Ground-up initiative launches Kampung Kampus for conscious education

Kampung Kampus, Singapore’s first nature-led, experiential learning campus and home of non-profit organisation Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), celebrated its phase one launch on 18 Feb 2017. From 12.30pm, the campus welcomed 200 invited guests, all of whom had played roles - as material sponsors, service contributors, donors and volunteers - in making Kampung Kampus a reality.

In his speech, Guest-of-honour Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, lauded the “resilience and… can-do spirit” of the GUI team in developing the land at 91 Lorong Chencharu from scratch over the course of more than two years.

He said: “More than being just a space built from brick and mortar, it is, and will be, a living space that was borne from your imagination and vision. This is a culmination of all your hard work…. to help fellow Singaporeans re-connect with their roots.”

21st century kampung culture

SMS Lee drew attention to the 21st century kampung culture that GUI has nurtured through providing a space where people can interact, bond and build character while embracing a sustainable lifestyle, adding, “The hands-on experience given to your volunteers, to get their hands dirty – be it in urban farming, carpentry work or building a space, cooking pizzas in your huge coal-fired stove, this experience is invaluable in our urban environment.”

Situated a 10-min walk from Khatib MRT station, the sustainably-designed, 26,000 sqm Kampung Kampus will allow GUI to expand and deepen its educational programmes to nurture leaders for a gracious, green, giving, grounded and grateful (5G) Singapore society.

Completed buildings from phase one of the campus’ development include the ‘Heartquarters’, which houses GUI’s social enterprises, boardroom and a training room that can be rented for programmes; Learning Space @ Ponds, an integrated learning and farming area; and The Making Space, which encourages craftsmanship and innovation.

Besides being endorsed as a net-zero energy building by The Singapore Green Building Council, the Heartquarters has been assessed by external consultants to meet the Building and Construction Authority’s requirements for Green Mark Gold Plus certification. (Refer to information sheet for more details of the three new areas)

Prudent spending

The first phase of Kampung Kampus, which included the construction of the HeartQuarters, was completed at a cost of $1 million, nearly half of which was offset by materials sponsors and service contributors as well as monetary and in-kind donations from partners, corporations and individuals. GUI also generated revenue through our programmes which helped to pay for part of the construction costs

The initial plan to build an event hall for the Gathering Space was altered GUI received a donated marquee tent that seats about 500 people. We repurposed the marquee tent by cleaning it, installing fans and lights, and leveling the ground the tent stands on, and cut the cost of the Gathering Space from a projected $1 million, the amount needed for a new event hall, to $100,000.

GUI is looking to raise another $3 million for the remaining phases of Kampung Kampus. The uncompleted portion of the first phase, involving additional landscaping work at Learning Space @ Ponds, will cost about S$200,000. Our original projection of $6 million has been halved due to the goodwill of our supporters, our frugality, and our creativity in engaging material sponsors to deploy their leftover or unused stocks in the building of Kampung Kampus.

International partnership

Apart from establishing its home in the heartland of Nee Soon, GUI will also be flying the Singapore flag for conscious education overseas.

At the Phase 1 launch of Kampung Kampus, GUI Founder and Kampung Chief Tay Lai Hock and Dr Abdulla Al-Karam, Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, signed a Memorandum of Friendship.

The signing was witnessed by SMS Lee and the Ambassador of the Republic of Finland, Her Excellency Paula Parviainen.

The KHDA is responsible for private education in Dubai, where almost 90% of all students attend private schools, according to a World Bank study.

GUI will provide programme development support for the Wellbeing Campus that KHDA is developing as part of the Dh1.3 billion (S$0.5 billion) “The Hatta Development Project” - a joint development project involving seven government entities, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Tourism, Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Economic Department, Sports Council, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and KHDA.

Inspired by Kampung Kampus, the Wellbeing Campus will look to nature and adopt the GUI Living Classroom philosophy, delivering programmes for children and families that promote creativity, problem-solving, empathy, healthy living, leadership skills and a sense of community.

Going forward, GUI will focus on strengthening the leadership capacities of its core team, scaling up its various programmes, and improving the quality and effectiveness of these programmes, as we enter Phase Two in 2017. Further construction at Kampung Kampus will take place only when sufficient funding is raised.

Beyond 2020

Kampung Chief Tay said: “I don’t think that I could have come this far if I had done this all by myself. When I started this journey, I started with an African proverb “To go fast, go alone. To go far, you must go together”. And you know how difficult it is to go together because many people have many different opinions.

“But thankfully, many of them stayed on with me for very long, and I want to acknowledge them. While I’m the front-facing person of GUI, there are many, many silent warriors behind the organisation.”

GUI is open to partnerships with organisations and individuals with shared values and GUI’s vision for a 5G Singapore and a sustainable future. It is also currently in talks with the relevant agencies to extend its current land lease, which expires in 2020.

Did you know?

+ At 26,000 sqm, Kampung Kampus is approximately two and a half times the size of the Padang.

+ From its inception in 2008 to today, Ground-Up Initiative has received about 50,000 visitors via its flagship Balik Kampung volunteer programme, community events and range of school programmes.


Speech by SMS Desmond Lee at the Opening of Phase 1 of Kampung Kampus by Ground-Up Initiative

The Road Traveled: Dubai’s Journey towards Improving Private Education

Contact Us

For event photographs and videos, further interviews, and tours of Kampung Kampus, please email

For directions to Kampung Kampus:

Join Us

+ Register to volunteer at Kampung Kampus with our popular, flagship Balik Kampung programme

+ Apply to the 20-week, Ground-Up Troopers (GUTS) Fellowship programme. Open to passionate and motivated youths, aged 19 to 35, seeking to make an impact in the social space in Singapore

+ Register for ticketed craft workshops for kids and adults by TouchWood at Kampung Kampus

+ Register for a variety of free and ticketed talks and workshops by Ground-Up Innovation Labs for Development (GUILD) at various locations around Singapore

Publish your content with EB Publishing

It's about who you reach. Get your news, events, jobs and thought leadership seen by those who matter to you.

Most popular

Featured Events

Publish your event
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →