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WHAT does it take to start a project or an organisation that could benefit a social cause – be it via a social enterprise, a social project or even an NGO? Here are some tips and advice from Tandem Fund Chief Operating officer Kal Joffres and Yayasan Chow Kit founder Dr Hartini Zainudin, two social activists who have been there and done that while making a difference in someone’s life.

Hartini Zainudin

Hartini Zainudin

Volunteer service and time
Kal Joffres: You want to understand them (the people) outside of the context of the problem you are looking at, as to understand their lives more broadly. If you come in and just look at the problems that you want to solve, you won’t come to a true understanding of what will work and what will not.
Hartini Zainudin: It is important to pick an area you are passionate about, volunteer (in that area) and observe the gaps. Do some research on it and find ways to fill that gap. That is how you start.

Make a plan
KJ: Give yourself a two-year benchmark to examine your business and then you decide whether you want to move on.
HZ: I always have a five-year projection with an annual review and planning is a must.

Create a network
KJ: It is all about meeting people and getting to know them. It’s the same as running a business.
HZ: Meet people and talk to them. You will find like-minded people and they could be potential project partners.

Kal Joffres

Kal Joffres

Succession for sustainability
KJ: Some organisations could last because the founders are willing to step down and let go of their control (over the project/organisation) and also because the business and the management of the organization is sustainable.
HZ: The train of succession has to be there to ensure that the initiative goes on. That’s because if you quit, how are you going to impart good values in them (the beneficiaries) if you don’t keep your promise?

Never give up
KJ: It takes a lot of patience and willpower to see results. Running a social enterprise is not a sprint but a marathon. The social impact won’t happen in a short period of time.
HZ: Work kind and work smart. Persevere and stay humble. When you start something, you have to see it through for the people you are helping require more help than you do.

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