Established in 1959, the Ministry of National Development (MND) has shaped and impacted the lives of Singaporeans through building quality homes, creating a vibrant and sustainable living environment, and building rooted and cohesive communities.
Key to realising the MND’s vision is its people, who formulate and implement ideas and strategies that enhance the living environment and complement the nation’s sustainability efforts. We speak to Tan Guan Hong who shares more about the impactful work she does at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), which was set-up by MND in 2008 to distil, create and share knowledge on liveable and sustainable cities.
A Passion to Contribute
As the main builder of flats and infrastructure in Singapore, the integral role played by MND fascinated Guan Hong. As a sociology undergraduate, Guan Hong discovered her interest in how people affect the urban environment and vice versa. As such, she was drawn to a career at the MND where she could contribute to the holistic development of social and urban spaces.
“We often think of physical space as being indifferent to the people who inhabit it, but as the age-old saying goes, the streets are for the people, by the people,” she enthused. “I have a keen interest in how the city I live in is planned and I want to contribute to the conversations behind it.”
Tan Guan Hong
Centre for Liveable Cities
A Meaningful Impact
After graduating from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Social Sciences, Guan Hong joined the MND as part of the social research team at CLC. CLC’s work spans four main areas—Research, Capability Development, Knowledge Platforms, and Advisory.
Guan Hong’s main responsibility is researching on issues pertaining to the ageing population, housing and resilience. She is currently working on a research project about senior housing options and how to organise housing and care for the growing number of elderly in Singapore. Having worked with the elderly before, she is passionate about enhancing and making a positive difference to their quality of life.
“Ageing is a topic close to my heart,” she says. “With our rapidly ageing population, I am thankful to be undertaking research work that could augment future policies and initiatives which benefit the elderly.”
Another aspect of Guan Hong’s research work involves documentation. She finds the oral history interviews that she does with urban pioneers the most intriguing and enriching. Through listening to recollections on how policies were crafted in the past, she learnt more about planning physical and social spaces, and researching on challenges policymakers will face in the future.
Guan Hong is also involved in capability development programmes where she shares research with local and international city officials. She believes that doing research at the CLC is a worthwhile endeavour and at the same time, a valuable learning opportunity. “By distilling meaningful and relevant knowledge that could be useful both locally and internationally, CLC provides urban leaders and practitioners with the knowledge and support needed to make cities better,” she said.
In addition, through her work, Guan Hong is exposed to working with different stakeholders such as local and international city officials, companies and partners. For instance, she shares that she gained much exposure and deep insights while working with esteemed speakers for the World Cities Summit.
Outside of her key portfolio, Guan Hong enjoys participating in social activities that bring people together, organised by the MND. She has taken part in various social activities, such as the MND Expedition, which was a 513-metre hike up Gunung Lambak in Malaysia, the MND Charity Bazaar and dragon boating.
Tan Guan Hong
(First row, first from the left)
A Fulfilling Career
Having embarked on her role right after graduation, Guan Hong found it very challenging to adapt as research in the universities differed from research in the government. However, together with her teammates, she has since overcome this challenge, learning to strike a healthy balance between adhering to the principles and skills she has learnt, and applying them to work.
Having followed her own interests when she chose her career path, Guan Hong advises potential applicants to take time to discover the areas they would like to work in. She muses, “It isn’t just about making the right decision, but making whatever decision you come to, the right one.”
Summarising her fulfilling experience at the MND, Guan Hong expressed with pride, “I learn from our past, but even more excitingly, get to play a part in safeguarding what we have, while contributing to this journey of building a liveable and sustainable city.”