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Tri-Sector Forum 2015


The Tri-Sector Forum was held on 14 May 2015 as the first public showcase by the SMU Master of Tri-Sector Collaboration (MTSC), a trailblazing course created at the SMU School of Social Sciences. The Forum was opened by Prof James Tang, Dean of the SMU School of Social Sciences (SOSS). The highlight of the event was the panel discussion with participation of four out of six members of the MTSC’s Advisory Group, and moderated by Ann Florini, the Academic Director of the MTSC programme and Professor of Public Policy at the SOSS. This was then followed by a presentation of the first ever policy task force project by the pioneer cohort of students, which focused on the reduction of food waste in Singapore.

The MTSC originated out of the growing understanding that individual sectors, business, government, or civil society, were finding it increasingly difficult to achieve previously distinct objectives. Instead, they were turning to each other more and more, and partnering to harness one another’s strengths. The course focuses on partnership skills that enhance the abilities of individuals in one sector to collaborate with those in others. With additional stakeholders that were often cross-sector, cross-regional and cross-cultural, alternative governance constructs are gaining prominence. These include voluntary guidelines, standards and certifications, corporate governance, non-governmental watchdogs and many others, which now exist alongside traditional frameworks. 

The types of challenges that collaborative and cross-sector skills evolved to tackle are mainly wicked problems – complex, unstructured and non-linear problems. Such problems typically have multiple moving variables and are seldom solved by traditional linear thinking and processes. More often than not, they also cross industry, sector and geographical boundaries. As Peter Ho, Senior Advisor to the Centre for Strategic Futures stated at the Forum, these include problems like climate change, terrorism, corruption and evolving cyber threats.

By working in collaboration, organisations are now able to tap on the expertise of other sectors, and this happens at both organisational and individual levels. Piyush Gupta, CEO of the DBS Group, gave some background on the necessity of working with the other sectors, as he shared how DBS in fact placed great importance on its social license to operate. Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, the Chairman and CEO of the Ayala Corporation, also mentioned the roles of his company and that of his competitors in the self-organisation of a group of businesses that could react quickly and effectively to support the government of the Philippines in the event of natural disasters. He opined that the MTSC was creating the type of talents needed to make a difference in such partnerships, a thought echoed by Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director of the Centre for Liveable Cities, who shared his experience building up such partnerships a decade ago.

Following the panel discussion, the graduating MTSC class presented their capstone project, which aimed to reduce the amount of plate waste from Singapore food establishments. The production of food requires significant amounts of water and energy, and the waste of food at the end of its production journey represents an enormous waste of the resources that had gone into agriculture, farming, fertilizers, cleaning, transportation, refrigeration, cooking and preparation. The presentation analysed the drivers behind such waste and proposed business, policy and consumer-targeted recommendations to address them.  

As the inaugural public platform to kickstart the dialogue on cross-sectoral issues and to nurture the partnerships ecosystem growing in Asia and beyond, the Tri-Sector Forum has been an extraordinary success and showcase of prominent individuals who have shown support for tri-sector collaboration. The Tri-Sector Forum will continue and expand this conversation in 2016. 







Last updated on 15 Oct 2018 .