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Building social capital in Southeast Asia through impactful leadership

09 December 2010

FORUM PARTICIPANTS: TF-NUS LEaRN scholars with Guest-of-Honour, ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan (centre, in suit)

Our friendships and social connections define who we are and how we react to issues that affect our community. These connections form the social capital that allows us to draw strength from each other to overcome the challenges that face Southeast Asia today. Building on the NUS vision to be "a leading global university centred in Asia, influencing the future", a group of about 40 scholars from the Temasek Foundation - NUS Leadership Enrichment and Regional Networking (TF-NUS LEaRN) programme came together on 6 December 2010 to participate in the TF-NUS LEaRN Leadership Forum, themed "Building Social Capital in Southeast Asia through Impactful Leadership".

The TF-NUS LEaRN Leadership Forum is an annual event where the semester's LEaRN scholars meet with distinguished speakers to discuss topics related to leadership, particularly in Southeast Asia. This year, the scholars, who had come from NUS' partner universities in Southeast Asia, China, Hong Kong, India and South Korea, were joined by ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Guest-of-Honour, and other distinguished guests and NUS students.

Dr Pitsuwan spoke on how the formation of ASEAN promoted social capital through closer friendship and greater collaboration between the member nations. He also emphasised the importance of a wise and stable leadership in maintaining the links that Southeast Asia has with its larger neighbours such as China and India, as well as with the rest of the world. He encouraged the LEaRN scholars to treasure their friendships and their academic experiences, and challenged them to continuously work for a more united Asia.

Guest Speaker Dr Tan Lai Yong, a medical doctor and NUS almunus who spent the last 14 years serving the rural community of Yunnan, China, shared his interesting experiences of the role of the Chinese women and their personal connections with each other, and how they leveraged on their social capital to improve the state of medical care in rural Yunnan. The Forum also featured a panel with Ms Penny Low, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in Singapore and Co-Chair of the Social Enterprise Association; Assoc Prof Albert Teo, Director of the NUS Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy; and Assoc Prof Goh Beng Lan, Head of the NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies.

Now into its third year, the TF-NUS LEaRN programme continues to be a highlight in NUS' internationalisation efforts. "In addition to leadership development and networking, the programme is about how one's heart and passion can bring about positive change in the world, and about how your heart connects with those of whom you lead, serve and interact with", said Assoc Prof Anne Pakir, Director of the NUS International Relations Office, which manages the programme.

By the NUS International Relations Office