They Told Us To Move: Dakota—Cassia

 What happens when an entire community is moved?

Dakota Crescent was one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates and a rental flat neighbourhood for low-income households. In 2016, its residents—many of whom are elderly—were relocated to Cassia Crescent to make way for redevelopment. To help them resettle, a group of volunteers came together and formed the Cassia Resettlement Team.

They Told Us to Move tells the story of the relocation through interviews with the residents from the Dakota community and reflections by the volunteers. Accompanying these are essays by various academics on urban planning; gender and family; ageing, poverty, and social services; civil society and citizenship; and architectural heritage and place-making. Through this three-part conversation, the book explores human stories of devotion, expectation, and remembrance. It asks what we can achieve through voluntary action and how we can balance self-reliance and public services.

This book is for people who want to understand the kind of society we are, and question what kind of society we want to be.

Read an excerpt of selected interviews, reflections, and essays from the book here


They Told Us To Move: Dakota—Cassia

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This is an unusual book with three dimensions: the Dakota resident presenting her views to an interviewer, the volunteer retelling experiences of looking after the resident, and the academic essayist tying the two together by drawing out the links between the micro and macro. It is also a touching book that acknowledges and validates voices that often go unheard. It portrays vividly the relationship between the marginalised and wider society. We are made aware of perspectives from which we can consider many issues confronting society and the importance of seeing the connections between social structure and individual experience and agency. —Dr Kanwaljit Soin, Founding President of Women's Initiative for Ageing Successfully and former Nominated Member of Parliament

At its core, this book poses disturbing challenges to social work. These stories of resettlement remind us that community issues affect collectives of families. If social work is about the 'person in environment', why is there a conditioned preoccupation with casework rather than community work, where people participate collectively in resolving their own problems and take control for building social capital? Why are our interventions often about individual psychosocial factors and deservedness rather than the environmental and social conditions that contribute to the perpetuation of social problems? Respect for the dignity and worth of the person is a core social work value, and self-determination and autonomy are key ethical principles. So what is the social work response when we learn that "no choice" – a resignation that their lives had been decided for them – is a recurrent theme in the experiences of the residents? How can social intervention be carried out with and by the residents rather than on them? Every challenge is an opportunity. Ours is to refresh our thinking and working models, and to re-imagine our social purpose. —Ng Bee Leng, social worker and Executive Director of South Central Community Family Service Centre (2013-2018)

At a time when universities are focusing myopically on achieving publication numbers that often favour one-dimensional research, it is truly inspiring to come across younger scholars like Ng Kok Hoe, whose work delves deeply and courageously into the very local in order to find universal meaning and value. Whose research efforts are really powerful interventions, which employ methods that are not only creative and painstakingly collaborative, but also driven by a deep humility, compassion, and human-centredness. In this book, Kok Hoe and his collaborators teach us about social and spatial justice, not only through the exalted frameworks of theory, but through heightened sensitivity and empathy, otherwise dulled by the spectacle of the Singapore success story. —Kenneth Paul Tan, Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and author of Singapore: Identity, Brand, Power (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

This important book makes visible the stories of displacement untold in the official account of relocation. While we celebrate the resilience of the residents and volunteers working through the struggles of resettlement, the essays, reflections and stories also remind us of the struggles of state agencies in understanding what makes or breaks a community, and the value of lives lived with dignity. —Kok Heung Leun, Artistic Director of Drama Box and former Nominated Member of Parliament


Ng Kok Hoe,Cassia Resettlement Team (Rocky Howe · Sammie Ng · Lim Jingzhou)


Lim Jingzhou, Rocky Howe, Cai Yinzhou, Vanessa Lim, Sammie Ng, Liew Li Pei, Ng Xiang Yun, Ng Kok Hoe, Teo You Yenn, K.C. Ho, Vivienne Wee, Ad Maulod, Neo Yu Wei, Yeo Kang Shua, Loh Kah Seng, Liew Kai Khiun