Man of Action
Mark Wilson, WEEKENDER | Wed, 04/25/2012 2:57 PM |
Goris Mustaqim is a household name among Jakarta’s young activists – and with good reason.
When asked what they want to do with their lives, the stock answer of many a bright-eyed, idealistic youth would probably be “I want to make a difference”. How many of them go on to act on those lofty words is another thing entirely, but one 28-year-old from Garut, West Java, has not disappointed.
Goris Mustaqim began to earn his activist spurs in 2007 when he set up the Asgar Muda Foundation, which directs its efforts toward developing Garut through entrepreneurship, microfinance and education programs. Perhaps one of his greatest achievements to date was to assist thousands of farmers in producing oils essential to their livelihoods using environmentally friendly, geothermal energy.
To understand the forces that have driven the social entrepreneur thus far, one must go back a couple of years, to Goris’ time at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).
Making of an Activist
“I’ve always felt that it was my calling to create something positive,” says Goris. “Then at ITB, I really learned a lot about actual activism because I got involved in many student organizations there.”
The combined culture of entrepreneurship and community development that was growing among students at the ITB during Goris’ time there has clearly worked its way into his system.
“We created an entrepreneur movement together,” says Goris, as he reminisces about those formative years. “At first we worked with the US Embassy and Metro TV to create an entrepreneurship competition, but then our movement grew out of the campus.”
But this was entrepreneurship with a twist. Goris explains that students began to identify local problems, perhaps from their hometowns, and would use their knowledge to solve those problems locally.
“We had a situation in rural areas whereby engineering students were trying to improve infrastructure, electrical engineering students were helping to create micro-hydropower, agriculture students were helping farmers with irrigation and pharmaceutical students were teaching villages how to create natural medicine supporting traditional methods.”
Aim for the Middle
The movement has since grown, and becomes bigger every year, but in the midst of attempting to address a plethora of community development issues, there emerged one cross-cutting issue that particularly concerned Goris and his fellow young activists.
“We saw a lot of young, intelligent, educated middle-class Indonesians who weren’t giving back to society,” says Goris. “We thought that Indonesia needed more young entrepreneurs who, most importantly, had empathy with others so that the country could be improved, but we were confused in terms of how we could change that. How could we encourage the young middle class to take more responsibility?”
The desire to resolve that question culminated in February this year with the Indonesian Young Changemakers Summit (IYCS), which was organized by a group of activists (including Goris) who had all previously focused on such issues as the environment, economic development, education, social enterprises and community development.
“We needed momentum,” explains Goris. “So we created IYCS as an opening for what we saw as a bigger collaboration between young people.”
The summit, which took place in Bandung, aimed to inspire more young people into activism and also to facilitate their collaboration and networking. One hundred so-called “change makers” (Indonesians deemed to have already done something to improve an aspect of the country) attended the summit and signed a youth pledge to show their continued commitment to changing the country for the better based on the three tenets of action, value and responsibility.
Workshops on how to create sustainable business plans were also held at the event. In addition, 100 “observers” (young people who had ideas for change not yet implemented) attended and were linked up with change makers so that tips and knowledge could be shared.
Platform for Change
Goris, currently chair of IYCS, and his fellow change makers are now working to maintain the spirit forged at the summit. And, as ever, Goris’ approach to doing that is laced with practicalities and specific details rather than lofty rhetoric.
“IYCS is about concrete action, not politics or abstract ideas,” he says. “Building on the summit, we’re now developing an online platform that will link corporate social responsibility [CSR] with youth activism.”
He explains that the platform will act as a forum for change makers from across Indonesia to share ideas, with the profile of each individual change maker and associated organization uploaded. It will also be a place where young activists can be connected with funding opportunities and where budding change makers can learn about community development and social enterprise best practice, with the impacts of change maker projects being available for all to see. Through the platform, companies will also be able to gain advice on whether their CSR policies are appropriate.
If there is one thing Goris emphasizes during our chat, it is that young people must not expect, but must instead act.
“In all the big countries we see that the fulcrum of change must be a strong public initiative,” he says. “There must also be education, a new mind-set of CSR and, of course, state policies, but action must come from the public first, not from the government.”
And the IYCS is somewhere within that tapestry of public action that Goris deems so vital for the future of Indonesia, with the idea being that if the likes of the IYCS can demonstrate a real impact, perhaps a message can be sent to the government to act to support young people in their ideas.
Goris himself appears determined to carry forward his ideas with as little ceremony as possible. In 2010, along with some of Indonesia’s most prominent entrepreneurs, he was invited to a summit on entrepreneurship with US President Barack Obama.
“I was lucky enough to shake his hand,” says Goris. “But the most important thing is what we are doing now to follow up on these kinds of high-profile events to help young Indonesians make the impact that I believe they can.”