Jun 10, 2016

Reflection: Changemakers, Japan, and Impact.

I first heard about ChangemakerXchange from Caroline (Ashoka UK staff). As soon as I read her email--telling about their event which would be firstly held in Asia, I checked the website and looked at the list of the people within the network. It didn't take long to find some familiar names whose works I admire, including my favorite gangster, Christian, that makes sense (pun is intended).

Though I had some questions about what kind of output would be expected, how I should (and whether I could) contribute to the group, yet just the idea of spending time with a group of individuals who also run social ventures to offer solutions for problems in their parts of the world thrilled me. Furthermore, the fact that the program would take place in Japan was another good reason to take some days off and be away from everyone and everything (both literally and figuratively).


Defining "Changemakers"!

I'm a firm believer that people is always the key. I think Matthias' comment was spot on, that the success of the program would be made of three key components--time, space, and people.

Tsuwano, where we spent the first three days.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
The entrance of the temple at Tsuwano, where we had the Open Space session.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
The pond (full of Koi fish) in front of the Community Center at Tsuwano.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

The six precious days being detached from the routines, the beautiful and scenic views and the super fresh air of Tsuwano, I think they were all terrific. But I don't think they would mean much, at least for me, without the interaction among the people during the program.

And before I describe further about what I loved about the group, let me first share few things that I used to have in mind.

You see, the more you hear the word like "Changemaker", chances are the more you question what kind of person this Changemaker really is and what kind of traits and/or characteristic s/he should have. Sometimes I also question if I actually fit to be put in a group of Changemakers. And some other times I simply take the phrase literally and end up having doubt whether the work I do at Wangsa Jelita will ever make a significant change for this world.

It was by being around this group I found the answer to those questions.

A classic group photo after the Open Space session.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
Changemakers roar!
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

Within the people I met during the program, I noticed all colors of the spectrum--from a high school student from Youth Venture whose project just started in few months (and yet managed to inspire others to copy their work), to my dear Ha Lam (a mother of three, mind you) whose venture has operated in 98 countries. Each and every one of them imbued me with a lot of optimism, and I suppose it is impossible not to clearly see how putting them together in a group can actually further amplify their abilities, making them greater than the sum of their parts, which eventually make a significant change for the better world.

Before the Open Space session.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
Before sharing session with Youth Venture.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

The other reason why I loved the people was a lot more personal. And I think Amy put it very well, that this group somehow was able to remind myself about what really matters in life. Some did it by sharing their stories, some others by showing their emotions. (I think it is amazing how one's vulnerability begets others' and bring them closer.)

Last afternoon at the Community center, before heading to Hiroshima.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
One fun night at Tsuwano, "ayyyyyeekk!"
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

Not to mention, there were several tips I got from the group too; some practical business do's and don't's (including Snapchat 101, for sure), some great book recommendations, and even some new ice breaking techniques (note to self: never wear toe socks or any kind of socks that appeal to the eyes).

Gee is biji-biji-ing, sharing the importance of sharing!
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
Ha's session on Growth.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
One of the bouncy icebreakers.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

Wrapping up the third day (the Open Space day) we did a quick summary of how the session was. I remember Jiezhen responded, "so much knowledge in this group!" Boy, she was right.

And yet to add to that point, I'd like to say, "there's just so much compassion too."


Hiroshima and the perspective(s).

One of the most emotional moments I had during the program (other than eating hot Indian food after days of bentos) was when the group went to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

First of all, one thing should be appreciated was the thoughtful schedule arrangement by the ChangemakerXchange organizer team. I really felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. After being overwhelmed by so many insights from the Open Space session (and finally able to calm down by sharing it with the people back home over hours of phone call), the program ended with the remembrance of one heartbreaking tragedy in the past.

Now about the Museum itself..

The exhibition is divided into several parts, including the history of Hiroshima before the bombing, the development and the decision to drop the bomb, and (the most devastating part) its aftermath along with all the horrors. With all those graphic description, it's hard not to think of and pray for your loved ones. It's just too close to home.

Uniform of a student who was exposed to the bomb
less than 1 km from the hypocenter.

However, though I loathe seeing how such awful thing could be done to people (including innocent kids), I have to admit that I had mixed feelings due to another layer of the story which I had been told since I was in elementary. (For those not in the know, the event was a stepping stone which eventually provided the opportunity for some East Asian countries--including mine--to proclaim independence.) It was hard for me to justify one feeling over another. Even harder after seeing those gut wrenching displays of kid victims' belongings.

Nevertheless, I suppose it taught me at least one thing.

Yes, some things in life are pretty clearly right and wrong. But the basic fact of the matter is that this world is a lot more complex. And so are some of the issues in it. I think it is an oversimplification to take one side and entirely agree with it, while completely oppose the others.

(On a tangent, I remind myself of one beautiful advice of Alain de Botton, that we should hold our horses when we're coming to judge people because we don't necessarily know what their true value is.)

A quick wrap up on the last day at the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange
So fortunate to meet one of the survivors, who shared the most beautiful reminder,
that we shouldn't feel spiteful towards what happened in the past.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

Anyhow, the exhibition was no doubt too intense for me, but I'm really grateful for the reminder.

The pursuit of impact!

I came across one book of Simon Sinek just a few months ago, which led me to do a lot of thinking about my personal why. Ever since, I had discussed about it with my partner, Yasmin, as well looked for some enlightenment from my inner circle. I couldn't tell exactly but I felt like I was losing my why and, what makes it even worse, I wasn't sure myself.. why.

It was during the Open Space session when I finally found the final piece of the puzzle.

When Nick described the difference between "output, outcome, and impact," I was completely stunned. It was not because those three words were unfamiliar, but more because it actually helped me to point out how I'd slowly veered away from the thing that I really want to pursue. My personal why. The impact.

I suppose it was the desire to scale the company that had distracted me. Suddenly all I thought was how to merely grow the numbers, beat the competitions, without thinking deeper on how the business could improve lives, and hopefully make better changes in the societal level.

As if Nick's session wasn't enough, Matthias closed the afternoon program with one of the most mind-boggling statements I've ever heard, "the greatest social entrepreneurs are ones who make themselves obsolete."

I talked about it a lot with my team and other social entrepreneurs and there is no lack of emphasis on pursuing impact, but it has never been clearer for me. (And really, if I had to flew, even all the way to another continent just to get this insight alone, I would.)

In sum..


I guess I'll be echoing everyone, but I'll do it anyway.

Thanks to every individual that has contributed to and participated in this program, and allowed me to take part in it. For me personally, those six days were amazing. Probably even transformational. I suppose only time will tell. And I feel so fortunate to join the group.

Lastly, I'm glad that it's just in time for the most blessed time of the year, Ramadan. And I'm raring to practice what I've shared and learned.

The last group discussion at the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.
Photo credit: ChangemakerXchange

And I hope it's the same for you.