Stories Of Impact
Life after winning the 2020 Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award: Natalie Koh’s pursuit of a career in musical excellence
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

Life after winning the 2020 Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award: Natalie Koh’s pursuit of a career in musical excellence

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a woman playing a violin

Winning the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020 was a pleasant surprise for talented violinist Natalie Koh, who was not usually recognised for her solo performances and had to prepare for the Award’s audition just after last year’s circuit breaker without any formal instruction.

“I am deeply honoured to have received the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020. Violin playing has always been something that I am very passionate about, although my growth and achievements have not always been a given,” says Natalie. 

“A lot of conscientious and diligent work was put into moulding myself into the musician that I am currently and that I am proud to be.”

Since then, the budding musician has kept herself busy and forged determinedly ahead in her musical career. These included performing in digital concert recordings, teaching the violin at Forte Musicademy as a private violin teacher, and engaging with the special needs community through various community art activities.

Apart from keeping a hectic schedule as a performer, Natalie also spends much time imparting her love of music to the next generation of budding musicians — serving as a Teaching Assistant in her Alma Mater, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, and as an Assistant Director for classical music concert recordings and productions by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, alongside other local organisations.

The promising young musician was also able to present her solo recital at the Awards, for which she was extremely excited and thankful for, as her graduation recital was put off last year due to the pandemic’s restrictions. “Overall, I would say that my recital was a success, and I hope that I fared well as a representative on behalf of the Award and the music community,” Natalie recalls with pride.

The Award’s prize money has enabled Natalie to realise her dreams of going overseas to attain a Master’s in Violin Performance, which will broaden her horizons as a performing violinist, music educator and community artist. She hopes to take the experience and knowledge gained from the two years abroad and expand her musical practice upon her return to Singapore.

Natalie recognises that living and studying in Chicago will prove to be expensive, but with the $10,000 award money, she will be able to defray some of her living costs. With the reduced financial burden, the young musician will be able to focus on learning to the fullest of her abilities in the States.

The Goh Soon Tioe Award has supported yet another promising young musician in paving her way to a brighter future towards a career in music, and adding another valuable gem to the flourishing music scene in Singapore.

“I am deeply thankful for the recognition and the support from the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award and the Community Foundation of Singapore. This Award has raised my profile as an emerging musician in Singapore, and I sincerely hope that I can be one to shape and grow the classical music scene in Singapore,” says Natalie.

Read and learn more about Natalie’s first steps into music and how she grew to become the talented musician that she is here.

If you would like to contribute towards the arts or support causes that you are passionate about, please visit our website at https://www.cf.org.sg/

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News

Our Annual Report 2021 is now available for download

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cover of CFS annual report

We are pleased to share that the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) Annual Report 2021 has been published. Download your copy here to learn more about the year’s highlights and our impact on the community. 

Even as the pandemic gripped our nation, we are humbled to report that – together with our donors, charities, and partners – CFS delivered a year of bold action and made tremendous progress on our mission to facilitate impactful giving.

CFS delivered a record of $24 million in grants – the highest since our inception – disbursed to 291 organisations and 13 individuals, and a total of $5.7 million via the establishment of 19 new funds for the financial year ended 31 March 2021.

The Annual Report contains the following information:

  • Corporate Information 
  • Key Highlights
  • Forward Vision
  • Governance and Policies
  • Financial Statements
  • Grantees List

Regarding the year under review, the report reflects the information contained in CFS’ annual results, as well as the audited consolidated financial statements. 

CFS stands ready to work alongside all of you to champion greater giving and create a better world for future generations. To find out more about CFS, get in touch with us.

About CFS

The Community Foundation of Singapore is a non-profit organisation founded in 2008 to encourage and enable philanthropy in Singapore. We match donors’ interests with causes and offer ways for them to make a greater impact through their charitable funds. We also collaborate with charity partners to identify and develop programmes that support diverse communities. 

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News

SR Nathan Education Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF) continues to transform lives in its 10th year

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Former President of Singapore, the late SR Nathan established the SR Nathan Education Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF) in 2011 to provide financial assistance to students, ensuring that they remain in school and are able to further their higher education.

Managed by CFS, the fund supports programmes such as the Monthly Financial Assistance Scheme (MFAS) by ITE, which gives allowance to underprivileged students for their transportation needs and meals, reducing their financial burden/challenges so that they can focus on their studies.

Now in its 10th anniversary, SR Nathan’s legacy continues in its transformation of students’ lives. Berita Harian highlights the stories of two students who have benefitted from the SRNEUF.

The first story recounts the experience of Arshad Supa’at, 33 years old, who had enrolled in the Higher Nitec course in Business Studies in ITE Central College after completing his National Service. Due to suffering from a road accident while working as a part-time food deliveryman, he had trouble with taking care of his expenses since his family was financially burdened. In the article, he quoted how the SRNEUF was very helpful in providing assistance to him, as it helped him to focus on his studies without worrying about his school expenses and daily life.

The second story shone a spotlight on Danish Said, 25 years old, whose family has often faced financial problems as both of his parents have chronic health problems which require medical attention. Danish quoted how the SRNEUF has provided him the opportunity to focus more on his studies, since he only needs to work part-time as a food deliveryman on the weekends to help cover his own daily expenses. He also explained how the monthly allowance given by the SRNEUF has helped him with his finances, making sure his parents do not have to bear his expenses.

To make an impact with your giving, read more about it here.

This translated extract was originally published by Berita Harian. Please click here for the original feature on the student beneficiaries, Danish and Arshad.

Credit: Berita Harian © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.  

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Events

CFS Change Matters Series: Mens, Manus and Machina – How AI Empowers People, Institutions & the City in Singapore

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Charitable Business professionals standing before a screen.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be a disruptive influence on society, for good as well as ill – and there is a duty to provide a sense of hope, upfront, that humans will be able to prevail.

That was the core message of the inaugural CFS Change Matters Series talk, “Mens, Manus and Machina – How AI Empowers People, Institutions & the City in Singapore”. It was delivered on 21 June 2023 by Professor Jinhua Zhao, Associate Professor of Transportation and City Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Mens”, “manus” and “machina” are Latin for “mind”, “hand”, and “machine” respectively, and the title plays on MIT’s motto, “mens et manus”. The title of the talk is also the name of a multi-disciplinary collaborative project between MIT and Singapore’s National Research Foundation. The collaboration is co-led by Prof Zhao, and aims to address the following questions:

  1. How will we design technology and train humans to build the skills and habits for human success in a robotics-heavy environment?
  2. How will we adapt our social and business institutions to create the incentives and protections for innovation and human welfare?

In his talk, Prof Zhao shared four key insights into AI.

1. AI will transform, rather than reduce, demand for workers

Enablement, not elimination, of workers

The aftermath of the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) saw the rise of the machine, leading to a major change in the way we worked. This did not, however, reduce overall demand for workers.

Citing economist James Bessen, 1 Prof Zhao noted that the number of ATMs in the USA grew rapidly from the 1970s, when the first ATMs were installed in banks. However, the role of the bank teller was not eliminated, but enabled. Bank tellers now focused on value-added services centered on human interactions, which could not be replaced by ATMs. As such, the number of bank tellers increased.

Employment grows along with automation

While automation has led to displacement and job loss, there has historically not been a fall in overall employment. Increased productivity from automation, as well as the growth of new human desires over time, have created entirely new jobs and industries.

This has led to an overall increase in employment; in fact, the 2018 US Census counted that more than 60% of jobs in 2018 had not yet been “invented” in 1940.

2. AI is not all the same

Expert versus Learning Systems

AI systems generally fall into two categories: expert systems and learning systems.

  • Expert systems rely on predefined rules and a knowledge base to mimic the expertise of specialists.
  • Learning systems, such as machine learning, mimic the way the brain learns and processes information.

Discriminative versus Generative Models

In addition, AI systems mainly adopt either a discriminative or a generative model in relation to their inputs.

  • Discriminative models classify or discriminate between different inputs, based on their features.
  • Generative models learn the patterns and relationships within the data input to generate new samples that resemble the original data.

The ubiquitous ChatGPT, for example, is a Large Language Model, an example of a generative model AI that can produce human-like chat responses.

3. The real impacts of AI on society

AI will replace white-collar jobs, not blue-collar jobs

While the Industrial Revolution replaced manual workers, AI’s superior analytic and generative skills enable it to replace white-collar jobs like office workers and scientists.

For example, a Google-developed AI known as AlphaFold was able to significantly outperform human scientists in the field of protein structure prediction – a feat normally requiring decades of expertise from humans.

As such, it is “highly skilled” white-collar jobs that may be at risk from AI – a concerning proposition for developed economies that depend heavily on these jobs.

The response of social institutions will determine the impacts of AI

The impact of AI does not occur in a vacuum. Tapping the beneficial impacts of AI on living standards depends on how successfully social institutions can take advantage of it. For example, society must continue to be responsible for providing financial safety nets for those displaced by AI, and for caring for seniors who may find it harder to adapt.

These institutions must also respond to not just the economic challenges, but the social challenges of AI. Citing the intellectual Yuval Noah Harari, Prof Zhao noted that generative AI, for example, could destroy the ability for people to have meaningful conversations – and undermine democracy in the process.2

4. Science, government, and individuals can respond to AI productively

Science can help us control AI

Science must solve the alignment problem3 in order to develop beneficial AI – which takes only actions that achieve human objectives and preferences. Otherwise, AI could unintentionally act in a way that is destructive and harmful to humanity.

Governments can educate humans to fill areas that AI cannot

While AI is powerful, it is not superior to humans in all areas. Humans are better than AI at:

  • Creativity: being able to apply knowledge from one area to another area
  • Dexterity: tasks involving manual dexterity
  • Social intelligence: conducting “social negotiations” with humans, such as knowing when it is safe to turn while driving
  • Long-term planning: being able to break long-term plans (e.g. a 5-year plan) into shorter increments

With that in mind, governments should focus education on creativity and communication, as well as critical thinking: the ability to judge, and to ask the right questions. This prepares students to become evaluators, directors and planners, instructing AI to act on their goals.

The role of teachers will also change as AI evolves and becomes deployable at scale as an individual, customized teaching assistant. AI will enhance students’ learning and help teachers understand students; teachers will be tasked with socially engaging, empathizing with, and supervising students, rather than merely delivering content.

Individuals can change their mindsets to be resilient in the face of AI

Finally, the impact of AI, and job displacement, on individuals will not purely be economic. It will be personal as well, given how central work is to our social and emotional lives, and to our sense of purpose.

Individuals can make the following mindset changes, in order to be resilient:

  • Adopting a lifelong learning mindset: this means developing new skills while working, rather than focusing on academic learning as preparation for work.
  • Adopting a flexible mindset: understanding that while change is the new normal, humans have always had the capacity to adapt. This is especially important for youths.

Final thoughts: how philanthropy can respond to AI

Philanthropists reading this may wonder: how do I respond to the challenges posed by AI? CFS is Singapore’s first community foundation, with 15 years of experience and a network of over 400 charity partners. We leverage our experience and grantmaking expertise to identify and evaluate key opportunities for individual and corporate donors to make greater impact.

We think the following giving approaches may be valuable to respond to AI:

  • Supporting seniors to age well in the community, so they remain cared for and are not left behind.
  • Enabling youths to access quality education, through schools and Institutions of Higher Learning, and prepare for the AI-empowered future.
  • Funding efforts to improve employability, so that individuals develop the skills they need to keep working.
  • Ensuring that mental wellbeing is supported, to help individuals build the resilience to cope with changes.
  • Tackling climate and environment issues, to mitigate and adapt to this additional source of negative disruption.

To find out more about CFS and our leading role in Singapore’s philanthropy ecosystem, please click here.

CFS would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our donors Oliver Kwan and Helen He from the Evergreen Changemaker Fund for their invaluable support and extending the invitation to Prof Zhao, which made this event possible.

References

1 Bessen, James. “Toil and Technology.” Finance & Development 52, no. 1 (March 2015): 16–19. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2015/03/pdf/bessen.pdf.

2 “Yuval Noah Harari Argues That AI Has Hacked the Operating System of Human Civilisation,” The Economist, April 28, 2023, https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2023/04/28/yuval-noah-harari-argues-that-ai-has-hacked-the-operating-system-of-human-civilisation.

3 The problem of aligning AI with humans’ objectives and values.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Events

CFS wins Charity Transparency Award for the second time

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It is important that we continue to work together to foster a safe giving environment for Singaporeans, so that we can support the causes we believe in. So that Singaporeans can step forward to support the causes that they believe in with a peace of mind.

For the second time, the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is greatly honoured to have won the Charity Transparency Award at the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards 2022. The accolade, given out by the Charity Council, recognises CFS’s exemplary disclosure and transparency practices. 

CFS was one of 85 charities that received the Charity Transparency Awards this year. This is the highest tally since the awards were launched in 2016 and is an encouraging sign that more charities are implementing better transparency practices. The record number also indicates that disclosure and accountability standards are strengthening in Singapore’s philanthropic sector. 

The ceremony was held on 9 November 2022 and Mr Edwin Tong, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law graced the occasion. Our Chairperson, Ms. Christine Ong, received the award from the Commissioner of Charities, Mr. Desmond Chin. Organised by the Charity Council, the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards lauds nonprofits for their stellar efforts in upholding governance and building public trust in the sector. 

At CFS, transparency is a critical element of the philanthropic equation. “Transparency builds trust and ultimately leads to better engagement and giving,” says Catherine Loh, CEO of CFS. “We believe in being open about our organisation, performance, priorities, and impact and communicating this clearly with all stakeholders. As a leading foundation and grantmaker, CFS is grateful to be a repeat winner of the Charity Transparency Award. We will continue to strive for the highest standards of transparency to honour the trust placed in us by our donors and to continuously improve to better serve our charity partners, funders, and the wider public,” she adds. 

Since our inception in 2012, good corporate governance has been a central pillar of our operations and management. CFS is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of experienced and dedicated professionals from the private, public, and social services sectors. The Board ensures that CFS’s work is effective and responsible, monitors outcomes, and is accountable to donors and regulators. 

As an organisation that bridges donors and charities, CFS is committed to uplifting standards and sharing knowledge within the philanthropic ecosystem in Singapore. We regularly make available information about our activities, programmes, operations, audited financials, Board, and management through our annual reports, website, and social media pages. 

CFS is thankful to our Board of Directors for their expert guidance and leadership, which has helped transform us into a leading philanthropic intermediary in Singapore. We would also like to thank our many partners, our growing community of donors, and our supporters for their continued trust in our work to make giving more accessible and impactful.

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