Being in a Community of Change-Makers

September 23, 2018 | Kevin Han Huang

Consider the kind of resources we have today – from transport facilities to information availability and capital mobility. One may find that it is much easier to make an impact in the world than ever before. Yet it is precisely the abundance of opportunities and information that often leaves one confused, wondering which path maximises one’s own impact. It is not this article’s purpose to answer these questions; instead, I will reflect on my two-year experience in BfE, and share how being in a community of change-makers may guide you well in the pursuit of making a difference in the world.

As the new academic year draws close, I want to share these thoughts for incoming freshers and hopefully provide a little bit of help as you venture into a brand new stage of your life, as BfE has constantly helped me during these years. When surrounded by people who are passionate and determined to make a difference, one never lacks sources of inspiration. To me, it was the social entrepreneurs who first left a deep impression. Some of them are fresh university graduates who aspire to bring clean energy to their hometown, some are farmers who hope to promote more efficient agricultural machineries and create wealth for the people, some were experienced consultants in their 40s who gave up their stable source of income just to bring their entrepreneurship ideas to a foreign land. Despite the variety of age groups and backgrounds they come from, they all share one thing in common: the immense passion and belief in their goals. That in itself is very admirable, because a goal is not something easy to come by. In university, one may get lost in the wealth of opportunities available, hop on the bandwagon just because of peer pressure, or become too overwhelmed with day-to-day deadlines to think about one’s long-term goals. Working alongside these social entrepreneurs, it becomes easier to think deeply and creatively about your own personal journey, ambitions and purpose. Their stories have not only introduced me to a wide range of specific sectors in which one may make an impact, but also reminded me of the importance of identifying a clear goal of my own. This has guided me through some of the toughest decisions I had to make.

Yet even the strongest aspiration needs fine-tuning from time to time, and the right community is often the best place for open discussion and reflection. One of the most remarkable things I have found about BfE, is how people are never afraid to stop and question, “Are we doing this right?” Our start-up recruitment team, for example, is constantly faced with the tough decision of deciding our startup intakes, and has to reflect regularly on our assessment criteria. The questions we ask ourselves not just involve the complexity in measuring and quantifying impacts, but more importantly probe into the core of BfE’s mission: what kind of start-ups do we aim to help? What kind of start-ups are more in need of our help? What kind of start-ups are we more capable of helping? These are not easy questions to be answered, and changes and improvements can take time, but we know that they serve as a powerful reminder of why we are in BfE and help us to better deliver the impacts we want.

The same thought process can be easily mirrored onto the impacts we want to make: what motivates us? What area or issue requires more attention? What value can we add? I find that through my discussion and reflection with the people within BfE, I am able to think much more clearly about the goals of my own. However, being with the same community for a long time also carries the danger of constraining our ways of thinking. Just very recently, a senior in BfE asked me: “If you are to start from scratch and do BfE yourself, how would you do it differently?” While I managed to come up with some answers, it struck me that this question had never come to my mind before. I realised that there are still things about BfE that I have taken for granted since I first joined, and I never questioned much about them. In fact, having been in the same position for a long time, one can get so accustomed to its norms that one starts to neglect the obvious.

Taking a step back, interacting with people outside our community and seeking new perspectives, are important both for a community like BfE and for us as individuals. Deciding the “what” and “how” about making an impact of our own is by no means easy. I believe that to start with, finding a community of people who are dedicated in making a difference and who can offer you critical guidance is extremely helpful. To me, the experience in BfE has nurtured me in many different ways. For you, it may be BfE, it may be some other societies, it may be your college friends or family… There are lots of options. Find a community where you will be inspired, where you constantly reflect and think, where you can try things, fail and try again. Then, go on to inspire others, and make the change that you want to see.