Driving for Change

Matthew Spacie, founder and CEO of Magic Bus, highlights the power of community involvement and partnerships in nurturing the next generation of changemakers to do good for their communities.

Recognising that poverty and lack of access to opportunities is a social reality for many throughout India, Spacie launched Magic Bus in Mumbai in 1999

“When given the opportunity to make a difference, individuals are empowered to solve bigger issues in their communities,” said Matthew Spacie, the keynote speaker at the Singapore International Foundation (SIF)’s 10th Ideas for a Better World forum held on 15 March 2013.

The 46-year-old added that the power and positive influence each changemaker has in their environment is achieved through strong partnerships.

At the forum entitled Game On! Nurturing Tomorrow’s Changemakers, Spacie, the founder and CEO of Magic Bus, spoke about the importance of individuals, communities, corporates, governments and NGOs coming together in partnership to address problems in society. This proved to be true in his experience of starting and growing a social enterprise like Magic Bus which brings sports-focused, mentoring programmes to economically disadvantaged children. The aim is to encourage self-development among the youth, which can complement other existing government initiatives available to the community.

Starting Magic Bus

Recognising that poverty and lack of access to opportunities is a social reality for many throughout India, Spacie, who was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to children in the Commonwealth, launched Magic Bus in Mumbai in 1999. It was powered by the belief that when given the right opportunities, children can gain better control over their future and break out of poverty.

One example of this is Magic Bus’s 8,000 strong volunteer mentor corps. Many of them benefitted from Magic Bus themselves, and now in turn, are reaching out to 250,000 children each week.

These community role models help the children gain access to further education and employability, in line with Magic Bus’ principle of “always working with someone from the community to do good for their community.”

Joining Spacie at the forum was a panel comprising National Youth Achievement Award Council Member Terence Chia, local social enterprise Start Now Co-founder Keith Tan, and Singapore Management University Office of Student Life Director Bervyn Lee.

Joining Spacie at the forum was a panel comprising National Youth Achievement Award Council Member, Terence Chia, local social enterprise Start Now Co-founder, Keith Tan, and Singapore Management University Office of Student Life Director Bervyn Lee who moderated.

The panel encouraged the audience which included the 76 participants of SIF’s fourth Young Social Entrepreneurs programme to turn ideas into action for good.

Chia, who is also part of the National Youth Council Academy Advisory Panel, began his involvement in community service while in school. He urged young changemakers to “think small to do big”, explaining that his experience of working with youths had taught him that very often the little change you have on an individual’s life can have huge ripple effects later.

An alumnus of the SIF’s YSE 2012 programme, Tan co-founded Start Now as an innovative response to what was a common lack of interest in volunteering among the people he knew. For many young social entrepreneurs, he said, it is important to “build an organisation around the social mission” to ensure sustainability of their businesses.

Similarly, Spacie revealed that it was his background and experience in the corporate sector that helped him sustain and scale his outfit into one of the fastest growing NGOs in India. He added that Tan and many other young changemakers in Singapore demonstrate that “when you empower someone to make a difference, they take on the responsibility to better their community.”

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