contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us. 



123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Syinc Blog

Here we muse about creativity & innovation, and document (some of) the work we're doing about it in Singapore.

Filtering by Tag: Design Thinking

Can you hack urban poverty?

Bernise Ang

Auntie Alana*, a Bukit Ho Swee resident we spoke with

Auntie Alana*, a Bukit Ho Swee resident we spoke with

For the last 5 months or so, we've been working on a small project in a tiny part of Singapore. Small in scope - or so we thought. What started out as an idea to "come up with some ideas" for low-income families has grown into a project that's part anthropology, part data, part design.

The Syinc team synthesising findings for the community brief

The Syinc team synthesising findings for the community brief

Under The Hood is a civic experiment to crowdsource hyperlocal solutions for urban transformation. We seek to better understand urban poverty and struggling neighbourhoods in Singapore - and co-design solutions with the wider community. And in this case, we're focusing on one particular neighbourhood - Bukit Ho Swee.

From the design process

From the design process

The project brings together motivated geeks + designers + citizens (and more!) to tackle the critical issues underlying urban poverty. Starts with ethnographic research and data analysis, then online brainstorming, which leads to a 2-day hackathon in the heart of Bukit Ho Swee. 

Hackathon weekend is Nov 22-24, and selected teams will present at Social Innovation Camp Asia Nov 29 - Dec 1.

Also, this is our first partnership with the UNDP and partners in tech, higher education, social services, government sectors, and more. We're excited!


Sign upRead upPin upStep upShow up.


Awesome graphic design by Monique Ang

Awesome graphic design by Monique Ang


Hackathons are great, and we love them - and been mentors at UP Singapore and Lean Startup Machine ever since they first started in Singapore. We love them because of the creativity they harness from the community, and the great sense of collaboration they generate. We would love for there to be more context, more analysis, and better problem definition. 

On the other hand, professionally we practice a kind of consulting that uses empathy to get emotional/behavioural insights which we innovate around (for products, services, sometimes social policy). It's good for getting deep insights about users, and to actually define clearly the problem/s people will be trying to solve. But this closed process doesn't benefit from everyone's crazy ideas bouncing off each other.

And so it hit us: why don't we apply what we do - like the investigative bits and problem identification - and integrate it with the creative, open bits about hackathons? Enter Under The Hood.

On the backend of this is an attempt to develop a process/method/approach to make ideating and innovation informed by behavioural insight, data-driven, and hyperlocal to any particular city's context. We invite you to explore with us how such a process could be understood, and then adapted, for other communities in Asia (or beyond). Talk to us.

*name changed to protect identity.

Jamming with IDEO, again

Bernise Ang

Hi y'all!

Thanks to everyone who came along to our creative jamming night this week - we had a truly terrific session, fuelled by your unbridled quirky creative idealism.
This was our second Syinc IDEO collaboration this year, but in a totally different style from the first, and it blew us all away. For those not in the know, we had a night of creative concepting, coming up with weird, wacky and wonderful ideas. Everything sprouted from a single OpenIDEO challenge
How might we inspire and enable communities to take more initiative in making their local environments better?
So what happened on the night? (Not everything was an app!) Here's a snapshot of the concepts - and there were many more: 
THE TIME MACHINE: Mobile App that crowdsources the history of spaces in Singapore (like Foursquare check-ins, but for events in our past). Also by getting folks to submit old photos, a virtual world alá PhotoSynth could be generated – now imagine scrubbing across the screen to jump backwards and forwards in time.
PARTY TRAIN: Late night MRT trains wired up to party – with speakers, a DJ, and moodlights – it's not to difficult to imagine that revellers can continue their partying all the way home, secretly getting them home without drunk driving. It's like the best anti drink driving solution ever. Maybe?

(also, this was voted crowd favourite!) 

COMPLAINTEREST: What if complaints were creative opportunities? Well… they are! This team decided that by aggregating complaints, they'd be able to craft community calls-to-action: getting community innovators/entrepreneurs to take on the challenges. After all, one man's complaint is another man's business case right?

(COMMUNITY) LIBRARY OF EVERYTHING: So how do you solve the "I'd like to use something, but only need it infrequently" problem? Well, that's what we've used libraries for (books). Why don't we extend that metaphor over to -hardware tools, cooking implements, instruments, "stuff", or even services?- everything else? Imagine walking past to what appears to be a wonderfully curated garage sale – but year-round, and with no money ever changing hands. It's like a community Library of Everything.

Now go make it real, or someone else will. ;) Start here.


L-R: Khairu, Haresh & gang. Quintessential Dave. In the thick of it. More great pics here. Credit: Shawn Danker

But seriously. We'd really like to see some of these ideas (and the others, and others) happen. With a little bit of TLC, we can cause a little creative joy & spontaneity. If you've gotten just as stoked as we have - and have already posted a bunch load of things on the OpenIDEO challenge page - get in touch. We may have fun(d) things for you.

Getting in the shoes


29 Dec 2011

... of our users, that is.

We continued on our journey to find ways to improve the quality of life of migrant workers in Singapore. A quick recap from previous episodes: we did interviews. And created a "User Journey Map".

How we did it: Extracting insights from the interviews. Putting both observations and the insights into a chart that visually shows the user's experience chronologically (and then refining it some more). 

This served as a great foundation of inspiration (the first, and often the most important, phase of design thinking), and preps us for the next stage - ideation. Typically in conventional innovation, this is the point where you do brainstorming/solutioning (if not much earlier). But, we figured - why design for them, when you can design with them? 

And that’s how we ended up sitting in front of our whiteboard with a group of Foreign Domestic Workers, employers of FDWs, people familiar with the Ministry of Manpower and some more people from HOME (Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics). All armed with yellow, orange, blue and pink post-its of course. And a carpet. We love the carpet.

As you can see below, we ended up with … something that looks like the upcoming MRT Downtown Line.

What was amazingly useful about it: enabling us to identify points of tension from various perspectives to create opportunity areas for further exploration. 

What were some (other) things we learnt? 

The process of design thinking is meant to be iterative, not linear. Through our conversation, we found certain knowledge gaps and interesting areas of exploration not identified during our interviews, and we never hesitated to pause the ideation session and turn it into an insight-gathering one. 

Facilitation is useful, but good facilitation is invaluable. We didn't just listen to what people said, but also what they didn't say, and what their body language showed. This got us asking relevant questions to gain even deeper insights to certain points of tension. 

Also, designing with our users doesn't mean they know what design thinking is about. But users don't have to be design thinkers - the steps of DT are intuitive enough to understand without the jargon. Instead, we focused on using good facilitation (which reinforces the above point) to bring the process through with clear communication and action. 

More to come. Watch this space.

Previous post here


drawing inputs from our different stakeholder perspectives

constructing our user journey map - collaboratively. 


PS. Our next Think&Drink features none other than Singapore's Toilet Man, Jack Sim! 

... of our users, that is.

A quick recap from previous episodes: we did interviews.

So we were thinking – why design for our users when we can design with them?

That’s how we – and we mean SYINC – ended up sitting in front of our whiteboard with a group of Foreign Domestic Workers, employers of FDWs, people familiar with the Ministry of Manpower and some more people from HOME (Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics).

All armed with yellow, orange, blue and pink post-its of course. And a carpet. We love the carpet.

As you can see below, we ended up with … something that looks like the upcoming Downtown Line.

But Design Thinking is not meant to be linear, it is meant to be branchy, complex and maybe with a few thorns. Like a Christmas tree. So thus all the feeder bus services branching out from the main line from the main line.

Not that the users all knew what Design Thinking was about of course but you do not need to know what Design Thinking is to give ideas. Certainly not all of them -  given the different groups they were from - were of the same viewpoint. All the better – more clutter and post its on our wall!

We wanted to slap ourselves for not thinking of this earlier. Because here in SYINC, we realized that many cooks make rich broth. So Happy 2012 everyone! And we hope that those Christmas Trees of ideas are growing too.

Design Thinking great -- Design Doing even better

Bernise Ang

6 Dec 2011

On the consulting front, we're currently working on a project for migrant workers in Singapore. Our client is a nonprofit that works to advance the welfare of migrant workers here. Our challenge: to uncover a business opportunity for a product (or service) that improves the quality of life for migrant workers.

We haven't synthesised everything yet, as it's still early in the project, but here's a fun snippet we captured: creating the user journey map. Really good for putting us in the shoes of our user/beneficiary.

(you'll have to forgive the bad handwriting - too much technology, we don't write-write enough!)

We know this is a brief one - we'll be sharing more shortly!

PS. did you know the next think&drink is happening this Wed? ;)


Bernise Ang

Iteration is powerful.

The simple act of doing, learning, and baking learnings into a new product/service works wonders. Especially when you keep doing it, and people keep thinking it's getting better!

That's why we ran yet another DT 101 session last Friday, and it was for SMU's Lien Centre for Social Innovation as part of their Social Conversations series. It was our second collaboration with LCSI (the first was as part of something called iLeap, details here).

Things were a little different to most of our workshops: not only was this the largest group we facilitated (45!), but the majority of our audience were senior non-profit folks – who we assumed prefer comprehensively detailed theory presentations, be mildly cynical of an "innovation method", and distrust trainers who look young enough to be their kids. Boy did we bust that assumption!

The workshop turned out to be extremely interactive and "experiential"; people seemed to like that we kept "lecturing" to a minimum. But we knew that senior executives wouldn't be satisfied without at least some theory, so whilst we kept them pretty busy with talking and prototyping, we added a bunch of slides during our debrief. We felt that theory sinks in better (and deeper) if participants have the emotional experience of having gone through the exercise. 

In principle, that was right.

Reflecting: How might we improve?

  • We forgot to account for the awkwardness of presenting slides to people who had just huddled around a table for debrief – most of whom were still standing!  (Read: Being more directive as to little moments in between, and during, segments so they can focus fully on the experience itself.)
  • Rather than just uploading DT theory/process to participants, we're gonna work harder to tease it out of the participants through their own insights and observations. (Read: Show, not tell.) (And yes, we're gonna have to beef our facilitation skills big-time - an exciting challenge.

Enough talk. Pictures!

Nothing quite personifies "show, don't tell" like role-playing does

We did encourage participants to be visual in sharing their ideas ;)

In the thick of it: Sasa Vucinic, founder of MDLF and TED speaker, who came along

Prototype galoreShow & Tell: Usha Menon of Management Centre Asia (or =mc Asia) showing how her prototype works

(full set on FB here)

Hello 2011

Bernise Ang

As we shared in the previous post, we did a lot of experimenting and horsing tinkering around - with ideas, methods, even ourselves. We learnt a lot from this experience - and it was precisely what we needed to learn to know how we should focus our energies in brand spanking new 2011.

So here's a sneak peak: 

  • Spark Plug: Our alternative education programme to help youngsters be able to creatively problem-solve - in this case, for human/social problems that they care about. We're gonna be doing some alpha and beta testing - as we go about our iteration and product development to get that elusive (but so within reach!) proof-of-concept for our model. The experience we gain from the (above-mentioned) consulting projects will be key in shaping this.
  • Design Thinking consulting: We're building up our DT chops by embarking on consultancy projects with a select few mission-driven organisations (that we think are interesting). The learning we gain from this work will directly shape our Spark Plug curriculum (yes, we're all about the real-world experience).
  • Think & Drink: What would we do without our beer-induced spirited conversations! You can look forward to even more informal, interesting, and spontaneous collision of people and ideas from different worlds.

Of course, we'll still be fielding our various speaking engagements, judging panel requests, and interviews (media or otherwise). In addition, expect to hear more on special projects dear to our heart, like RYSEC, Kids Design for Change, and others (you'll hear about it - we'll be makin' some noise right over here!).

Syinconnect '10: Design for Social Innovation

Bernise Ang

It's finally here! Syinconnect, the conference for young people who wanna create social change, is back.

Coming to a creative space near you this October:

Spark Plug for SP Go M.A.D

Bernise Ang

We got a pretty interesting gig with Singapore Polytechnic (SP) this July - and got to do a beta-version run of our Spark Plug curriculum!

The story: SP is starting an institution-wide campaign called Go M.A.D (or Go Make A Difference) to engage their students in initiating projects to "make a difference in the lives of others on campus and beyond". In the lead-up to the launch of Go M.A.D, they engaged us to prep their students with some skills and handy tools so that they might be better-equipped to turn their ideas into reality.

Go M.A.D website here.

We reckon it's pretty darn awesome that a local Poly is being so pro-active in engaging their students for the common good.

Check out our snaps from the day. 

PS. If any of this looks like it could be something interesting for your organisation/school, let us know!

Our aims, which guided us throughout the day

Biodiversity - Why (x5)? from Syinc on Vimeo.


L-R: Presenting prototype on removing disposables; Asking "How might we..?" to create opportunity areas; Another prototype on fairer transport

Design Thinking for Nonprofits

Bernise Ang

We're running our first Design Thinking training for nonprofit senior management peeps in Singapore! It's happening April 23. 

This is part of the iLeap programme offered by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation @SMU. It's a course that supports the professional development of nonprofit executive, and our segment is part of the final module in the 14-week programme.

More info on the Lien Centre and iLeap (PDF). design thinking + social innovation workshop

Bernise Ang

Have you ever wondered what an individual can do to tackle some of the largest and most pressing social issues of our time? design thinking + social innovation workshop is a workshop (duh!) on Mar 13th that puts you through a design thinking problem-solving framework, giving you the means to create innovative solutions to social problems.

The workshop will take you through the whole design process on a social issue (specifically, Animal Welfare) — and conclude with a pitching session to the NGO, who will provide feedback, and if you really impress them, might even provide institutional support to bring your idea to life!

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a multidisciplinary problem-solving approach founded on problem definition, empathetic understanding, ideating, prototyping, selecting, implementing and learning.

It asks the fundamental questions to the problem, to devise solutions that aren’t just related to a symptom of the problem (e.g. high drop out rates), but which target the root cause (e.g. teacher burnout). As Henry Ford once said, before the car was invented, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.” 


Event Details

Date: Saturday, 13 Mar 2010

Time: 9am - 6pm

Venue: Singapore Civil Service College's secret motive is to prepare a batch of potential faciliators for Syinconnect - a bigger (~120 people!), better full fledged design+social innovation conference in early July this year!

By applying for, you're not signing up to be a facilitator per se, but preference will be given to people who indicate an intention to in the signup form.

Sounds exciting? Then sign up!
*Please note that participation is FREE, but selective!

Other ways to get involved:
- Interested in joining the Syinconnect organising team? Email
- Want to attend the conference and/or receive updates? 
Join our conference mailing list