This document has been made available in electronic format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) 

SNCF Pointing the Right Way; Walking the Right Path to the Next Millennium (1998)

Oct., 1998
(Source: Co-op Dialogue, Vol. 8, No. 2, July-Sept, 1998, pp.28-31)

by K.T. Samuel, Chief Executive, SNCF

We are about to enter into the next millennium. We can choose to embrace the unknown or be cowered by it. For the past 17 years, the SNCF’s action, programmes and aspiration clearly demonstrate our belief that change is constant and we must change in order to survive and to excel. Therefore, as we come face to face with the challenges of the 21st century, we instinctively step our efforts to embrace the promising future.

As the apex body of the entrenched Co-operative Movement in Singapore, SNCF’s greatest challenge is to play a leading role in ensuring that its 64 affiliated co-operatives stay relevant to the changing lifestyle and needs. This is no easy task. It requires dogged determination, high powered energy, good foresight and basically, large doses of enthusiasm. These are the ingredients we need to make our multi-pronged programme, POINTS, a huge success. POINTS stands for:

P- Public awareness and participation
O- Organising of activities
I- International representation
N- New co-operatives
T- Training and Technological advancement
S- Social services

Public Awareness and Participation
As membership is strength and knowledge is power, propagating the Co-operative values to our members and the public is vital to the growth of the Co-operative Movement in Singapore.

We have in fact begun to spearhead a full-fledged exercise to inform and educate our members and the general public about co-operative principles and values and their application in a modern society. Currently underway is the production of video clippings and publication of booklets featuring the various aspects of Co-operative Movement in Singapore. Our target is to reach out to every member of the public, increasing their awareness that co-operatives are set up to be of service to them.

We have also revamped the production and circulation of our quarterly newsletter, the `SNCF Co-operator’. This publication highlights up-to-date co-operative news and the various activities undertaken in the Co-operative Movement. Besides circulating among affiliates of SNCF, the newsletter is also distributed to Members of Parliament, ministries, government agencies, community centres and other commercial organisations. The Co-operative Movement will benefit immensely from the unique contributions from women.  Therefore, reaching out to women co-operators and enhancing their participation in co-operative activities is in our priority list.

A Women’s Committee was formed to specially address the gender issues.

Organising of social activities
Why is this important? In SNCF, we believe that social activities go a long way in forging cohesion among our affiliates and their members.

That is why last November, SNCF organised its very first Family Day at the Tang Dynasty City, an event that attracted an impressive turnout of about 10,000 members and their families. We hope to make this Family Day an annual event to build up solidarity and co-operative comradeship within the Movement.

We also initiated a discussion with NTUC Club officials to find some form of synergies in making available NTUC Club facilities and privileges to non-union co-operative members. This arrangement, if realised, will bring about cohesiveness, efficiency and cost-effectiveness and members.

We are also exploring some form of partnership with an establishment to offer privileged card membership to members. This arrangement, if realised, will bring about cohesiveness, efficiency and cost-effectiveness among affiliates and members.

We are also exploring some form of partnership with an establishment to offer privileged card membership to members of our affiliates to enable them to enjoy discount on purchases at retail establishments and restaurants.

International representation
The Co-operative Movement in Singapore is highly regarded in the international arena. We have a lot to share with our international friends on what makes us tick. At the same time, we have so much to learn from our fellow co-operators.

For this reason, SNCF has always shown support through our participation in activities and programmes organised by ICA and its Regional Office. Last year, we participated in the Pre-Ministerial Conference in Myanmar, the 4th Ministerial Conference in Chiangmai, the ICA General Assembly in Geneva and we also sent a four-member delegation for the Co-operative Identity Workshop in Jaipur, India. Early this year, we participated in the ICA Think Tank Consortium in the Philippines, where our representative presented a paper on the `Impact of financial crisis on co-operatives in Singapore’.

We will continue to play our part in contributing to the growth of the international co-operative movement. In this ever-increasing competitive world,  we as co-operators will have to join forces so that we will have to join forces so that we will always be a force to be reckoned with.

New Co-operatives
SNCF is constantly on a lookout to form new co-operatives to meet the expectations and aspirations of the different strata of society. This is all part and parcel of staying relevant.

We are actively pursuing the formation of a one-stop funeral services co-operative to cater t the needs of bereaved families. Our aim is to provide professional services and value for money so as to eradicate profiteering, unethical practices, touting, etc. Many existing funeral service providers have indicated their support.

Other possibilities which we are considering include new co-operatives for the youth, retirees and the aging population. In recent years, newly formed co-operatives are involved in the development of private housing, operation of food courts, car sharing services and a radio and publishing business.

Training and Technological Advancement
Let’s face it. To remain efficient in today’s competitive business environment, we, especially the largest co-operatives, have to be mindful that the use of technologies are important in the delivery of efficient services to their members. We have to keep up with the times and constantly find ways to use technology to serve us better and faster.

Highly trained human resource is the backbone of any successful organisation. SNCF will embark on a programme, possibly tying up with an accredited institution of higher learning to educate co-operative employees, elected leaders and members on co-operative principles, value and practices. Our aim is to produce a new cohort of highly trained and qualified co-operators annually.

Early this year, we also established an educational advisory committee to design programmes in co-operative management to leaders, employees and members of co-operatives so as to impart co-operative philosophy, values and practices to them. Dr. Peter Davis of Leicester University was invited to address the training and personnel managers of some of our larger co-operatives on the development of co-operative managers by distance learning. ICA Regional Director Mr. Robby Tulus also spoke on the ICA perspective of leadership and performance-based training.

Social Service
Greater involvement in community works would greatly enhance the image of co-operative as not just economic entity but also a social entity.

We are indeed pleased that our affiliate, the Singapore Amalgamated Services Co-operative Organisation (SASCO) currently runs a senior citizens’ home at the void deck of an HDB estate for 20 residents. In view of the expansion, it was recently allotted a piece of land by the Ministry of Community Development to develop a sheltered home based on the retirement village concept to provide accommodation, food, laundry and other services to its senior residents. This home is expected to accommodate 190 residents and the project will be jointly undertaken by SNCF, SASCO) and NTUC Income.

We have also set up a community services committee to promote the image of co-operatives as organisations that not only satisfy the economic needs but also social needs of the community at large. The committee will be inaugurated on our 17th Anniversary Dinner and Dance on 4 July, 1998. Thus the slogan, `More Heart; More Soul at 17’.

As the apex body of the Co-operative Movement in Singapore, SNCF aims to be the compass in which our 64 affiliates will rely on; the compass that POINTS out the right way to treat on to achieve their goals and to fulfill their Co-operative Identity.