Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Wisdom of the Crowds

I felt compelled to write this post due to some articles that I've read in the local dailies regarding the state of affairs of the Malay Village in Singapore. Originally planned to be a showcase of Malay culture and perhaps be the last bastion of a Malay Kampung, with all its traditional elements, it has now become a symbol of shame rather than pride. And sadly, this state of affairs did not just unfold or become so overnight, but rather it slowly unfurls itself into its current manifestation due to perhaps, the naive believe that the entity can make it eventually, although the general feeling right now is that this is more of a wishful thinking than anything else.

(Picture taken from:

But what really makes me ponder and even frustrating is the fact that isn't there even a tiny inkling of collective wisdom that the community possesses, that ANYONE within the community can provide, to change the situation around? I mean after almost 20 years of existence and having a few rounds of management changes, aren't there any lessons that were learnt from these earlier failed ventures, that the later management are able to glean from, in order to make this project a more economically viable and sustainable one? I mean, seriously, it doesn't take someone from Harvard to understand that a business model that is only dependent on seasonal monetary pickings, in the local context, with its rather limited scope and economic catchment net, would NEVER EVER be able to be sustained!

Lest I am told to not only just criticize, but to offer even more, let me just give my 2 cent's worth on this. Some suggestions are perhaps in order here:

1) Firstly, its all a matter of ECONOMICS! If there is a sustainable business model, then it has to be of the form that can be sustained over the entire year, and NOT only during the months of Ramadan and other major social or religious calendar events. Can we then perhaps, have a model whereby there is indeed a more sustained and perhaps even better and a wider-ranging base of smaller economic entities, who are also more focused in their ability to offer that differentiating X-factor that would draw in the crowds, even on a quiet Monday morning! This could be made to be perhaps, contributing to about 80% or even more, of the entire operating expenses of the village itself. To push this model even further, why not make it self-funding even!

2) Can we pounce on the community's penchant for entertainment then to also draw in the crowds, and eventually the dole, to make the village more viable too? Moving in with the times, perhaps a more creative way of ensuring the relevance of the kind of entertainment that one should be promoting in the context of the village, whilst at the same time, also being mindful of the 'traditional' setting of the place itself. There are a lot of ideas that the management can draw from from the community since we ARE known to be a community of very talented people. It is just a matter of time, once the initial floodgates are opened, I think, before we could be able to offer the village itself as more than just a place for one to be enjoying the mere visual delights of being in a traditional village.

3) Looking at the whole village from a systemic point of view, can one then look at the village as more than just an entity of traditional village houses? Can we look at it from the standpoint of the users' experience, of the kind of visitors that we would want to attract, the way of making it sustainable many times over, of ensuring that the essence of the experience of being a Malay, or staying in such a village, is truly captured, in all its glory, even on that small plot of land! I do remember visiting Sarawak a few years ago for an educational trip and truly loved the Traditional Village that they have over there! I mean having a rich and a variety of cultures do help in this instance, but then again, is our community that lacking, is there really such a dearth in our culture, that we ARE NOT able to put forth and execute a sustainable and economically viable model for even a village of sorts that is a reflection of ourselves. Are we not rich culturally? I beg to differ on that one!

But then again, I can't help but to feel really sad and dissappointed at times. Seriously, are we really lacking the 'wisdom of the crowds' to turn the tide around?

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