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Home Team Resilience (Part 2): Our Sense of Mission
Tough, adaptable, resilient – how our Home Team Guardians are giving their best as COVID-19 operations evolve.

From coordinating our Whole-of-Government response and safeguarding our borders to supporting contact tracing efforts, developing COVID-19 test kits and providing security at designated dormitory facilities, Home Team officers have been at the forefront of fighting COVID-19. 

But as conditions on the ground enter a new phase, what does it take for us to maintain our focus, morale and effectiveness?  

That’s just one of the subjects that Dr Majeed Khader is intent on studying. As Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Director of the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Home Team Academy, Dr Majeed has devoted his career to developing the Home Team’s capabilities in key areas such as leadership, resilience and profiling. We caught up with Dr Majeed to learn more about social resilience and the Home Team's sense of mission. 

Home Team News Home Team Resilience Part 2 01B
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

In his 12 March update on the COVID-19 situation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that “Underlying [Singapore’s response] is the social and psychological resilience of our people.” Why is social resilience important? 
We have to start with what social resilience is, as there are different definitions of it. Social resilience is different from individual resilience, which is about how an individual can bounce back from adversity and try to do better. Social resilience is structurally different; it’s about how a society copes with adversity; how it actually responds. 

The first aspect of social resilience is our coping capacity. One very good example came out from the recent panic-buying phenomenon. When this first happened, it was explained to us that we have an established practice of stockpiling essential supplies already. That’s what experts call building buffer into the system. It’s like when you’re expecting to go for a long drive and you bring along an extra tyre. 

A second aspect of social resilience is adaptive capacity. Can we adapt to new challenges? Are we resourceful and nimble enough to meet our objectives? Can we switch quickly to a new way of doing things? 

We demonstrate this constantly in our COVID-19 operations by finding solutions to challenges as they come up. And some of this may mean relooking our own ideas about what’s working and what’s not – that’s adaptation.

The third aspect is transforming our society. In many ways, this crisis is testing us as a nation, society and community. What are we made of? When we encounter something difficult, do we become better for it? Or just bitter? 

We hope to become better, of course. Transforming means changing into something new, and yet meeting our objectives (e.g. the continuation of our lives, work and business).  

Home Team News Home Team Resilience Part 2 02
A sense of mission: Officers across the Home Team have stepped forward to contribute to COVID-19 operations. PHOTOS: Home Team News

As you can see from the news, initially, some people were sceptical of Singapore’s COVID-19 response. But then they saw that Singapore has very good systems for managing the situation. And it’s not just our health system, it’s also about our leadership, communications, operations and so on. Look at how our officers are responding on the ground every single day. That’s another key element of social resilience. Look also at the role played by our leaders in providing direction and making hard decisions, always being there, and leading by example.

What part can Home Team officers play to contribute to social resilience? 
In every society, having a sense of safety and security (including a psychological sense of safety) is crucial. This is a “foundational need”, according to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. So the Home Team provides that foundation upon which other things can be accomplished. Our work contributes to stability, and people trust the Home Team to do this. That compact is part of Singapore’s social resilience. And what we do as officers contributes to “us”, this larger idea of the Home Team – so individual actions matter. 

What are some of these individual actions that you’ve seen? 
One really amazing example, which I was so pleased to see, was that there is a very deep sense of camaraderie at MHA and across the Home Team. There’s a sense of mission. 

So we saw a lot of officers volunteering to do extra duties, over and above their roles. Quite a number of people volunteered to assist with special duties, for example, helping with logistical arrangements and so on. That kind of spirit, where you have your day-to-day work but still volunteer to assist other people, shows a sense of public spiritedness that’s amazing. When there’s a crisis and everybody says, “I’m prepared to step forward,” that’s a display of strong organisational culture. 

Dr Majeed Khader is Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Director of the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Home Team Academy. Over the course of his career, Dr Majeed has overseen the development of psychological services for the Home Team, building up our capabilities in the areas of leadership, resilience, profiling, counselling, crisis negotiations, crisis psychology, stress management and personnel selection. In 2014, Dr Majeed received the Public Administration Medal (Silver) for his contributions to the Home Team.

Read Home Team Resilience (Part 1): A Better Person, Officer and Leader.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Rachel Sin and Desmond Ang
  2. 18 May 2020
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