Taking strong initiatives

by Su Aziz

The first Initiative Room was kicked off at the 13th WIEF in 2017. It was fruitful in that it had produced innovative move-forward-actions for hot issues brainstormed by participants. Here, we share with you the results.

The inaugural Initiative Room sessions took place on 22 November 2017, during the 13th WIEF in Kuching, Sarawak. Initiative Room consisted of five main sessions that discussed five hot issues that involved women, agriculture, renewable energy, education and fintech. These sessions encouraged proactivity through intimate groups of between 15 and 30 participants per group, facilitated by an expert per one-hour session.

The unique trait of this programme was that, in the last 20 minutes of these hour-long sessions, each facilitator had to trigger initiatives of each issue from the participants. This meant, participants outlined initiatives that could alleviate problems and be considered as actionable initiatives.

That’s not all, most of the five main issues were broken into two sub-issues discussed in separate but simultaneous sessions. For instance, the session involving women tackled how to develop women entrepreneurship and it had one session on the issue of a support system that’ll get women into the mainstream while in the other session, they discussed how to get more women to support women entrepreneurs.
Here, we share with you results in the form of innovative move-forward-actions for the issues that facilitators had coaxed out of the participants.



Sub-issue #1: How to build a support system that get women entrepreneurs into the mainstream?

Facilitator: Camille R. Escudero, President of Business and Professional Women (BPW)

Suggestions for initiatives:  A support system through online business network platforms, frequent group meetings that could encourage networking and association with people from different backgrounds as well as different races for diversity.  To get involved in collaborations because working with partners could expand business and they could operate the business more efficiently to produce better and creative ideas. Also, to become tech-savvy because integrating with technology could elevate their business. Coaching and mentoring programs, it was suggested, could motivate entrepreneurs, improve their leadership skills, be more passionate in their work and not give up. Lastly, a change of mindset to eradicate patriarchy and promote gender equality as well as diminish women’s limitations

Sub-issue #2: How to get more women to invest in women entrepreneurs and support each other?

Facilitator: Johan Bygge, Chairman of EQTs Asia Pacific

Suggestions for initiatives: Women to be members of a variety of different entrepreneurial associations to build their business network because information on initiatives or access to funding from government or bodies could be exchanged through these contacts. Another option was to retrieve information on funding or grant provided by agencies such as SMECorp Malaysia which provided a number of initiatives that had given startups a foothold in the business world. Also, women needed to build their confidence to be persistent when it came to securing funding. It was also suggested that women should be more rational when making business decisions. Not only that, but their products not only needed to be marketed cleverly, but also to have international appeal to influence investors. Lastly, financial institutions needed to change their mindset and loan policy for entrepreneurs that required collateral.



Issue: A combined session on agricultural innovations that could better livelihood of farmers.

Facilitators: Haji Sapuan Ahmad, Director of Forest Department Sarawak and Ebrahim Patel, director of TransAfrix Holdings Ltd.

Suggestions for initiatives: To increase farmers’ livelihood, it was suggested for a central body to coordinate collection and distribution of produce much like in Thailand. Furthermore, to have knowledge exchange sessions between farmers and government agencies because one might know the land and soil while the other might know technology, innovation and marketing. Farmers to be tech-savvy, not only for direct market reach but also to assist in monitoring and growing crops where technology could analyse data of worldwide phenomena, such as climate change as well as natural disasters that could harm crops. Thus, readying them for disaster or hard times. In places such as South Africa, according to session facilitator Ebrahim Patel, farmers practised collective farming system where the government agencies worked with various community leaders because leaders could disseminate the information to the community.



Sub-issue #1: How can businesses adopt zero waste technology to contribute to a country’s green economy?

Facilitator: Alan Laubsch, Director of Lykke’s Natural Capital Markets

Suggestions for initiatives: Rather than thinking of only selling products, which was linear thinking, businesses should think of a holistic approach that would give back to the land and how it would affect the ecosystem and contribute to green economy. It was suggested that people should work from a perspective of natural capital market because environmental destruction was taking away some value of this natural function. One way of dealing with this was to put cost and value on our daily activity such as charging for the use of plastic bags or turning waste to money. Most of all, to promote zero waste, the world need to change, society as a whole, need to change. While individual action was good but the effort needed to be on a societal basis. Businesses could generate profit by selling their waste to another or to reuse it in production. Efforts needed to be on societal basis. Blockchain based carbon trading was a new way of promoting environmental protection on a global basis. Lastly, waste management education for the general population to create awareness and zero waste mindset.

Sub-issue #2: How can we encourage micro and small-time producers to set up and sell renewable electricity on the mainstream grid?

Facilitator: Dr Chen Shiun, Vice President of R&D, Sarawak Energy Bhd

Suggestions for initiatives: Research and development on the technology for better understanding, and perhaps, positive effects on the environment, water quality and communities due to the building of dams, for example, needed to be done. To release a study on environmental losses to the community and water quality due to building of dam, for instance. Sudan rationed its electricity consumption due population demand and depletion of fossil fuel, was the example given as to why renewable energy was needed. While hydropower created less pollution, it was agreed that solar system was not only expensive but its grid system could not be delivered to those out of reach areas. However


Main issue: FINTECH

Sub-issue #1: How can digital currencies and blockchain technology be utilised for small business owners as well as be useful for them?

Facilitator: Farzam Ehsani, Blockchain Lead of Rand Merchant Bank

Suggestions for initiatives: Educate yourself on it and how it could be applied, then the currencies should be tested and monitored. Monetary value was normally associated with finite things. Unlike the conventional financial system, blockchain technology enabled transfer value across borders and it cost nothing. With a conventional method, remittance cost money 12 – 13 per cent. So, imagine the effect on the banking industry. This would revolutionise the way the world did business and businesses could leverage on this technology because it allowed for the decentralised distribution of digital assets.

Sub-issue #2: How should fintech move forward?

Facilitator: Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, Chief Economist of Stockholm Chamber of Commerce

Suggestions for initiatives: Regulations on fintech by governmental bodies, this could perhaps help build trust by end users who thought it risky to use the technology. Look at digital currencies as a global currency and to explore Islamic blockchain that would create an inclusive banking system. It was suggested that blockchain be regulated by government bodies to encourage end users. Lastly, it was suggested to utilise this technology to collect information about end users such as monitoring drivers’ driving behaviour to determine their insurance package and licence – to better understand what the public needed.



Issue: This was a combined session between two facilitators on massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Facilitator: Marc Prensky, Founder, Global Future Education Foundation and Institute and Andreas Schleicher, Director of Directorate of Education and Skills OECD

Suggestions for initiatives: Although MOOC could never replace traditional education, it was agreed that technology was a good platform to deliver education, thus making it accessible. In order for MOOCs to be effective, the combination of technology and face to face conversation was deemed necessary. Also, simulations could help the students not only acquire but also practise skills they would need for future jobs. Since the function of a university would change, authorities should assume the accreditation function of universities. Lastly, the participants admitted that digital was a good platform such as it had helped migrants earn an income when in the physical world, their qualifications weren’t recognised by their host countries.



For more on 13th WIEF and our Foundation’s initiatives, download our 2017 report here.

Photo Credit: rawpixel on Unsplash

7 Jun 2018
Last modified: 16 Jul 2018
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