SMU students contribute to next generation changemakers through APACD’s Sustainable Communications Programme for the 2nd year running

Launched in 2020 by the Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors (APACD), the Sustainable Communications Programme is an initiative that brings together in-house mentors, agency co-leads and students to solve communication needs of social enterprises on a pro bono basis.

For the 2nd consecutive year, Singapore Management University (the association’s first partner) students took part in the programme, which allowed them to apply their academic knowledge and gain hands-on experience while supporting good causes.  

Over three months, six students from the School of Social Sciences (SOSS) and Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) grouped into two teams and worked tirelessly with social enterprises Handprint, and Safe Water Gardens to address the business needs specific to each.




We speak with the students and mentors about their work in the Sustainable Communications Programme.

What were some of the challenges faced?

Team Safe Water Gardens - Lok Shu Shen (SOSS, Year 4) and Sheri Zuleika (LKCSB, Year 3)

One of the challenges faced by our team was the need to manage client expectations. We did not reach out to our client as much as they would have wanted us to. We spent most of our time checking in with our mentors instead, as we wanted to ensure that we were on the right track before speaking with our client. Furthermore, there was only the two of us in the team, and we had to also juggle our academic commitments at the same time.

Team Handprint - Eleanor Tan (SOSS, Year 4) Kiu Kar Ying (SOSS, Year 4), Phoebe Tan (LKCSB, Year 4) and Sree Muthusamy (LKCSB, Year 3)

The team had to manage the client well. Our weekly client meetings entailed constant (re)alignment of project goals which was tedious, but necessary. As real-world problems are complex, we had to be patient in managing the process. We also learnt to balance the programme requirements with school  work and to support each other.

What have you gained from this programme? 

Team Safe Water Gardens: This experience has allowed us to understand the integral role that communications play in helping brands achieve awareness and reputation. Beyond that, the countless road bumps encountered throughout this journey allowed us to gain first-hand experience on how the working world is like, which will go a long way in preparing students who are interested in entering the this industry.

Team Handprint: We grew to really understand the process of managing clients and learnt so much about the sustainability communications landscape through expert perspectives. Also, we gained mentorship and guidance from communication industry experts, learning from their experiences. Most of all, we gained friendships from working closely together over past three months.

What impressed you most about the students?

Danny Phan, Global Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Wachsman (agency co-lead): The students should be extremely proud of the quality of work they produced. They created something that is sustainable and thoughtful in its approach and utility.  I was very impressed by their research, rigor and resilience. They clearly have what it takes to be successful professionals in strategic communications.  

Joshua Phua, Client Director, Edelman (agency co-lead): I was most impressed by the students’ ability and willingness to operate outside of their comfort zone. Transitioning from school to work is a big jump, especially when consulting clients, and it was great to see the students take a meaningful step forward as they embark on their careers.

Ong Hwee Suan, Director of Marketing & Communications, Experia (APACD mentor): They took strong ownership right from the start. Despite a slew of challenges, they never wavered in their commitment to present a robust solution. Their final delivery is a showcase of resilience, focus and unrelenting pursuit of excellence.