ArtsWok Learning Forum 2024: Developing Community Creatively
ArtsWok Learning Forum 2024: Developing Community Creatively

Developing Community Creatively

29 & 30 March 2024
Goodman Arts Centre

What does the community-engaged arts scene look like now in Singapore? Where can we embrace synergies across sectors and among people working with communities? And how do we chart a path, as practitioners and as a field, towards longer-term practice? These are some of the questions that we would like to unpack together at the inaugural ArtsWok Learning Forum.

The title of this edition, Developing Community Creatively, offers a premise and provocation that creativity should be at the heart of the people-centred work we do. In conjunction with ArtsWok Collaborative’s 10th anniversary celebrations, this two-day event brings together an array of intellectual stimulation and practical inspiration for artists and practitioners working across the community, social, health and cultural sectors.

Photo Gallery

Truly broadened my horizons and opened up new opportunities of collaboration… Major kudos to the ArtsWok team and collaborators – this is a critical, useful platform.
Amaryllis, Participant
A highly engaging and well facilitated programme that provided a safe space for various perspectives to be represented, considered and discussed.
Clarice Ng, Participant
There was the right balance of us taking ownership for our own learning with a very thoughtful and considered curation to germinate ideas and inspire action.
Hong Ling, Participant
There was so much “heart” for the work that one cannot help but feel energised and warm.… here is to more enriching conversations, and possibly even projects, in future!
Chang Mei Yee, Respondent

It was a very meaningful journey for us and I hope that we can continue learning from each other and evolving together to build a more cohesive ecosystem.

Kavitha Krishnan, Panellist

A very impressive lineup of [presenters] that aspiring community developers can learn from through their highly provocative and stimulating sharing of their experiences.

Andre Shia, Participant
I really appreciated the diversity of spaces that we all came from, which enriched the experience. The panel conversations were highlights for me.
Cheong Ming Fang, Participant
The robust discussions throughout the 2 days… with similar & like-minded folks filled my entire heart.… one of the best forum experiences I’ve had.
Kanitha, Participant


Friday, 29 March 2024

9.00am – 9.30am


9.30am – 10.00am

Opening Activity

10.00am – 10.15am

Welcome Address

10.15am – 12.15pm

Morning Panel

Digging Deeper, Looking Farther: Exploring Potential Models of Long-term Practice for Arts-based Community Development
Panellists: Lin Shiyun, Ng Bee Leng, and Salty Xi Jie Ng
Moderator: Ngiam Su-Lin

12.30pm – 2.00pm

Lunch & Networking

2.00pm – 4.00pm

Afternoon Workshop (Choose one of four concurrent sessions)

  1. Organising Volunteer Teams Around a Community Museum
    Workshop by Hadi Osni
  2. Understanding Community Development Work Through Tak Takut Kids Club
    Workshop by Lin Shiyun
  3. Here for a While: The Alchemy of Community Development
    Workshop by Salty Xi Jie Ng
  4. Empowering Communities Through Co-created Neighbourhood Trails
    Workshop by Phua Huijia, Palvindran S/O Jayram and Lydia Susiyanti
4.00pm – 4.30pm

Tea Break

4.30pm – 6.00pm


Saturday, 30 March 2024

9.00am – 9.30am


9.30am – 10.15am


10.15am – 12.15pm

Morning Panel

Learning, Unlearning and Relearning: Development Pathways for Community-engaged Practitioners
Panellists: Izzaty Ishak, Kavitha Krishnan, Kok Heng Leun and Alecia Neo
Respondents: Chang Mei Yee, Ng Bee Leng and Dr Wong Sweet Fun
Moderator: Sunitha Janamohanan

12.30pm – 2.00pm

Lunch & Networking

2.00pm – 4.00pm

Afternoon Workshop (Choose one of four concurrent sessions)

  1. Conversations That Matter
    Workshop by Gerard Ee
  2. Opening Up Conversations About Oppression
    Workshop by Izzaty Ishak
  3. Scores for Caregiving
    Workshop by Alecia Neo, Frank M and Carol Ee
  4. Imprints From a Shared Cosmos: Documenting Practice
    Workshop by Salty Xi Jie Ng
4.00pm – 4.30pm

Tea Break

4.30pm – 5.45pm

Lightning Talks and Q&A

5.45pm – 6.00pm

Concluding Remarks


Friday, 29 March 2024

Panellists: Lin Shiyun, Ng Bee Leng and Salty Xi Jie Ng
Moderator: Ngiam Su-Lin

As the arts-based community development scene in Singapore undergoes a process of maturation, we are beginning to see a shift across the spectrum towards deeper and longer-term practice. What does it mean for communities to have the necessary space and resources to lead the change that they want to see happen? What role should artists play when they enter and work within communities? How can we draw from related fields beyond the arts to reimagine and enrich what practice could look like?

To ground this discussion, social worker Ng Bee Leng will provide an overview of asset-based community development through the lens of her practice over the years. Socially engaged artist Salty Xi Jie Ng draws on her year-long embedment in the Yishun community under Both Sides, Now to offer a potential model of longer-term community development. Lastly, creative producer Lin Shiyun will share about the value and difference that arts-based approaches bring to community development in 3Pumpkins’ flagship project, Tak Takut Kids Club.

Saturday, 30 March 2024

Panellists: Izzaty Ishak, Kavitha Krishnan, Kok Heng Leun and Alecia Neo
Respondents: Chang Mei Yee, Ng Bee Leng and Dr Wong Sweet Fun
Moderator: Sunitha Janamohanan

The conversation around the type of skills and training community-engaged arts and creative practitioners need becomes all the more pressing the longer we go without a formal education pathway. As we prepare to delve deeper into the work we do with communities, we ought to also consider what are the necessities for facilitating more community development outcomes.

What kinds of competencies and experiences are needed for practitioner growth? Where and how do we tackle the gaps in our ecosystem that are stumbling blocks to good practice? To tackle these questions, a panel of multi-hatting speakers and respondents – hailing from a variety of disciplines and fields – has been assembled to reflect on their own (and each other’s) personal experiences as well as how they continue to learn, unlearn and relearn.


Friday, 29 March 2024

Photo from My Chinatown Festival, organised by My Community, showing a vendor pointing at a bunch of bananas to a group of tour participants

This session provides an in-depth look into My Community’s heritage initiatives, with a focus on the forthcoming Queenstown Museum. Hadi will discuss their volunteer recruitment strategies for specialised teams; covering areas like cultural mapping, community archives, community design and the museum team. Discover how My Community develops volunteer capabilities and maintains their volunteering model. Explore the methods employed by volunteers to engage with and sustain community connections over time. Lastly, delve into the strategies behind these dedicated volunteer teams for their community-driven heritage projects.

Add-on: Catch the volunteers of My Community in action when you sign up for the My Tanglin Halt Heritage Tour Field Lesson on Saturday 16 March 2024.

Photo of Tak Takut Kids Club, which occupies a 1.5 shop unit in a HDB block situated in Boon Lay. By engaging the community in both indoor and outdoor spaces, the centre regenerates positive social connections to benefit children in the neighbourhood, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds.

Community work is hard work. Community work is heart work. To push for further development, community work is also strategic work. In this workshop, Shiyun will share how she has developed Tak Takut Kids Club (TTKC) from an independent ground-up project to become a key partner of government agencies in the integrated social service and community health landscape. Participants are strongly encouraged to bring in questions about community development work to share and discuss in this workshop.

A senior citizen showing photos to artist Salty Xi Jie Ng as two other seniors watch on. Photo by Stacy Huang

How does the slow brew of community development begin and take shape? How do funders, partners and collaborators orbit in relation to each other? What is the role of artists? What are the realities of community development in practice? Sharing from her experiences leading socially engaged art projects across cultures and contexts, including Both Sides, Now 2023-24, Salty and workshop participants will discuss forms of engagement, facilitation, structuring process, co-creation, ethics and building collective knowledge through group discussion and sharing.

** Note to participants: The workshop will be conducted in a third-floor studio, which is only accessible by stairs.

Add-on: Meet the senior collaborators from Wellness Kampung @ 765 Nee Soon Central at Tides as they complete their year-long journey with Both Sides, Now. Please refer below under Field Lessons for more details.

Residents and members of the Raffles Institution art club standing in front of the mural painted outside Allkin Community @ Ang Mo Kio 414

Explore how asset-based community development (ABCD) has been applied in Skillseed’s Resilience Trails, a programme promoting social and economic inclusion of under-resourced communities through the medium of co-created neighbourhood trails. Huijia from Skillseed and Palvindran from Allkin Singapore will speak on their partnership and how leveraging their organisations’ respective strengths has made the pilot a success. Community guide Lydia will share her expertise, experience and growth from co-creating and taking ownership of her trail. Through experiential reflection activity, participants will also discover how one might apply the lessons learned to one’s own communities and context.

Add-on: Complete your experience by going on one of the Resilience Trail Field Lessons happening on the mornings of Saturday 23 March and Sunday 24 March.

Saturday, 30 March 2024

A group of people, of Southeast Asian ethnicity, seated on red chairs in a loose circle. Photo courtesy of Beyond Social Services

Many of us have been taught that relationship building facilitates cooperation and the achievement of goals, thereby rendering them a means to an end. Yet, community is only able to exist due to the sustained commitment people have towards each other and their shared endeavours. Goals are therefore not an end but the means by which we strengthen our relationships.

At Beyond Social Services, conversation circles are used to encourage accountability and commitment within a group. In this workshop, we will explore the shifts in thinking that need to occur in order to transform technique into methodology and imitation into practice.

Izzaty Ishak working with the youths from The Community Theatre on The Block Party (2019), which was presented under M1 Peer Pleasure Youth Theatre Festival

Izzaty will be sharing a selection of approaches developed in the course of her work with young people to understand and produce performances of oppression that they see in their local community or context. While the activities introduced were used for performance creation, they also have broader applications beyond the arts for community-engaged practitioners in opening up conversations with young people. Practitioners who work with community groups, of and across varying demographics, will benefit from this workshop as well.

Photo from a caregivers workshop as part of Between Earth and Sky (2018). It depicts a row of people putting their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them.

What does the weight of caregiving look like? Whose weight do we bear? Can we share it? Scores for Caregiving offers a movement workshop co-facilitated by artist Alecia Neo and primary caregivers Frank M and Carol Ee from the project Between Earth and Sky (2018). Workshop participants will gain insights into the complexity of performing care labour through listening to each caregiver’s lived experiences and learning the body movements choreographed by each caregiver. Through guided creative prompts, each participant will be invited to map out the caregiving roles and relationships that they are involved in as well as learn new ways to engage individuals and communities through movement.

** Note to participants: Dress in comfortable clothes for ease of movement. The workshop will be conducted in a third-floor studio, which is only accessible by stairs.

A composite of two photos. On the left, artist Salty Xi Jie Ng stands in the middle flanked by two Legendary Customers of Buangkok Exchange Department holding items they have chosen as part of Buangkok Mall Life Club (2020-2021). On the right, another two Legendary Customers are proudly holding a large fish stuffed toy that spans across both their bodies. Photo courtesy of the artist

How can imprints of shared experience be recorded, translated and re-presented? Who or what is this documentation for? How can documentation be regarded not as “an element of postproduction but a coproduction of viewers, interpreters, and narrators”, while simultaneously “understood and utilised in full recognition of its inadequacy as a surrogate for the actual experience” (Helguera, An Education for Socially Engaged Art)? Through writing exercises, sharing and discussion, participants will identify myriad accessible ways to reflect and record shared experience.

Field Lessons (Optional)

Happening in the middle of March 2024, Field Lessons are add-ons that take ArtsWok Learning Forum 2024 attendees into the field (at no additional cost) to experience some of the projects that will be profiled at Developing Community Creatively. Priority will be given to those enrolled in the corresponding workshops conducted by the featured presenters.

by ArtsWok Collaborative

Join lead artist Salty Xi Jie Ng and 8 senior collaborators from the Wellness Kampung @ 765 Nee Soon Central as they complete their year-long journey with Both Sides, Now. Titled Tides, come sail with this brave band of elders as they contemplate and celebrate lives, legacies and transitions with an exhibition of transdisciplinary artworks and programmes. There will also be conversations with and tours by the senior collaborators.

Both Sides, Now (BSN) is a programme that aims to develop spaces that encourage end-of-life conversations through arts practices and creative approaches. BSN 2023-24 in Yishun is the culmination of a year-long pilot residency, in which arts and asset-based community development approaches are adopted for living well, and leaving well.

Exhibition Dates & Times
9 – 20 March 2024
Monday to Friday, 10am – 6pm
Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 8pm

Wellness Kampung @ 765 Nee Soon Central
Blk 765 Yishun St 72, Singapore 760765

English & Chinese

More information on the exhibition and programmes by the senior collaborators available here. Participants registering for the workshop by Salty Xi Jie Ng on Day 1 are highly encouraged to visit the exhibition with programming on weekends.

A guide talking to participants in My Tanglin Halt Heritage Tour with housing blocks in the background

by My Community

My Tanglin Halt Heritage Tour traces the evolution of Queenstown as Singapore’s first satellite town. In this special edition ahead of Developing Community Creatively, this tour led by My Community volunteers will visit landmarks such as the first HDB flats along Stirling Road, the former Malayan railways, and the black & white bungalows at Wessex estate. Participants will hear first-hand accounts of the charming neighbourhood from long-time residents in Tanglin Halt and Stirling Road.

The tour can accommodate up to 25 participants and involves three hours of walking that may cover some hilly terrain. It will begin at Queenstown MRT Station (on the concourse level near Mr Bean, opposite the gantry for Exits A and B) and end at Tanglin Halt Market & Food Centre (near Commonwealth MRT Station). Priority will be given to those registered for the workshop conducted by Hadi Osni (My Community) on Day 1.

Date & Time
Saturday 16 March 2024, 8.30am – 11.30am
Please arrive 15 minutes early to report at 8.15am.


A Community Guide addressing a group of participants during a Resilience Trail at the void deck of a block in Ang Mo Kio

by Skillseed and Allkin Singapore (formerly known as AMKFSC Community Services)

Hear the stories of our communities and walk their paths with a Community Guide to see Ang Mo Kio in a new light. In partnership with Allkin Singapore, the Resilience Trails is a programme by Skillseed where we leverage the gifts of friends with disabilities, single mothers and other individuals from under-resourced communities to co-create and co-lead public learning journeys around their neighbourhoods. Each 2.5-hour trail is uniquely themed and co-designed based on each Guide’s strengths and lived experiences.

Priority will be given to registrants who have signed up for the workshop by Phua Huijia (Skillseed) and Palvindran S/O Jayram (Allkin Singapore) on Day 1. Each trail is able to accommodate up to 15 participants. Please ensure your availability when signing up to avoid incurring a late cancellation penalty of $40 (for less than 3 weeks’ notice), which will go towards covering logistical costs. In the event of low subscription, the session will be cancelled and registrants will be contacted.

Dates & Time(s)
Saturday 23 March 2024, 9am 11.30am
Sunday 24 March 2024, 9am – 11.30am



Chang Mei Yee

Chang Mei Yee teaches Applied Drama at Singapore Polytechnic’s Media, Arts and Design School and has a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Having taught in the Diploma in Applied Drama & Psychology since 2008, she also managed the course at various points. She now oversees the specialisation in Creative Community Engagement with Psychology. Mei Yee is interested in engaging seniors through drama and hopes to work on a multi-generational reminiscence project someday.

Carol Ee

Carol is a mother of two and a full-time worker. She is also a caregiver to her child and is a volunteer with Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL).

Gerard Ee

Gerard Ee is a veteran community worker with Beyond Social Services. He guides community-building in low-income neighbourhoods, to create an environment that supports people’s efforts to act on their challenges and to lead satisfying and hopeful lives. After 40 years, with experiences as a youth worker, family therapist, prison counsellor, community-builder and non-profit leader, Gerard is a firm believer that social work is not simply about problem-solving but is a peace-building process that engages people to be a little kinder, fairer and more cooperative.

Hadi Osni

Hadi Osni is currently a Senior Community Researcher at My Community Limited, facilitating community partnerships and leading heritage research projects. In 2023, he obtained his PhD in Architecture from the National University of Singapore, focusing on documenting community heritage and amplifying marginalised voices in historical narratives. His research centred around digitally reconstructing lost architectural treasures through the recollections of past residents. Alongside his academic work, Hadi also volunteers with organisations supporting various age groups.

Izzaty Ishak

Izzaty Ishak is a community development practitioner guided by the principles of asset-based community development, Theatre of the Oppressed, and narrative practices. In her practice within the social service care sector, she has worked with various communities – such as low-income communities, disadvantaged youths, people with dementia, single mothers, people who are incarcerated, and children – to explore diverse issues important to them. She seeks ways to shift and strengthen the agency of communities as well as to create spaces of possibilities for nuanced reflection and critical consciousness.

Kavitha Krishnan

Kavitha Krishnan’s impressive career encompasses both her accomplishments as a dancer and her impactful contributions to the arts community, especially towards social causes and diversity. She co-founded Maya Dance Theatre, a non-profit arts company dedicated to utilising the arts as a powerful tool for social change and promoting positive impact. In 2018, Kavitha leveraged her background as an occupational therapist to also establish Diverse Abilities Dance Collective, DADC with six founding members with Down Syndrome as a space for dancers with diverse abilities to collaborate with professional dancers.

Kok Heng Leun

Kok Heng Leun is a prominent figure in the Singapore arts scene, having built his career as a theatre director, playwright, dramaturg and educator. As artist and founder of Drama Box, he is known for engaging the community through the arts and championing civic discourse across different segments of society. For his invaluable contributions, Heng Leun has been recognised with the Young Artist Award (2000), Cultural Fellowship (2014), and Singapore’s highest arts accolade, the Cultural Medallion (2022). He also represented the arts sector as a Nominated Member of Parliament (2016–2018).

Lin Shiyun

Lin Shiyun is the founder and executive director of 3Pumpkins, a charitable community development organisation. Since 2016, she has conducted extensive practice research to discover the lived realities of children from vulnerable backgrounds. Her interdisciplinary, inter-agency and intergenerational approach to community development focuses on strengthening human connections and changing living spaces to improve lives. Shiyun’s work is most fully embodied in Tak Takut Kids Club, a community children centre that aims to build a happier and safer environment for children in Boon Lay.

Frank M

Lydia Susiyanti is a community activator who has been working within her neighbourhood of Ang Mo Kio over the past 4 years. She is passionate about leading initiatives focused on supporting children’s learning, food security and social inclusion. As a community guide with Resilience Trails, Lydia showcases assets in her community while empowering others to start initiatives in the neighbourhood. She is also a locum community worker with Allkin Singapore and a mentor guide with Skillseed.

Frank M

Frank M is a staff at Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL) who reaches out to connect with caregivers of loved ones with mental health issues and dementia.

Alecia Neo

Alecia Neo is an artist and cultural worker, developing long-term projects that involve collaborations with individuals and communities. Her socially engaged practice unfolds primarily through lens-based media and participatory artworks that address modes of radical hospitality and care. She is the co-founder of Brack, an art collective and platform for socially engaged art, and Ubah Rumah Residency in Bintan. She also runs Unseen Art Initiatives, a Singapore-based art platform for professional and emerging disabled artists. Alecia was the recipient of the Young Artist Award in 2016.

Ng Bee Leng

Ng Bee Leng is a social worker by training and is currently the Divisional Director of Strategy & Transformation at Allkin Singapore (formerly known as AMKFSC Community Services). Having worked with disadvantaged communities for the past 30 years, she believes in asset-based community-led development that focuses on the strengths rather than deficits of communities. Bee Leng is the first official Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Guide in Singapore to be accredited by Nurture Development and the ABCD Institute, Europe.

Salty Xi Jie Ng

Salty Xi Jie Ng is an artist and educator working intimately with people and their lives within a transdisciplinary, collaborative practice, in hopes of uncovering hidden selves and histories in kinship with the other-than-human. The lead artist of a community development project for Both Sides, Now 2023-24, she has developed socially engaged work across cultures and contexts, including The Grandma Reporter, The Inside Show, Buangkok Mall Life Club, and Not Grey: Intimacy, Ageing and Being. She has an MFA in Art and Social Practice from Portland State University.

Palvindran S/O Jayram

Palvindran S/O Jayram started his social service profession as a counsellor, specialising in restorative justice, working with youths-at-risk and their families. He has since been working as a community development worker working alongside communities to promote social well-being and mobility at Allkin Singapore (formerly known as AMKFSC Community Services). Trained in asset-based community development, he has presented at several conferences and coached people both locally and abroad on the significance of communities in contributing to the growth and welfare of others.

Phua Huijia

Phua Huijia founded Skillseed in 2013. She straddles both the community building and capability development arms of Skillseed, and therefore has a nuanced understanding of ground needs, while being able to convey deep insights in a candid and humorous manner. She has designed programmes and, along with the Skillseed team, equipped participants through their capability building programmes and their flagship non-profit initiative, Resilience Trails.

Dr Wong Sweet Fun

Dr Wong Sweet Fun is a geriatrician actively promoting functional longevity and ageing-in-place in community-dwelling older adults. Her work extends beyond the walls of the hospital system to improve population health. She collaborates with agencies from health, social, education and the arts to influence mindsets and shape practice on the ground in issues ranging from strengths-based self-management, frailty prevention through active ageing to personalised care planning. Several of her initiatives gained international recognition: 2014 United Nations Public Service, 2017 iF Social Impact and 2019 Human City Design Award.

Ngiam Su-Lin

Ngiam Su-Lin is a creative producer and intermediary, especially in the areas of arts and community development. She has produced numerous community-engaged programmes and festivals in collaboration with the public, people and private sectors. She plays a significant intermediary and capacity-building role through ArtsWok Collaborative, which she co-founded to champion interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches towards civic participation and social change work.

Sunitha Janamohanan

Sunitha Janamohanan has worked in the arts since 1999 with a portfolio that covers a range of art forms and creative industries. She has been an arts manager, curator, producer, venue manager and heritage manager in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Malaysia. She has an MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University, New York, and lectures at LASALLE College of the Arts, UAS, Singapore. Her research interests reside at the intersections of social practice, labour, organisational behaviour and cultural leadership.


The ArtsWok Learning Forum is organised for those with knowledge, experience or expertise related to the community-engaged field. This may include artists, practitioners from the community, social and health sectors, producers, funders, policy-makers and researchers. Individuals or students with a keen interest in arts-based community development are welcome.

From inspiration to different perspectives, ArtsWok Learning Forum 2024: Developing Community Creatively has plenty to offer individuals from the social, community and health sectors. We’ve noticed a growing interest from practitioners of these fields in incorporating arts and creative approaches into their work with communities.

By attending, you will be exposed to a diverse range of socially and community-engaged arts projects that may spark fresh ideas or offer new resources. Learn from thought leaders and gain insights into their processes as they share their expertise. You never know when you might meet a potential collaborator!

It offers invaluable learning opportunities to encounter a broad range of socially and community-engaged arts work and be exposed to different community development approaches across sectors. In terms of personal and professional development, you will also benefit from being able to converse and build relationships with experienced practitioners who may become peers, mentors or potential collaborators.

No. We strongly encourage you to attend ArtsWok Learning Forum 2024: Developing Community Creatively in its entirety as the programme components across both days have been designed to build on each other.

Registration of interest for the ticketed Field Lessons (My Tanglin Halt Heritage Tour and the Resilience Trails) has opened and can be found under the Field Lessons section of this webpage. Places are limited and priority will be given to those enrolled in the workshops conducted by the corresponding presenters.

There is no additional fee for any of the Field Lessons as all organising costs have been subsidised by ArtsWok Collaborative. However, please note that there is a late cancellation penalty of $40 (for less than 3 weeks’ notice) attached to the Resilience Trails. We ask that you sign up only once you are able to confirm attendance.

The daily programme has been structured to provide varying levels of stimulation and space for reflection at different times of the day. To get the most out of your experience, come prepared to give and to receive as the emphasis here is on group learning. Having said that, it is up to you to decide on the extent of participation that you are comfortable with.

We have chosen to conduct ArtsWok Learning Forum 2024: Developing Community Creatively entirely in-person for reasons related to the nature of the programme and quality of attendee engagement. This may change for future editions.