Awareness Before Change Programmes
IRDA has early on and continued to conduct awareness and educational programmes with the communities highlighting the importance of participating in the economic and social agenda. Over the years, the programmes have increased the communities awareness and understanding of the positive externalities from the growth which related directly with the new economic activities in the region. Without a doubt, the programmes have helped in mitigating the risk of communities being left out from the opportunities.
Village Enhancement and Empowerment Programme
Unlocking the economic potential through rallying the participation from the local communities is one of the key agenda in Iskandar Malaysia social development framework. The gap in spatial development between cities and villages should not be seen as a major hindrance for the region in achieving its development goals. IRDA has invested in various projects which includes improvements in infrastructure as well as built environment of the villages to enable and to a certain extent enhance the business activities in these areas. IRDA introduced Village Enhancement and Empowerment Programme (VEEP) to sustain the dynamism of the villages and the communities with regards to growth in development nodes in Iskandar Malaysia. VEEP covers 23 villages and its project proponents comprise Kawan Iskandar Malaysia (KIM) and Iskandar Malaysia Pusat Orang Desa (IMPOD). KIM focuses on empowering the village communities through operationalising of social enterprises, and IMPOD supports in empowering youths in rural areas.
The establishment of Iskandar Malaysia Urban Farming (IMURFARM) project is to enable the bottom 40% percentile of the income group to participate in small to medium scale food, mainly vegetable production for their consumption and sale. In the long run, the project will contribute to the reduction of food expenses component from aggregate cost of living (food is one of the three largest compositions of cost of living). Indirectly, the project optimises the use of designated open spaces in the urban area. This has improved the local community sense of belonging and cohesion. Over the years, the project has evolved in diversification in crop production as well as techniques. The communities who work on the farm have experienced sales growth up to 60% on average when compared to previous years.
The core component of IM Makmur lies in the skilling and up-skilling process through training for members of the society who constrained in their ability to make a livelihood such as the physically challenged, single mothers and the low-income earners. Certain targets have been set for the programme to ensure the participants receive a positive impact such as improvement in income generation. The project has reported on average the participant’s income level has increased by about 40%. The income level of the participants before participating in the programme and after was compared. The types of training comprise motor mechanic, entrepreneurship, beauty care, food preparation & handling, and maternity care.
Smart Healthy City and Community Programme
The Smart Healthy City and Community programme in Iskandar Malaysia generally comprises two elements; educating and reaching out to the people and communities in Iskandar Malaysia to embrace a healthy lifestyle, and to encourage the conducive eco-system in enhancing the quality of life through awarding of Iskandar Malaysia Smart Healthy City Township Status. The programme has garnered participation over 20,000 people annually and proves that IRDA’s initiative to propagate social connectedness in achieving cohesive society regardless of cultural, ethnicity, education level and social status is working. “
Youth Development Programmes
Youth is such an important segment of the population in the world and similarly in Iskandar Malaysia. In Iskandar Malaysia, based on current population estimates 2019 by Department of Statistics, almost half of 48% of its population is of those aged between 16 to 40 years old (Generation Y and Z; aged 16 to 30 at 29% and Generation X; aged 30 to 40 at 19%). Based on the demographics itself, we can say that this quantum of the population is a great asset for Iskandar Malaysia if they are harnessed and utilised in the right direction.
A strategic and holistic youth development framework for Iskandar Malaysia has been developed to explicitly states Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA)’s commitment towards placing youth at the epicentre of its development goal to transform Iskandar Malaysia to be a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing.
IRDA has also been active since 2009 in crafting and executing many youth developments programmes to complement the national and state youth agenda in collaboration with various agencies and stakeholders which covers aspect such as infrastructure development, capacity building, mindset change, employment and entrepreneurship, and others. Some of the key programmes are summarized below ;
Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Award (IMSHA)
Community leaders who champion the agenda of social connectedness are given the centre stage in advocating good deeds in Iskandar Malaysia. Iskandar Malaysia acknowledges not only the leaders but also the personalities through an annual event to spot, recognize and celebrate those who are making the difference through social services. Dubbed as Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards, the project is 100% run and managed by a not-for-profit entity and utilizes the social media platform for the members of the public to submit the nomination. The first event was in 2014 and the total number of nominations was 173. Cumulatively the number has reached 800 in 2019 which means it has incrementally inspired more people to take up charitable work. It was also reported that this initiative has encouraged individuals, organizations, companies to innovate in addressing new social challenges.
The award categories are disaster relief, animal and wildlife, public safety, education advancement, environment preservation/protection, health services, human empowerment, poverty and hunger relief, corporate social responsibility, social innovator, and arts, culture and heritage. A social impact rating was developed for the nominees, which are based on the social impact, frequency, visibility, sustainability, inclusiveness, ethics, and source of fund. 2019 was a special year for IMSHA since United Nation has joined the foray to benchmark IMSHA against global standard and at the same time promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Iskandar Malaysia Arts and Culture Programmes
Mobility among artists and cultural professionals has always been a prerequisite for the creation of new narratives, and to certain extend contribution to a responsible and sustainable community. To some, it has become intrinsic to their careers. Iskandar Malaysia has introduced various initiatives under this agenda such as Iskandar Malaysia Beyond Boundaries Programme (IMB2P). It has bridged the gap which hinders several artists and cultural professionals to engage with the wider spectrum of international partners. IMB2P has spurred participating artists’, practitioners’, and students’ mobility further through grant disbursement. The accumulated number of projects that received the grant has reached 43 and they are from the exploration & network, outbound, and inbound categories.
Efforts to improve the Public Arts as a medium to improve the sense of belonging among the local community, while improving the streetscape and liveability factor in the city is also ongoing. Public Art Guidelines has been developed, and a pilot residency programme for local young artists to design the public art structure for Sungai Segget landscape was conducted. The installation of these artworks that incorporates local character, historical and heritage elements will be a testament of Iskandar Malaysia’s acknowledgement of the importance of arts and culture as part of our holistic development plans.