Elaine Goh has always felt an innate need to do good for others. So, the regional operations manager for Southeast Asia at BT – a global provider of communications services and solutions - started looking out for ways to give to the community after she joined the workforce.

One of the first projects she took on was in 2018, when she initiated and planned activities for victims of war displacement and inhumanity in Cambodia. For this, Goh worked with the Tabitha Foundation, a non-profit that aims to help individuals to rebuild their lives by working hard and committing to a savings plan.

A desire to do more saw Goh and her team fundraising and helping to build homes for the victims, a year later. “The events were very well-received, so I was motivated to do more in the [next few] years,” she tells The Edge Singapore.

With the pandemic and resultant movement restrictions in place, Goh started scouting for opportunities to meet community needs in Singapore. This time around, she was keen to work with an organisation that championed “rounded support” for children and youths. What ensued was a collaboration between BT and Children’s Wishing Well (CWW), a non-profit which provides a range of services to children from marginalised backgrounds.

The company went on to participate in CWW’s FRESH programme – an initiative aimed at educating beneficiaries on nutrition, budgeting and decision-making skills. As part of this, BT’s team accompanied some 70 children to the supermarket as they selected items within a certain budget.


A BT team member discussing proper nutrition habits and budgeting with a child as part of the FRESH programme (image credit: BT)

Thinking purposefully

One of the challenges Goh faces when giving to the community is that it is time-consuming to curate programmes and activities so they are interesting enough to incentivise people to participate and support them. Another obstacle is: finding unique partners and forging trusted partnerships. “[It] is not always easy, and planning ad hoc and one off events that can keep co-workers engaged can be quite challenging and thus not sustainable in the long run”.

These challenges pushed Goh to look for courses and social groups, in hopes of finding guidance and a network to do good in – what she hoped to be – a more impactful and sustainable manner. Her search eventually led her to the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC) Company of Good  Fellowship.  Here, Goh learnt to “think purposefully” when planning outreach programmes. 

“Very often, we do, give or donate what we think beneficiaries need and want, instead of interviewing them to find out what they really need. We [also] forget to measure the impact, identify weak spots and reassess to improve the programme to maximise the effectiveness of programmes,” mulls Goh. She quickly learnt the concept of the ‘power of 1’ whereby the impact from one individual’s acts of good is magnified when like-minded people with similar goals come together to share ideas and eventually collaborate on programmes with a larger impact for the community.

Goh is putting her takeaways from the Fellowship into practice in her action project. Called the Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) programme, the project looks to raise cybersecurity awareness, teach foundation technical skills and introduce role models and career paths to all students between the ages of 10 and 16 years old.  

“There is late introduction of cyber security education in Singapore’s schools,” says Goh, adding that this translates to fewer graduates in this discipline, and a resultant shortage of such experts in the workforce. At present, most schools focus on coding and the main tenets of computing and cyber wellness.

With data from the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) showing that nearly four in 10 or 37% of people here were victims of at least one cybersecurity incident last year, there is clearly a need for more knowledge on how to identify potential threats from a cyber-attack.

Under Goh’s project, concepts on cybersecurity will be taught through teacher-led, self-directed modes as well as fun and interactive challenges. Students will also have access to videos of industry experts - such as ethical hackers and forensic investigators – who will explain concepts of cyber security while touching on the importance of their roles.

See: Capitalising on sustainability helps build business resiliency

BT first launched the challenges in February 2019 in Australia. The programme “exceeded its two-year enrolment target” and was subsequently introduced in Singapore in 2020. So far, the programme offers five challenges in the areas of: information privacy and security, web application security, data encryption and transmission, and wired and wireless network security.

When asked why she is focusing on developing youth’s capabilities in tech, Goh says it is because students are increasingly seen using mobile applications, devices and even payment platforms at an earlier age. “It is therefore even more crucial to introduce cyber security education and eventually see it as fundamental as math and science,” stresses Goh. On an organisational level, she notes that BT hopes to “shape the future generation of digitally savvy young people” so they explore careers in cybersecurity or eventually apply for BT’s Graduate programme.

Solving real-world problems

Another Company of Good Fellow looking to harness youths’ capabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is Nicole Pauh. A social investment advisor at Shell Companies in Singapore, Pauh is working on Shell NXplorers, the company’s global flagship programme that looks to equip students between the ages of 14 and 19 with tools and skills to think about and solve real-world problems.

“We feel [the Shell NXplorers] programme could help develop local youths in finding new ways of looking at global complexities and approaching complex challenges of the world,” says Pauh. The programme has had close to 100 participants each year, since its launch in Singapore in 2019. Participants are mentored by STEM professionals from Shell and other companies and are engaged in conversations around how STEM has talent diversity and supports environmental sustainability. They are also exposed to tools enabling them to create solutions for problems they hope to solve. Students may also secure seed funding to bring their ideas to life through workable prototypes from 2022, says Pauh. Examples of student-led solutions include: devices that use waste heat and solar energy to harvest clean water as well as biofuels created from medial plastic waste that can power vehicles and homes.

Shell NXplorers is a product of the company’s belief that “ the answers to tomorrow’s energy challenges lie in the youth’s ingenuity,” says Pauh. As such, the company – which has thousands of scientists and engineers developing innovative technologies to meet the global demand for more and cleaner energy – is looking to equip the future generations with skills needed to tackle pressing energy challenges. 

Aside from tackling future problems, an article by World Economic Forum entitled  ‘7 ways for businesses to capture the youth dividend’ notes that companies can directly benefit from programmes that reach out to the next generation. What this means is that companies – like the Shell Companies in Singapore and BT – can have a stronger brand image, strengthen the school-to-work transition and have access to innovative ideas or perspectives that youths have, just by reaching out to them.

Agreeing, Pauh notes doing good is good for the community and company in that it supports aspects such as attracting talent, building strong relationships and partnerships with communities, and increasing employee engagement and morale.

Even so, she is cognizant that doing “real good that can last is not easy”. “It takes a lot of time, work and thought behind it,” she mulls, adding that she hopes to circumvent this with the tools and frameworks she picked up during the Company of Good Fellowship. She notes that the tools have tested her assumptions, pushed her to have active conversations with her stakeholders, thereby helping her to work towards her programme outcomes.

Aside from these, Pauh is happy to have built connections with like-minded individuals who are also looking to do good. “We’re all able to connect with one another and through the conversations and joint projects I have witnessed how it can generate immense amounts of positive energy, possibilities and impact,” she says. Her hope is to collaborate with more like-minded partners so that the impact from Shell NXplorers becomes multi-fold.

As of this year, there have been 150 Company of Good Fellows across four intakes. These individuals hail from 122 companies, and are from different industries. “The Fellowship is designed to be a deeply transformative experience for the individuals at the personal and professional level,” say Druga Rajendran and Zafirah Mohamed of management consulting firm Sequoia. The duo, who are trainers for the Fellowship, added that Fellows are equipped with “skills to engage their leaders and stakeholders, and help them to translate and apply their learning to give in more strategic and sustainable ways”.

This resonates with Goh and Pauh who believe that companies – both big and small – form a significant part of any society. However, the two Fellows are quick to say that the path to being a changemaker is often filled with roadblocks. They take solace in knowing that the journey allows for a stronger community and hopefully a next generation of youth who are better equipped with skills in cybersecurity and STEM that are needed to address the problems of tomorrow.

Company of Good Fellows - THE EDGE SINGAPORE
Goh (left) and Pauh are among the 150 Company of Good Fellows (image credit: NVPC)

The Company of Good Fellowship is a talent development programme that grooms high-potential professionals to catalyse change for business and society. Applications are now open, apply today at  www.companyofgood.sg/fellowship

Cover image: Shell NXplorers 2019 winning team from Broadrick Secondary School presenting their project to judges (image credit: Shell)