The goal of positive change and building young changemakers can be achieved through such a multitude of methods!
In a vibrant environment fueled by inspired young minds, Ashoka Singapore facilitated powerful interactions between Asia’s young social entrepreneurs (19 to 29 yrs old), Singapore school students (13 to 17yrs old), educators from around South East Asia, and Non-Profit organisations working in the education space.
It brought together those who address socioeconomic issues in unique ways, through education, innovation, or distribution.
The first half of the event was a workshop facilitated by Ashoka Fellow Kiran Bir Sethi that addressed the need to direct children, through education, towards service and a heightened social awareness.
The issue of the school system being incredibly rigid was consistently brought up, and how to walk the fine line between guiding the students and limiting them. The discussions aimed to bring together leaders of innovation and education to think about critical issues in education and social impact and to brainstorm and design solutions for these issues.
Educators and innovators discussed the shift between “designing for it and designing with it” - how we can impact student lives with students rather than separate to them, similar to how we can innovate for social change with those we are attempting to assist rather than blindly innovating.
The collaborative environment was abuzz with the promise of change. A supersize neon green post it lay on one of the tables with “SCHOOL SYSTEMS = BARRIERS!” written in felt marker.
The next half of the event saw changemakers share how they are taking action to bring about change around them and led to inspiring young students to find their power as changemakers too.
“The Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) course empowers Middle School students to contribute to a peaceful and sustainable future by providing them with an understanding of the UN sustainable development goals, sustainability, systems thinking, and a change-making process through entrepreneurship. Although teenagers oftentimes want to jump into action, we emphasise the importance of understanding a situation through investigation, empathy, and analysis before looking towards innovative solutions”.- Changemaker Erin Robinson who is the Middle School Principal at Singapore’s United World College of South East Asia East Campus. Erin has taken on the idea of incorporating changemaking into the school syllabus to create change
“What we do at the Picha project is that we are a social enterprise running a catering service but all our food is catered and cooked by refugees. We cater food from Syria, Afghanistan and so on. So far we have been running for a year with 10 families from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Myanmar, and Sudan, and we have served about 25,000 meals to corporate events and other functions”. - Social entrepreneur and changemaker Suzanne Ling from Malaysia who runs the social enterprise The Picha project
“A tragic incident with my friend got me thinking, if negative news and actions can actually lead people to perform negative actions, then why can’t positive stories actually inspire people to positive actions”? Changemaker Piyush Ghosh who started a newspaper called The Optimist Citizen which is India's first purely positive newspaper, presenting only positive news from across the world.
“I think the first step in any movement or solution or call to advocacy is to disturb what we have become comfortable with- whether that be a result of privilege, lack of awareness, or lack of exposure”. Dana Kurniawan, high school student at UWCSEA who spoke of adding her voice to the conversation about gender equality in her school.
The message at the event was loud and clear; the promise of change is in the air. Changemakers are mission driven individuals who are taking genuine action to make the world a better place. It is up to each of us; young or old; to carry this momentum forward now.