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Solar bottles have helped to brighten the lives of many village children
(From right) Lim Yu Jin with Natasha Zolotareva and Cynthia Wong, co-founders of Incitement Growth

WHAT is the strategy for building the tools that can truly measure the success and impact of social projects?

This was what a team of social workers and university administrators recently brainstormed over, before facilitating a workshop in Taylor’s University with 80 engineering students, to help them understand the importance of knowing how to measure the success of their social project.

It all started in 2011, when two friends Daniel de Gruijter and Zikry Kholil tried to raise funds for a social start-up and found it impossible to convince people that a social business was worth funding.

Incitement of co-founders Daniel de Gruijer (second from left) and Zikry Kholil (third from left) being interviewed by Redha Rosli

Said co-founder Zikry Kholil: “All investors cared about were quick and profitable exits. Actual impact was somewhere way down on their list, if it was even on the list.”

Zikry said the idea of Incitement was therefore borne out of necessity.

“There was a need to re-invent the way we pitch and what started as a small initiative for developing presentation skills grew into a platform that opens its doors to anyone who has something important to say.

Incitement then became a regular gathering of experienced and aspiring speakers focused on creating an edutaining experience.

The name came to Zikry when he was watching the news and the word “inciting” was used in a headline.

“The word ‘incitement’ literally means to ‘provoke someone to do something with motives’ and while the media has been using the word with negative connotations, we thought it would be compelling to apply the word in a positive sense.”

Today, Incitement is a global movement turned social business with presence in 45 countries.

The talks are not a one-way exercise, and crowd participation is a hallmark with speakers engaging their audiences through mini-exercises.

“Incitement is the next-generation social business, powered through inspirational talks, connecting proactive youths, social causes and brands in tackling global issues together,” said Zikry.

“The Incitement movement is fundamentally about bringing positive change as well as personal growth by focusing on helping people, their communities and the environment that matters greatly.”

Volunteers bringing light to a village under the Liter of Light project

Participants at the talks find themselves sufficiently moved to want to turn their aspirations into actions by starting their initiatives under the Incitement umbrella.

In Malaysia, these include Incitement Growth, which was proposed by students from University Malaysia Sabah in Labuan, and The Picha Project by students from UCSI.

Lim Yu Jin, who founded Incitement Growth in 2012, was compelled by the life journeys shared by four women at the first Incitement gathering he attended and dreamed of bringing Incitement to refugee schools around KL.

The Picha Project founders (From left) Kim Lim, Suzanne Ling and Lee Swee Lin

Zikry and de Gruijter were excited over this idea and they experimented with a school in Setapak named Fugee School which provided education to young Somalian refugees.

“We went there every month and focused on topics like identity and trust that helped to build up personalities,” said Lim.

“Students were encouraged to share their thoughts during those sessions, as the idea was to promote interaction. Along the way, we engaged them in the sharing of values as well.

“The following year, we also began working with refugees from Sudan and Afghanistan.”

Lim Yu Jin (standing, left) working with refugees from Somalia at the Fugee School

Meanwhile, one Somalian refugee named Achmed who spoke no Malay or English has become a role model by earning a scholarship to study in the United States. A video of his life journey can be viewed by going to this link:

Zikry and de Gruijter, heartened by the progress, supported the work by sponsoring events that brought together these three different refugee communities.

On his part, Lim said he picked up skills on running social projects.

Suzanne Ling from UCSI University has been active in Incitement since 2014 when she attended her first Incitement talk and found herself highly inspired.

“The talks were held amid a cosy and casual setting and participants engaged with speakers without restrictions,” she said.

Last year, Ling and two friends went on to set up the Picha Project, a social enterprise that empowered refugee families to earn an income through a food business.

The idea of helping refugee families stand on their own feet earned the endorsement of the government-funded Malaysia Accelerator Global Innovation Centre (MaGIC) which then awarded the project seed money of RM30,000 that will enable it to develop further.

Liter of Light, a flagship project led by Zikry himself, has over the past year and a half impacted the lives of 3,500 villagers nationwide with the building of 1,300 solar lights that will last for decades to come.

Other initiatives that arose from within Incitement included Incitement Speakup which was started by a participant who wanted to teach public speaking to others for free, and Incitement Youth, a movement by some college students who recognised the need for empowering their peers.

Students can apply for an Incitement license online and bring Incitement talks to their universities that will effectively serve as a call-to-action for students to take part in social projects and programmes.

In doing so, the students will find themselves impacted and transformed upon their response towards helping the underprivileged.

To get started, the students just need to go to where they can look to join an event taking place near them.

“If there are no events happening near them, they can create one by clicking on the button for ‘Organise an Incitement event’ on the website,” said Zikry.

“Once they have filled in the application for a licence, it will be reviewed and we will then interview the organisers before granting approval.

“If they are a good fit, they will be issued a licence which is valid for six months.”

Zikry said university administrators have been very supportive of Incitement as they see value in the call-to-action ingrained in the talks held on campus.

“A former deputy minister even said all classroom sessions should be like Incitement talks,” said Zikry.

“The best thing about Incitement is that it is not an event about talks, but one where students are channelled towards real action and momentum that will lead to creating impact.

“Students who have organised Incitement talks will receive certificates, and those who take part will find a melting pot opportunity for them to grow further.”

(From left) Peter Twak Lian Sang from Chin School organisation, Tan Jing Feng from the Taylor’s Community Project, Zikry Kholil, Lydia May Wong, Taylor’s Education Group CSR project coordinator Amelia Ooi and Mohd NurAlif Zakimie from Asrama Damai

Six months ago, Taylor’s Education Group started a partnership with Incitement with the objective of building measurement tools to measure the impact of social projects.

Said the Group’s communications and corporate social responsibility manager Lydia May Wong: “This project involved the Outreach to Kampung Teras with the School of Engineering, Sustainability Festival at the PPR Sri Pantai and also an upcoming CIMB Entrepreneurship programme for the PPR Sri Pantai.

“On top of these, we are also exploring the deployment of a programme to measure and validate the soft skills as well as life-long skills for the underprivileged community that is still at the infancy stage.”

Wong said that Taylor’s would like to see more students getting involved so that the impact being made by the social projects can be measured and determined.

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