Aaron Maniam (b. 1979)
An award-winning poet, Aaron Maniam was the youngest member on the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA)’s high-level Arts and Culture Strategic Review Steering Committee (2010-2012), and a Council Member of the English Language Institute of Singapore (2011–2013) committees providing strategic leadership on the long-term direction for Singapore’s arts scene, and English language pedagogy, respectively.
Since 2004, Aaron has mentored young writers under the Creative Arts Programme, organised by the Ministry of Education and National University of Singapore; as well as the National Arts Council’s Mentor Access Project (since 2008). His debut poetry collection, Morning at Memory’s Border, was one of three books shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2007. In 2003, he won the First Prize for English poetry in the National Arts Council’s Golden Point Award. His work has been featured in the online journals Stylus and Softblow; Over There, a collection of Singapore and Australian poetry; From the Window of Our Epoch, a bilingual collection of Singapore and Malaysian poetry; as well as&words and Little Things: A Poetry Anthology, both collections of Singapore and international writing designed to promote the teaching of literature in Singapore schools. In 2009, he was one of 50 poets featured in Fifty on 50, a collection to mark Singapore’s 50th anniversary of internal self-government. He has read his poetry at the Austin International Poetry Festival and for Australia’s ABC Radio. The French government invited him as a featured poet to the 35th Festival Franco-Anglais de Poésie in June 2011, and published his work in the bilingual journal La Traductiere as well as the French Journal des Poètes. In May 2014, he was one of the writers featured in the University of Hong Kong’s Becoming Poets: The Asian English Experience, which describes the creative process of a range of writers in various Asian countries. In August 2015, three of his poems were featured in From Walden to Woodlands, an anthology of interfaith nature poetry in Singapore. His second anthology of poems, Second Person, will be published in early 2018.
Aaron was awarded the Singapore Public Service Commission’s Overseas Merit Scholarship in 1998, graduating in 2001 with double First Class Honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Somerville College, Oxford, where he was a Coombs Scholar and held the Mary Somerville prize for academic excellence. He was President of the Oxford Economics Society in 2000. In 2002, he received a Master of Arts degree in International and Development Economics from Yale University.
His early education was at Raffles Institution’s Gifted Education Programme (1992-95) and Raffles Junior College’s Humanities Programme (1996-97). He was Singapore’s top student in the GCE Ordinary Level Examination in 1995, and won the Angus Ross Prize for the best GCE Advanced Level English Literature script in the Commonwealth in 1997. In 2012, he was one of 30 individuals selected from over 80 countries as part of the inaugural Master of Public Policy cohort in Oxford’s new Blavatnik School of Government (BSG). He attended the BSG programme in 2013/14 on a Lee Kuan Yew Postgraduate Scholarship, graduating at the top of his class with a Distinction (one of eight in the class of 64). He was also one of only five admitted to the inaugural Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) class at the Blavatnik School, and has now returned there to pursue doctoral research on how and why governments adopt digital technology.
Aaron joined the Singapore government in 2004. He served on the North America Desk of the Foreign Service (2004-2006) and at Singapore’s Embassy in Washington DC (2006-2008), where he was the principal coordinator for Congressional liaison and issues relating to the Middle East. He was posted to the Strategic Policy Office (SPO) at the Public Service Division in 2008, where he worked on scenario planning and analysis of long-term trends relevant to Singapore. This included leading the Secretariat of a team studying the human effects of geophysical changes induced by climate change in the Asia Pacific. During his time at SPO, he also worked on scenario projects covering global issues, Southeast Asia and the future of the public sector.
He was appointed the first Head of the Singapore Government’s newly-formed Centre for Strategic Futures (CSF) in January 2010, while retaining his SPO portfolio. The Centre’s mission is to build anticipatory capacity and strategic thinking in the Singapore government. Aaron was responsible for working with senior civil servants to network with global futurists and experts in a range of fields; create an architecture to support the Singapore government’s growing futurist community; conceptualise creative “foresight products” to facilitate decision-makers’ engagement with long-range issues; and curate the CSF’s “FutureCraft” workshops, which provide public officers with training in futures and strategy methodologies. As part of his role at CSF, Aaron led a team that authored “Conversations for the Future: Volume I,” a history of Singapore’s strategic planning (1988-2011), and organised Singapore’s inaugural “Foresight Conference” in October 2011, bringing together 30 multi-disciplinary experts to discuss “The Future of Asia and Its Place in the World”. In January 2011, he was the first non-American to brief the White House’s “Innovation Cohort,” an inter-agency group fostering creative formulation and delivery of public policy in the US Federal Government, on Singapore’s use of futures tools in governance. He continued to serve the CSF as an Associate Fellow until November 2011, and remains active in foresight and futures thinking circles. From 2015-2016, he led an inter-agency team exploring future scenarios for Singapore in the realm of politics and governance.
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