Thursday 13 January 2011

Globosocial Projects in Malaysia

After easing back into social development towards the end of my Philippines journey, Malaysia was really about getting back into the swing of things. Hard to believe I know, when you look at the pictures in my previous post, but the bulk of my time was spent switching between a number of projects.

Workshop with the Project EPIC team 

Interestingly the majority were related to political change. Malaysia has around 120 different ethnicities across its 13 states and 3 federal territories. It has 9 Sultans, in between whom the Kingship rotates every five years.

After independence from the British in 1957, the Malaysian Government instituted a range of affirmative action policies to ensure economic development of ethnic Malays. This was due to run for 20 years, over which policies meant to ensure level playing fields evolved into cronyism and mechanisms to further the interests of the dominant ethnic group. At the end of the 20 years, UMNO not only reinstated the legislation but moved it further in the direction of benefitting ethnics Malays. To qualify as Malay you have be both of the ethnic group and Muslim.

The outcome is a two tier economy, with Indians, Chinese and other ethnicities who make up a significant proportion of the population being discriminated against in everything from business to education and opportunity. If you’re interested to know more, I’d recommend reading “I Too Am Malay” by Zaid Ibrahim.

As a result there are lots of organisations and people involved in pushing for change and equality of all Malaysians. The various entities and individuals have to be careful because of the risk presented by Malaysia’s Special Branch i.e. Secret Service who help ensure the status quo continues.

All the various entities involved are essentially working towards the same goal, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone to see how they fit together. Working behind the scenes with a number of them, however, meant it became possible for me to help create a unified development model and facilitate working together.

  • Untuk Perubahan Malaysia – Political Change & Social Inclusion
    I met Jonson Chong through a mutual connection and started helping with his fledgling programme to ensure large scale political change with a focus on social inclusion. Simply advocating for change without viable alternatives is often a poor idea and a key reason why many movements simply result in the same problems recurring after what appears to be a significant surface shift. 

    One way to ensure sustainable improvement in politics is to increase citizen involvement and improve the quality of the next generation of politicians. Simply changing party, or rewriting rules and policy doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. We therefore focused on designing a movement to result in better politicians over a practical timeframe of three elections away.

    Malaysian context

    Long term planning for creating a movement 
  • EPIC – Voter Registration
    This is an organisation that stems from a basis of developing leadership in young people, and has two focus points. One driving voter registration and the other driving young people’s involvement in helping society. We looked at strategy, organisational development and long term planning, focusing on how EPIC’s hugely successful Voice Your Choice campaign could help underpin movements addressing political change and social equality. Organisations involved in this sector are all separately trying to build their own advocates and supporter bases, but EPIC’s large scale engagement with the public and the resulting Citizen Database of newly registered and politically motivated individuals could provide the bedrock for the entire sector.

    Late night brainstorm with the EPIC team at Khailee's

    Holistic sector model for political change   
  • Loyar Burok – Voter Education
    Another organisation involved in political change, but from a legal perspective and focused on Voter Education. Loyar Burok brings together a range of different legal and human rights activists. After a couple of sessions we with founder Edmund Bon, we got all the various linked groups together to share and take-up the holistic unifying model of change put together with Jonson and the EPIC team. 

    Session with Loyar Burok and various partners 
  • Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia Creative Activism
    Another organisation involved in political change, but from the angle of Creative Activism. Driving use and take-up of media and creativity to impact social consciousness and mobilise people to challenge the status quo. This was a follow on from work done with Loyar Burok and we had a fairly intense session on Programme Design, Strategic Planning and the mechanism of Change.

    Designing mechanisms for enabling large scale creative activism 
  • Nur Salam – Anti Trafficking
    Trafficking is just a fancy word for slavery across local or international borders. More than 2 million children are trafficked every year, half of which are trafficked in and out of South East Asia. Malaysia as a country is a start, transit and end point for trafficking; partly driven by demand from the Middle East. There are two types of trafficking. Small scale, middleman based; and large scale consortia and syndicates. The latter pose a threat not just to vulnerable individuals, but also to organisations that rescue them because they often use violent force to recapture their ‘assets’. 

    Trafficking of children occurs right from babies to teenagers, and involves both boys and girls. Children are typically trafficked for 5 reasons
    1. Illegal Adoption (babies)
    2. Used as Drug mules
    3. Used as Drug Pushers
    4. Organised Crime – Forced stealing/murder
    5. Forced prostitution – Child Sex Tourism

    Like many countries Malaysia has only recently passed anti-trafficking laws in 2008 and the problem is still poorly recognised or dealt with. Prosecution is prohibitively expensive and perpetrators often get away with no punishment. The biggest problem beyond identification and rescue, is what then happens to trafficked children who typically have no papers or identification on rescue. Depending on the age and trauma they also cannot identify real names or families. Not being identifiably Malaysian means the state typically does not recognise responsibility. The solution then is either detainment or deportation. Detainment means that a child is rescued from one prison and put straight into another. Deportation can be even worse, because they are simply left at borders and are highly vulnerable to being picked up by traffickers again.

    Malaysia has few anti-trafficking organisations, and Nur Salam is a young entity, only recently set up a few years ago by founder Hartini Zainudin, but is already overwhelmed with children regularly being left on their doorsteps. They were looking after1600 children from tiny tots to teenagers when I was there a few months ago, and I’m sure its continued to face rapidly increasing demand as recognition and awareness spreads. Significant challenges therefore remain with funding and organisational structure, as well program design and delivery. The rescue and rehabilitation side is well established, but the prosecution and prevention aspect is an ongoing challenge. 

    We looked at systematising their model, programme design, governance, organisational structure, and scalability.

    Children rescued from Trafficking by Nur Salam

    Map of the Effects of Trafficking

    Core Aspects of Rescue and Rehabilitation of Trafficked Children

  • Centre for Human Rights Studies
    There is little research and data on Human Rights Violations in Malaysia, and this organisation was being set up to address that gap. We looked at mission, vision, programme design and strategic planning, with the aim of achieving clearly defined macro outcomes around Promoting and Protecting Human Rights.

  • Huairou Commission – Women’s Development
    The Huairou Commission is a global entity connected with Groots and UNIFEM with a primary focus on Women's Involvement and Participation in the design and development of Human Settlements. In many societies, patriarchal cultures and the marginalisation of women mean’s that urban environments often don’t cater for the needs of women thus exacerbating the problem of exclusion. For example, schools that don’t have adequate or separate toilets or sanitary disposal facilities for teenage girls, typically result in higher rates of dropout. 

    The UN has decided to build a portal for organisations and people involved in ensuring women’s rights and participation in urban development, and the Huairou Commission is delivering it. The challenge was that none of the decision makers on either side have much background in portal or technology design, leaving them at the mercy of Adaptive Path who are building it. We looked at realistic goals, feasibility, design, the business plan and requirements analysis. In truth the budget was prohibitive and this was not a demand led project, presenting a host of challenges. Given that the ball was already in motion and organisational inertia generally means that cutting losses is not an option, the best that could be done was to help raise awareness of and prepare for the likely challenges ahead.
  • Youth Says – Social Marketing & Campaigning
    Finally, I was also invited by the Youth Says Malaysia team to come in for their Friday ‘Greatitude’ Session and share tips on turning good ideas and intentions into working reality. Youth Says is doing very cool stuff with reward based social marketing through their online platform. It isn’t specifically a social enterprise, but has a dual interaction system that supports non-profits and social campaigns too. Their business model is way ahead of the global pack and I suspect is destined for big things.

    Youth Says Malaysia team after a workshop on business success

    It was also a fun change to go back to a bit of creative commercial thinking and a massive brainstorming session with Khailee around connecting emotionally with audiences, threw up the formula ETP + 3C’s = $$ as a simple equation for successful and profitable online brand experiences. ETP = Emotional Trigger Point i.e. an emotive perspective your audience relates strongly to, and the 3 C’s are the 3 key things people like to do online. Connect, Comment and Contribute.

    Emotional trigger point conceptualisation session

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