Informal community initiatives are a unique entity, separate from more formal types of organisations and institutions.
Beyond providing a functional service or being a catalyst for stronger, more resilient communities, community initiatives also can be an important tool for surfacing new or divergent urban challenges, and prototyping and testing new approaches towards service delivery in the city. This role emphasizes the importance of supporting initiatives to push the envelope on innovation – defined in this research as an initiative’s use of “uncommon or unorthodox approaches or tools to achieve its mission.” However, a review of 29 community initiatives in Singapore found that this is the currently second lowest scoring category of 14 organizational dimensions, indicating that this is an area that could be further strengthened.
One way that informal initiatives are likely to innovate is through the nature of their work. 63% of unregistered community initiatives say they “do something no other initiative / project / group does in Singapore,” compared to 41% of registered community initiatives.
Next to innovative approaches, the evaluated initiatives score lowest on government partnership. This leads to a second point:
There is a need to more deliberately consider how to engage institutions in “double loop learning,” leveraging and integrating the knowledge and service delivery models from community initiatives. Double loop learning refers to how organisations learn and adapt (Argyris, 1977). Whereas single loop learning is about learning existing policies and processes, double loop learning focuses on knowing, understanding, and even questioning, the assumptions that underpin existing policies and processes (Groot and Maarleveld, 1999 in King and Cruickshank, 2012). Oftentimes, the process by which this occurs is through feedback loops and other “interactive processes involving multiple stakeholders.” (Collins and Ison, 2006). Collins and Ison (ibid) further clarify the value of these processes, critiquing the traditional policy paradigm for often being “undertaken in isolation from their social context and with limited awareness of the (systemic) nature of the situation in which the issue arises.” The productive, grounded approach of community initiatives thus make them highly valuable stakeholders to contribute to double loop learning.