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REVIEW
Strategic Partnerships - an important tool for social engagement at Science Centre Singapore
Science Centre Singapore

Over the last 35 years, Science Centre Singapore (SCS) has kept up with scientific developments through a number of ways including important partnerships with leading organizations. These strategic alliances have continually helped position the Centre as a choice institute to encourage and host the necessary conversations in science for a broad audience. In so doing, Science Centre has kept its finger on the pulse of science communication through its various corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

Some of these initiatives are highlighted further below and are in line with the best traditions of CSR that involve employees in hands-on activities and engage the organization’s core competencies. Still, the hallmarks of CSR at the Science Centre are different to that of many other organizations, given the unique nature of its not-for-profit business, which is underpinned by its vision—“where science befriends and transforms the minds of millions.”

Implicit in this vision are two things: the responsibility of SCS to communicate and excite people about science; and the message of partnership—where the Centre’s community engagement is shaped and informed by active participation of its curators and the public.

Citizen Science

That is why one of its primary hallmarks of CSR is citizen science, where public engagement in scientific discourse takes place. In this engagement, even controversial topics are broached including those with profound ethical implications.

One of the finest ways the Centre pioneers citizen science is through its popular ‘Science in the Café’ event, which was modelled after the internationally acclaimed ‘Café Scientifique’. An informal setting is used to encourage both the speaker and the audience to come together as a collective to gain a joint understanding of contemporary topics in science.

Some 15,000 participants have gathered in the past to hear speakers such as Professor Jocelyn Bell, a female astrophysicist who talked about dark matter. The direct connection with field researchers and academics such as the exemplary Professor Bell serves a greater purpose beyond taking captive the attention of their audience. It reduces the barriers to science while raising the profile of scientists and the science in the community.

The ‘Scientist for a Day’ exhibition is another such citizen science initiative, where members of the public can opt to interact with our visitors. This peer-to-peer interaction means that our community is able to pursue meaningful self-directed conversations with their contemporaries and the Centre’s staff.

These engagements also surface through the SCS Science Buskers Festival which encompasses lively demonstrations and vibrant performances. The yearly event encourages the expressions of science through spectacle, which adds to citizen science.

Industry Partnerships

Another primary hallmark of CSR at SCS is industry partnerships. Like other science centers the world over, SCS plays a crucial role in connecting the industry to the community, making known in a palatable way the results of industry research.

Many industry partnerships have been established by SCS in past years, resulting in enriching and experiential exhibitions. Some of the telling contributions by industry to the Centre’s exhibitions include: Singapore Airlines (SIA) in the Aviation Gallery; Agilent in the Chemistry Exhibition; Toyota in the Electric Car and more recently, BMW in the Time Capsule Exhibition.

Aside from the opportunities to feature cutting edge research to the millions of local and international visitors who have walked through the Centre’s gates, corporate partners have also successfully translated the important work they do into public engagement and enrichment programs to serve different target groups.

Abbott’s Family Science program

In 2010, SCS partnered Abbott to come up with a Family Science outreach program that reaches out to families with younger children, providing them opportunities to learn about the wonders of science. It brings together kids, parents, teachers and scientists for an exciting, hands-on experience focused on basic science skills such as observation, problem-solving, teamwork, as well as building confidence as science learners.

The program, which still runs today, allows parents to get more involved in their children’s science education, makes science more accessible, and demonstrates the relationship between science education and future career choices.

Abbott’s scientists and employees contribute by exploring science with the families and presenting themselves as role models for future scientists. Last year, eight primary schools, 80 parents and 40 Abbott volunteers participated in Family Science. To date, more than 554 parents and children have benefitted from the program.

Agilent’s Science-in-a-Box program

Another way the Centre has made strides in supporting families and enabling them to learn science through hands-on activities is through a partnership with Agilent Technologies. Agilent’s Science-in-a-Box program is part of an annual global Agilent After School initiative.

Designed as complete ‘programs-in-a-box’, Agilent After School materials include hands-on science experiments on life sciences, physical sciences and earth sciences, giving children aged 9 to 13 the tool kits to build experiments like electronic-circuit games, balloon-powered cars, terrariums and more.

The concept was developed by an Agilent employee in the US and was later introduced in Singapore in response to the company’s ‘Inspiring Minds’ Community Relations drive to engage children in science education.

The campaign fits well with the SCS vision (earlier mentioned), and the program, which has been successfully co-hosted by SCS and Agilent in the past, will be featured at the upcoming Singapore Science Festival 2013 that runs from 19 July to 4 August 2013 and which hopes to engage 400 children through the Science-in-the-Box program.

BASF Kids’ Lab

Over the last decade, BASF has been conducting the BASF Kids’ Lab at SCS. The concept of the program is ‘having fun with chemistry’, and it is part of BASF’s CSR efforts which strive to leverage its expertise in chemistry and foster interest among future generations.

Designed for children aged 6 to 12, the BASF Kids’ Lab aims through fun, hands-on chemical experiments to raise children’s interests in chemistry, give them a real experience of chemistry, introduce chemistry as the basis of daily living, and make BASF and chemistry tangible for them.

IBM Toastmasters Club

In December 2012, a collaboration between IBM and SCS paved the way for members of the IBM Toastmasters Club to volunteer as guides for the Climate Change exhibition at the Science Centre. IBM staffs who volunteer go through a training conducted by SCS staff, which allows them to familiarize themselves with the Climate Change exhibition and gain an appreciation of what the Centre offers in relation to climate change topics such as energy, water, environmental sustainability, recycling, and others.

Schools are offered a customized program that comprises a short lecture demonstration on the environment and a specially arranged guided tour of the Climate Change exhibition by IBM volunteers. The guided tour is conducted one Saturday a month, between March and October.

Moving forward

In Science Centre Singapore’s line of work, doing business the best way possible means to sell the wonders of science to the uninitiated in the best manner possible. And as evidenced by the myriad activities that are ongoing at the Centre, its CSR is characterized not only by its vision but also its mission of promoting interest, learning and creativity in science and technology. This endeavor has never been more alive at the Centre than today.

Over the next 35 years, Singapore will continue to mature as a confluence of artistic, cultural and scientific minds. With this increased maturity and the likely growth in connections to regional research hubs in Asia, science will undoubtedly become more specialized, complex and involve more ethical debate.

SCS remains poised to ensure it keeps abreast of these potential developments, with the zeal and drive to play its part to ensure that meaningful and thought provoking conversations carry on in the community. The Centre will seek to grow new partnerships and strengthen existing ones, enabling it to live out its vision and mission.

Why not join Science Centre Singapore as its next CSR partner? This would provide your organization the opportunity to bring unprecedented visibility, awareness and appreciation of your business to the millions who call in to experience creativity, innovation and an inspiring and exciting science experience at the Science Centre.

About SCS

The Science Centre Singapore, a leading regional Science Centre, celebrates 35 years of promoting interest and creative learning in science and technology. It prides itself on making science an inspiring and exciting experience for people of all ages. Over the past 35 years, the Centre has been a custodian of creativity and innovation, capturing the evolution of scientific developments through unique and relevant exhibitions and shows and continues to ignite young minds and foster new generations of scientifically savvy Singaporeans. Its many interactive exhibits, housed in 14 galleries, cover a wide range of topics related to science, technology and mathematics. There is an additional 20,000m2 of outdoor exhibition space showcasing the Waterworks exhibition, Kinetic Garden and Ecogarden. It also offers a wide range of enrichment programs for students aimed at complementing the school's formal science education as well as enriching and fun events, competitions and outreach activities for everyone. The Science Centre, Omni-Theatre and Snow City have engaged and enriched more than 29.5 million students and visitors since 1977.

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