Original Article (In Chinese) : https://www.zaobao.com.sg/news/fukan/others/story20200726-1072028
Written by Tan Ying Zhen SPH zaobao | Translated by Melissa Neo
Scratchbac: A Platform that calls for Compassion If not for the global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, Jerry Neo, 26 would have been in the United States for the first half of this year attending classes and internships at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a student from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), currently studying for his Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship. At the beginning of the year, he had flown to San Francisco, California to start on the supposed eight-month long exchange programme.
Taken aback when the coronavirus outbreak hits Sans Francisco, Jerry recalled, “We were not allowed on campus and classes were shifted online. Panic buying occurred across the United States, and basic necessity like toilet papers and hand sanitizers were wiped-out”. Towards the end of March, Singaporean students studying abroad received notice from the Ministry of Education to return to Singapore. Jerry Neo said, “I was quite disappointed at first because I had waited two years for this exchange opportunity. Later on, I felt that it was actually a blessing in disguise.”
Stories of hardship caused by COVID-19 inspired Jerry Neo to help others. He started researching possible ways to do so and reached out to like-minded people to work together in early June this year. Within two weeks, he formed a team with his schoolmates Princeton Poh (22) and Cheryl Low (22) to develop a community platform (Scratchbac) where people can share resources with the people around them.
Creating the “Uber” of Classified Ad Scratchbac is a Telegram(Communication application that is similar to WhatsApp) chatbot, where users can send and receive messages requesting or offering help. For example, a user that needs to print a document but does not own a printer at home can send a request through Scratchbac. Any nearby users would be able to respond to the request.
Jerry Neo positioned Scratchbac as the “Uber of Classified Ads” where it can connect people who can offer help and people who would like to receive assistance through technology.
The core idea behind Scratchbac is the “Sharing Economy”. Many things can be shared in our community, especially in a densely populated city like Singapore. We can achieve and do more when neighbours come together to help one another.
Attracted 1000 users within 2 weeks. Scratchbac users helping without asking anything for return.
“For Scratchbac to be effective, we need a critical mass so that the “probability of helping” increases”, says Jerry Neo.
Scratchbac was launch in mid-June at Bukit Panjang Estate where Jerry Neo and Princeton Poh lives. They gained 1000 new users by engaging friends and family to join; and have been actively advertising it in their neighbourhood.
Jerry and his team applied for the National Youth Council’s Young ChangeMakers grant amount and was awarded $3,000 in early July. They are currently focused on transforming Scratchbac into a mobile application and promoting this community platform to Punggol residents. They aim to reach 5000 users by 23rd August 2020.
"I always thought that Singaporeans are self-centred and are money-driven, which is why we decided to include a tipping system. Looking at the post thus far, it seems like most users simply want to offer a helping hand."
As measures and restrictions were imposed to curb the pandemic; disruption in the economy caused social issues to surface. “Many jobs were affected by COVID-19, my Mom; a tour guide and my Dad; a renovation contractor, were also affected. I am very grateful that our government is assisting us during this tough time. However, I felt that I could do my part to help others too. The coronavirus gave a break to my fast-paced routine and gave me time to slow down and ideate. I think we would not have created Scratchbac if COVID-19 did not happen”, said Jerry Neo.
It was heartwarming to the team to know that shortly within a month of launching, they receive many posts that reflected the kindness in the community. A secondary school student received five offers to help her with her school assignment seconds after requesting for help on the platform. An elderly living alone who needs help changing her lightbulb received four offers to help from Scratchbac. Some users offered to print documents and even do takeaways. Many uncle and aunties used the platform to do group buying of Japanese Eggs and Mao Shan Wang durian too.
Jerry Neo once offered to help a secondary school student to deliver takeaway food, and the other party insisted on providing him with a $3 tip. “$3 is enough to make the order through a food delivery app, but that feels more like a sales transaction. Although the action of food delivery is the same, offering to help through Scratchbac make the whole experience more meaningful. We did not expect anything in return when offering our help, but what was gained through Scratchbac is not just a service or monetary gain”, says Jerry Neo.
Scratchbac is a platform for everyone to be able to reach out to help one another easily. Allowing us to work towards a kind and friendly community where we help one another; whenever help is needed, it is available next door.
“I think that people are innately good and they want to do good. You do not have to be rich to offer your assistance. Just a small gesture, some kind words, or even small convenient tasks along your way can have an impact on someone else’s life.”
Thank you @Tan Ying Zhen for spending the time to interview us and find out more about our community platform.
Bonus behind the scenes fun
Totally 100% natural models who knew what we were doing!!!!!!
Thank you to zaobao's amazing team who managed to make us look not awkward T.T