9/18/2017 Diversity Voyage Report Part 2 – a guest post from EC intern Lily!
Following my first trip with Earth Company to the Bumi Sehat Foundation, I was invited back to see the next stage of the Diversity Voyage program: watching the students present their final projects based on sustainable business models. The Diversity Voyage, or DiVo, is a hands-on program geared towards university students who are curious about NGOs and social enterprise in Ubud, Bali. As a tool for change, the DiVo program has an incredible capacity for youth engagement, as it exposes young adults to social aid, entrepreneurship and sustainable community development.
Initiated in 2016, DiVo has seen three cohorts from Udayana University, Indonesia, and Toyo University, Japan, complete its program. Spanning seven days in Bali, DiVo exposes students to the ins and outs of social enterprise. They make visits to the nonprofit Bumi Sehat to learn from its founder Ibu Robin and to Taro Village, where they are given the opportunity to meet the mothers that benefit from the foundation’s health care services. Throughout their days, students prepare to present a final project: a sustainable business model to establish economic independence for the mothers.
Though they come from a variety of backgrounds, the majority of students who participate in DiVo have never been exposed to the reality of poverty and its repercussions for women’s health and childbirth. For many, the DiVo program is their first insight into the systems of inequality in Indonesia and the nature of work that organizations like Bumi Sehat and Earth Company take on in response.
What I took from my time with the students of DiVo is that this program is not only an interdisciplinary and international project for youth but a tool to inspire social change in the future professionals of Japan and Indonesia. By exposing students to at-risk communities in Bali and encouraging them to engage and learn from them, DiVo acts as a cohesive and poignant bridge between two levels of society that often operate in separate worlds. Through Ibu Robin of Bumi Sehat, Tomo and Aska of Earth Company and the mothers of Taro Village, students could better understand the direct influence NGOs have on communities in need, and how a social enterprise can be a powerful tool for change.
After each presentation, Tomo and Aska of Earth Company and Ibu Robin of Bumi Sehat gave students concrete feedback for their business models. Solutions were diverse and ranged from hydroponic farming to the production of crafts for a tourist market. Yet the proposals all worked towards the same target; to improve the economic independence of the mothers relying on Bumi Sehat and to curb the cycle of poverty within this community of mothers. Following a collaborative and hands-on system, DiVo’s incubator gave students the opportunity to operate outside of their comfort zones and to innovate for a tangible and real cause.
Following their final presentations, the atmosphere in the room became congratulatory and the students one-by-one start to receive their official certificates of completion. I speak with a student from Udayana University who tells me that prior to participating in the DiVo program, he was completely unaware of the reality of Bali’s social inequalities. This fact still comes as a surprise to me, because places like Taro Village where women remain reliant on charitable services, are just a 2 hours drive from Udayana University. Still, the gap remains immense.
It is my personal opinion that collaborative, project-based learning in tandem with cultural exposure, can create an impact that lasts far longer than what is learnt in the walls of a typical classroom. In order to alleviate disparity, empathetic and innovative learning, such as what is seen in the DiVo program, must be integrated into our systems of education. I believe that it is through the exposure to these methods that our next generation of policy makers, entrepreneurs and politicians can make the conscious decisions for change.