiness during emergencies
Partners various government emergency authorities to educate public about Community EP
|Citizens' Consultative Committees (CCCs)
|Plan and lead major grassroots activities within the constituency, oversee local assistance programmes, and organise major fund-raising projects and national campaigns
|Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (MESRA)
|Guide Malay Activity Executive Committees (MAECs) in engaging the community through a wide range of outreach programmes
Assist MAECs and other GROs to identify and recruit suitable Malay grassroots leaders
Facilitate collaborations between MAECs and other GROs in the larger community
|Guide Indian Activity Executive Committees (IAECs) in engaging the community through a wide range of outreach programmes
Assist IAECs and other GROs to identify and recruit suitable Indian grassroots leaders
Facilitate collaborations between IAECs and other Grassroots Organisations (GROs) in the community
|Improve the social and physical environment in their private housing estates
Promote neighbourliness, harmony and cohesiveness amongst residents
Connect with and make recommendations to government authorities on the needs and aspirations of residents
|People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM)
|Offers a wide spectrum of interesting and meaningful programmes and initiatives to excite, engage and empower the youths aged 12 to 35
|Residents’ Committees (RCs)
|Promote neighbourliness, racial harmony and community cohesiveness amongst residents within their respective RC zones
Work closely with other grassroots organisations and various government agencies to improve the physical environment and safety of their respective precincts
|Residents’ Networks (RNs)
|Promote greater social mixing between residents across all ages, races and all estates in the Designated Zone, similar to the RCs and NCs
|Residents’ Network (RN) Council
|Enhance the capabilities of RCs, NCs and RNs in promoting neighbourliness through outreach and engagement initiatives
Spearhead innovative programmes and refreshing initiatives to raise awareness of RC, NC, RNs at the national level
|Women’s Integration Network (WIN) Council
|Win women over to join grassroots organisations (GROs)
Inspire women to take leadership positions in GROs
Nurture women to play an active role in society and the community
Be it in sports, youth activities, or helping those in need, these grassroots organisations offer an opportunity for passionate individuals to volunteer at.
What Do You Have To Do as a Grassroots Leader?
So what are some of the responsibilities you have as a grassroots leader?
The main responsibilities of these organisations are to encourage community involvement, disseminate information and gather feedback from residents, and also strengthen social cohesion and racial harmony in the community.
As such, some common roles and responsibilities of a grassroots leader include:
- Door-to-door visits alongside Members of Parliament (MPs) to explain government policies and to gather feedback
- Work with relevant agencies with regards to residents’ feedback for improvement of the precinct
- Organise events for communities to allow people of different backgrounds to come together and interact
- Conduct fundraising events such as newspaper collection, donation drives and pledge cards
To become a grassroots leader, individuals have to go through a period of about three months as an observer before being appointed by an adviser.
Benefits You Get To Enjoy as a Grassroots Leader
Many individuals volunteer out of their desire to contribute to the community, hoping to connect with residents and be the bridge between the Government and the people.
With that, there are some perks and benefits in place to recognise these efforts, allowing these volunteers to continue volunteering their time for the people.
There are various rumours about hidden benefits that can be enjoyed as a grassroots leader, but here are the ones that are legit and listed by the Government.
Primary One Registration
Under Phase 2B of Primary One registrations, eligible grassroots leaders (GRLs) will be able to register for their preferred schools within the constituencies that they reside in.
This phase is also available to parent volunteers at schools (completing at least 40 hours in a year), or a member endorsed by churches or clans directly associated with the school.
There will be 20 places reserved in all schools for Phase 2B, and registration is not based on a first-come-first-served basis.
To qualify for Phase 2B, GRLs must be in continuous and active service for at least two years.
This service period allows a better gauge on the parent’s level of involvement, and might help sieve potential volunteers who are only in it for the perks.
In addition, parents who would like to register under Phase 2B have to receive a recommendation letter from the chairman of their grassroots organisation.
Apart from the minimum service period, the grassroots committee will also be looking at the parent’s contributions and level of commitment as well.
About 1% of GRLs apply for this every year.
MND Grassroots Organisation Scheme
Hoping to get your flat quickly?
Eligible GRLs are able to try for that as well.
Under the MND Grassroots Organisation Scheme, GRLs with at least three years of continuous and active service can apply for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats and Executive Condominiums (ECs) in constituencies within the town council boundaries they serve in.
This scheme is available in hopes to tap on the knowledge and experience of GRLs to start new GROs and events in these new estates.
This would then encourage bonding of new communities in the new estates, allowing for community building and strengthening of community services.
Between 2006 to 2016, an average of 28 GRLs (or less than 0.1% of all GRLs) have utilised this scheme every year.
Car Parking at HDB Estates
We have all seen how expensive it can get to own a car in Singapore.
Car parking fees can add to these costs as well.
Being a GRL would mean having frequent house visits and organising of events.
In lieu of this, GRLs who drive would be able to receive a special parking label, allowing them to park at designated car parks within the constituency where they serve, up to 11pm.
GRLs who live in HDB estates do have first buy a valid HDB monthly season parking label.
GRLs who do not stay at HDB estates can choose to apply to buy this special parking label at a concessionary rate as they are usually not required to park overnight.
So… Is It Worth It To Be a Grassroots Leader?
Some people might be motivated to join these organisations solely for its benefits, given how it is usually a thankless job and how a lot of time and commitment’s involved.
In addition, given the limited time we have apart from our jobs and daily responsibilities, some might not feel motivated to serve without any tangible recognition.
With the modifications in the minimum service period as the qualifying criteria for schemes like the Primary One registration, individuals who are in just for the benefits might find it difficult to remain active in their grassroots organisations for years.
In addition, grassroots organisations are also stringent with their own intake, as seen from how individuals have to go through a period as an observer before being appointed as a grassroots leader by an adviser.
In short, you should probably only serve if you’re passionate about the cause and do want to serve the community!
With the various organisations that are available to choose from, there’s something for everyone, as long as you’re interested to give back to the community.
Besides being able to serve the community, such volunteering opportunities would allow you to gain awareness of ongoing initiatives and could also be really fulfilling.
And these benefits that come along with it would definitely be welcomed as well. 😉
If you’re looking for like-minded individuals or have any questions to ask, head over to our SeedlyCommunity to share these thoughts!