Going Together, Going Further

29 international participants reconvened for the Artists for a Better World Study Visit in Kuala Lumpur where they gained insights on how diverse stakeholders can further boost the impact of harnessing Arts for Good.

The inaugural Artists for a Better World programme concluded with a Study Visit in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018 where participants were welcomed by the Malaysian community with insights and open discussions on creating an inclusive society through the arts.

“It takes a whole village to create social change,” shared Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin, Founding Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA), Malaysia, at the Welcome Dinner of the Artists for a Better World (ABW) Study Visit in Kuala Lumpur (KL). Izan was one of the many key leaders and practitioners who welcomed the ABW participants with exchanges of insights and open discussions on how the Malaysian community is shaping an inclusive community through the arts. Held from 6 to 10 February 2018, the ABW programme saw 29 international participants representing 13 nationalities journey through a series of webinars and two study visits in Singapore and Malaysia respectively.

The Artists for a Better World programme is an honest and meaningful initiative by the Singapore International Foundation that engages participants from across the world. It has also positioned Singapore as an emerging cultural leader creating an atmosphere for a humane, inclusive and vibrant society.

Abhishek Kumar from India reflecting on his experience as an Artists for a Better World programme participant

 

Expanding Impact with Stakeholders

From left: Speakers Hajjah Yatela Zainal Abidin, CEO, Yayasan Sime Darby (far right) sharing at the World Café, Ian Yee, Editor and Executive Producer, R.AGE, (far right) shares ways to harness the power of the media to advocate for a cause and Zoe Gan, Disability Consultant, UNICEF Malaysia, highlighting the importance of inclusion and integration between persons with disability and the non-disabled beyond accessibility.

Over the four-day study visit, participants had the opportunity to meet stakeholders such as the media, enablers and funders, where they learned the best ways to engage them and grow the impact of Arts for Good projects. They also visited local social welfare organisations and schools to observe how the arts-based programmes have benefitted persons with disabilities.

Editor and Executive Producer at R.AGE, Ian Yee, outlined his team’s approach to harness the power of media and storytelling to highlight social issues. More importantly, he demonstrated how the media can bring multiple stakeholders and the public into the fold to develop practical solutions to these issues. Meanwhile, Zoe Gan, Disability Consultant at UNICEF Malaysia shared about the research done on children and disability in Malaysia, emphasising the gaps and potential for the arts as intervention. She cited the example of UNICEF partner, WeCAREJourney, an organisation that leverages on the arts to give voice to and empower children with disability. Meanwhile, Sunita Rajakumar, Festival Director of KL International Arts Festival, shared about their vision to bring together multi-sectoral partners to grow the arts ecosystem in Malaysia as well as insights into building Arts and Healing as an integral part of the programme.

Participants also engaged in dialogues with funders from the people, public and private sectors, including Brian Johnson Lowe, Co-founder and Director, My Performing Arts Agency; Cheryl Low, Director, Social Business, SimplyGiving and Hajjah Yatela Zainal Abidin, CEO, Yayasan Sime Darby. The exchanges shed light on strategies for innovative fundraising like crowdfunding to ideas for sourcing resources beyond the monetary.

A Part of Their World

It’s not welfare, it’s about high performance sports and arts.

-  Datin Fauziah Mohd Ramly, Arts Programme Committee Member, Malaysian Association for the Blind

Participants also visited local social welfare organisations such as the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) and the Spastic Children’s Association of Selangor and Federal Territories (SCASFT).

During the visit to Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB), participants attended a tour of the MAB facilities such as the library and music production studios, which were adapted for use by the visually-impaired. Initially starting as a volunteer, Datin Fauziah Mohd Ramly is now a member of the association’s Arts programme committee and an ardent champion of the MAB’s vision to set up its own music academy. Sharing her experience, Datin Fauziah underscored the importance of “involving volunteers to create awareness”, explaining the lasting and ripple effects of such in-depth engagements.

Clockwise from top: Participants experiencing the braille books and other learning aids for the blind at the MAB library; students from the MAB audio production programme preparing for a showcase for participants; Participants exploring the Ronald McDonald Multi-sensory room at the SCAFST and (foreground, in striped top) Edwin Nathaniel leading SCASFT students in a drum circle.

Participants also observed activities at the Spastic Children’s Association of Selangor and Federal Territories (SCASFT) where long-time volunteer Puan Rohani Damiri introduced participants to the various activities in the day of a child with cerebral palsy. She also shared her acute awareness of the needs, challenges and potential of the students she cared for at the association. The visit concluded with a drumming class led by Edwin Nathaniel, Founder of Music Mart. Participants joined in the fun and played percussion instruments alongside differently-abled students in the class. Testimonies of parents at the session emphasised the potential of music to empower children with disabilities with confidence.

Learning Among Peers

I’m grateful for the amazing time I had in both study visits in Singapore & Malaysia – for getting to know 28 inspiring participants from all over the world, for sharing our knowledge & experience, but most of all, for believing in the power of the arts to improve our society.

- Ira Papadopoulou, ABW Participant, Greece

The final day of the Study Visit also played host to the public UnConference session where participants and SIF’s partners in Malaysia helmed a series of talks and workshops to share the knowledge and methods from their diverse areas of work. This included art therapy, art education, community art and theatre. It was also a platform to interact with and give back to the 70 attendees from the Arts for Good Malaysian community.

The SIF is heartened by the support received from key partners in KL including Yayasan Sime Darby, MAB as well as speakers and contributors to the programme. While the inaugural ABW 2017 programme has drawn to a close, we are encouraged by the discussions that are underway between partners and ABW participants alike on creating meaningful Arts for Good projects and harnessing the power of the arts for social impact.

SIF is a very important coordinator and facilitator to bring people with the same objectives and same ideology together to do good things. The impact you make, you can’t see it together immediately but you can see it in the future.

Hajjah Yatela Zainal Abidin, CEO, Yayasan Sime Darby

Read more about our speakers and partners here  and find out more about our participants and their work here. Check out photos  from the Study Visit in Kuala Lumpur too!

Interested to know more or take part in the next edition of the Artists for a Better World programme? Email us at artsforgood@sif.org.sg.

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