How TechSoup Asia-Pacific is Helping the Next Generation of Young ASEAN Leaders

In March, TechSoup Asia-Pacific (APAC), in partnership with Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), held a month-long workshop series for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Program. Launched in 2013, YSEALI is the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen youth leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.

As part of this Program, TechSoup Asia-Pacific helped lead a workshop that connected over 90 youth leaders from across ASEAN to new knowledge and tools to help them advocate for civil liberties and government transparency in their own countries. Some highlights from the workshop include:

  • Youth leaders located in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam attended over 30 sessions stretched throughout the month.
  • Participants had the opportunity to discuss different topics with speakers and experts from varying backgrounds and industries, including technical subject matter experts in anti-corruption and civic engagement; social and political activists, policy makers, and influential change-makers from various sectors of civil society, government and public institutions, and private industries.
  • 10 of the 14 project groups formed during the program were awarded a total of $25,000 in seed grants through a project pitching and panel review process.

In what follows, we’ll take a closer look at this powerful workshop, and illustrate how TechSoup Asia-Pacific along with trusted partners are tackling some of the most pressing issues in the region today.

Preparing New Anti-Corruption ASEAN Leaders
Data collected by Freedom House in 2021 about the health of democracy around the world illustrates how many countries across ASEAN, besides Timor Leste, are seeing a rapid decline in civil liberties. To help strengthen civil society, the workshop enabled youth leaders to promote transparent governance and democracy in their countries by connecting them with like-minded peers, and more than 64 speakers from around the world including passionate anti-corruption and youth activism advocates and dedicated public servants and officials.

Specifically, the plenary included some respected advocates and changemakers like Francesco Checchi of UNODC; Thom of Open Ownership and Bernadine Fernz of Open Contracting Partnership. The national agency that tackles corruption in Malaysia(the one and only such agency in Malaysia) — also shared some of their work on anti-graft busts in that country.

Next Steps Toward Real-World Change
At the end of the Workshop Series, the emerging leaders formed 14 different groups and presented unique project proposals for the chance to win a US$2,500 seed grant to implement their solutions in tackling pressing issues of good governance in their communities. Winning projects aimed to address a variety of challenges:

  • Increase the participation of youth engagement in decision-making on the issue of good governance in Cambodia
  • Engage young leaders on gender-responsive budgeting for a more inclusive government and society
  • Increase young people’s ability of digital advocacy on anti-corruption issues in Indonesia
  • Train young officers to protect their individual welfare in the workplace
  • Nurture a culture of informed and engaged Filipino youth voters
  • Strengthen local democracies by adopting chatbot technology
  • Increase digital literacy to promote good governance practices
  • Improve public participation and awareness in government policy making

About TechSoup Asia-Pacific
As part of the TechSoup Global Network, TechSoup Asia Pacific delivers technology resources, tools, and services to over 45,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across 43 countries in Asia Pacific. TechSoup Asia Pacific works closely with a regional network of X service delivery partners to help small to medium-sized NGOs access necessary technology and solutions. Find out more about how TechSoup Asia Pacific is working to help NGOs leverage technology to better fulfill their missions

Technology for Mental Health

COVID-19 is an absolute game-changer globally, with more than 164 million infections so far and 3.4 million deaths. Before this, mental health cases are growing at around 0.2 to 0.3%, but COVID-19 has expedited this growth to more than 1900%. This means we see close to 6% growth since 2020 and beyond. 

More than 40% of men and 60% of women will have some form of mental illness in their lifetime. Unfortunately, only 25% of them will embark on therapy, while the other 75% will either choose to remain silent or undergo some form of self-therapy. 

Looking at the current mental health trend, Ahealo is founded in 2020 with the mission to aid people with mental health challenges on self and professional therapy through technology. Ahealo has invested a considerable amount of resources, including our team of psychologists, to create technologies based on psychotherapeutic means to aid mental health recoveries. Ahealo believes in the use of technology and psychotherapy will fasten the pace of healing. Besides, Ahealo understand that user may hesitate to disclose their ID during their mental health caring process, actual ID is not mandatory in our platform.

Ahealo differentiates itself from other traditional mental healthcare providers through the use of technology in its self-therapy tools. Additionally, Ahealo also deploys artificial intelligence in its products to better understand the users’ situations and provide better advice to them. 

Self-therapy Technology Tools 

a. Ahealo Journal

In the journey of mental health recovery, self-therapy is a critical aspect of healing. The ability to eliminate negative behavior, thoughts, and emotions is crucial for people to regain their path toward everyday life. And one of the critical aspects of getting rid of such feelings and actions is to purge these unwanted thoughts. So, based on recommendations from our team of psychologists, Ahealo creates a mental health Journal that allows users to write their experiences to expel these negativities. Ahealo is proud to offer our Journal FREE of use to all our users. 

b. Goals Setting

Sometimes, things can be challenging. This happens to everyone. So, setting goals and targets will visualize the actions and effort for recovery.  Ahealo is proud to offer our Goal Setting product FREE for our users. 

Every goal can be further broken down into smaller goals in our Goal Setting product. Every baby step counts toward achieving the primary goal, regardless of the required effort. Every step counts. 

c. Mental Symptom Test

Know your symptoms of mental healthExperiencing mental health issues can be devastating, but it’s not the end. Before the user gets diagnose with a specific mental disorder, it will be much easier to take a simple test for symptoms. Ahealo offers more than 50+ symptoms for selection, with the underlying questionnaire on each symptom. Then, results are computed using T-score methods to determine if the person has mild, moderate, or severe symptoms. Knowing the positive symptoms of mental health will help to direct specific remedial actions to overcome these symptoms. 

Ahealo offers a FREE symptom test for all our users. So, if the person is suffering from some mental health illnesses, check out the symptom test at Ahealo’s website. 

The Ahealo communities

Ahealo allows our users to analyze, get help, and share every Ahealo Journal record. If the Journal record is negative, the user can share the experience and seek advice from other users and therapists on our platform. But if the Journal record is positive, Ahealo encourages our users to share that positivity with others. Thus, the Ahealo communities create the healing force that every user can give and take to recover mental health. 

Being a part of the Ahealo community helps our users for better healing. Because self-therapy and self-healing can be a lonely journey, and having someone with you helps speed up recovery. Ahealo believes in forging mutual encouragements will better overcome the odds. 

Myths of psychotherapy

Talking with someone about mental health problems is an overly simplistic way to describe psychotherapy. The beauty of psychotherapy lies in the very nature of the relationship in which this “talking” happens. A therapeutic relationship is truly unique in that one human being (the therapist) is solely there for the welfare of another human being (the client). 

Unfortunately, most people don’t get that in real life. No matter how loving their partners, parents, and BFFs might be, people with mental health problems inevitably need someone to play some roles for them as well. In real life, most friendships and relationships are based on some implicit social exchange: “I am here for you, but I also need you to be there for me.” This is why feeling judged or misunderstood is a common experience for those who attempted to have this kind of talk with others in real life. 

This is also why friends can sometimes listen to you unconditionally until they feel like their advice is not being heard. The frame of psychotherapy is extraordinary: “Nothing else but you and your wellbeing matter in the therapy room. In here, the person’s inner experience is the absolute priority”. An effective psychotherapist will not shame the person for their actions, invalidate their inner feelings, impose a life lesson, etc. So, what looks like a straightforward conversation takes on a very different form when it happens in a therapeutic relationship.

Psychotherapy at Ahealo

Ahealo has a wide range of psychotherapists of diversified backgrounds and experience to care for people with a wide range of mental health challenges. Our therapists come from different parts of the world. They can provide the therapy required for mental health recovery without personal identification or information, no traveling, competitive rates, 24/7 availability, etc. 

Mindfulness activities

Mindfulness programs have been widely proven to assist people with mental health challenges as self-therapy. Ahealo understands the importance of mindfulness activities and offers different types of mindfulness activities on our platform. Not ordinary mindfulness activities, but specifically targeting various symptoms of mental health challenges. Ahealo believes in precision targeting mental health symptoms will drive better results and speed up mental health recovery. So do check out Ahealo mindfulness programs as a registered user. 

Ahealo is an intelligent mental healthcare provider who utilizes technology and experienced professionals to provide therapies to people seeking recovery. Designed to work as a marketplace for mental healthcare, Ahealo continues to challenge itself through technology and aggregating more highly trained professionals to provide edge-leading services to our clients. 

Ahealo continues to invest substantially in research and development in mental healthcare to ensure more unique ways of aiding mental health recovery are explored to benefit more people. 

*This article is written by Ahealo. Learn more about them here.

Embracing Change with YSEALI Good Governance and Civil Society Workshop

The Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) program is a program that is very dear to my heart. It is more than a program to me as it helped shape my leadership growth since it was launched in 2013. I had the opportunity to co-develop parts of the program and strategize the outreach and expand its presence in the region for almost five years when I was working in the U.S. Mission to ASEAN. The program provides opportunities for youth to enhance their leadership skills as well as contribute positive ripple of effect in the communities. 

As the only thing constant in life is change, I too have to move on and leave the U.S. Mission to ASEAN to move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One year later, I came across the opportunity to work on the YSEALI Good Governance and Civil Society workshop with TechSoup.

I am thankful for another journey with YSEALI – this time as part of the TechSoup Asia Pacific team! Little did I know that the journey will be so different on any of my previous YSEALI experiences.

As the only thing constant in life is change, surely a lot of the situation around the implementation period of the program changed. Political situation in Malaysia changed; a pandemic came and changed the meaning of normal; and I embraced pregnancy and later motherhood. And from change came adjustments, learning points, and a lot of room for growth, both personally and professionally. 

As a team we needed to quickly adjust to the pandemic situation, and we’ve decided to have the workshop to be fully virtual. That decision brought us to different yet exciting experiences and ways to manage the program. We designed activities to engage with participants online, using different tools and platforms. We managed mostly everything without meeting anyone in person, solely relying on our internet bandwidth. 

There were things that changed, but there were also things that stayed the same. Clear communications and strong teamwork are still the best ways to support a successful program, regardless if it’s virtual or in-person. Further, passionate and committed participants was one of the vital parts of a meaningful program, and we were so fortunate that the participants of the workshop were very dedicated to not only attending the workshop sessions, but most of all dedicated to work on the issue of transparency and governance. Participants were committed to bring the knowledge gained from the workshop to contribute positive changes in their communities, and it was shown from their engagement in the sessions and through the conversations and discussion initiated throughout the program.  

The participants’ learning journey and the impact they will bring to their communities are some of the key successes of YSEALI, and one of the main reasons why I am attached to the program. Knowing that you have contributed to something bigger, it’s worth all the time and hard work. At the closing ceremony of the project, ten projects were awarded USD 2,500 each to work on their project ideas on the issues of transparency and governance. These ten teams will implement their project from April to June 2021. I look forward to sharing the impact of the projects to you. Stay tuned!

Written by Nalindra Pelekai, Development Project Manager of TechSoup Asia-Pacific.

Personal: Reflections of Lessons Learned from Liz Liew

A year ago, if you had asked me what I thought of hosting a workshop completely online, I’d have said, “Nope, not interested. Can’t see it happening. I am set on f2f. Come on, COVID isn’t going to be here forever. Get real!”

Not only was I wrong about COVID (like, TOTALLY OFF BASE!!) but I’ve also learned so much since we decided to turn it into a 100% online conference. Of all the lessons I learned, the ones below are the biggest ones worth mentioning: 

Humans love human-centric content
I’ve learned how important it is to create human-centric content – dry topics like corruption can be spiced and laced with case studies, to make it more relatable. People want to learn and take home different things : some want frameworks, others want to be able to understand basic principles, and some want to hear how they can apply these techniques in their activism or engagement strategies. But ultimately we love the same things – to be able to relate to people.

Make it relatable
The issue of resonance also emerged : within the region, despite the countries facing similar problems, I needed to make content relatable across the board. We were a region, but were the pressing issues similar, or similar enough to make it a common denominator? Also, could the different countries relate to one another? Could Laos relate to Thailand, and would Myanmar be able to take democratic reform ideas from Indonesia, to implement them in Yangon, over time?  

Support emotional and mental resilience
I’ve learned that mental and emotional resilience is often taken for granted : our participants in Myanmar were a beacon of inspiration throughout the workshop. They inspired us with their ability to stay tuned in, remain as focused as possible, and participate in the sessions as much as they could. Despite their extremely difficult circumstances, they had one of the highest graduation rates from the workshop.

Do your best
I’ve also learned that in life, we can only do our best, and very often, this means some people won’t be happy. Indeed, when designing the agenda, I am sure I unintentionally upset a few people. Of all the tasks I have undertaken in my career, designing the YSEALI Good Governance Workshop agenda alone was one of the most challenging and complicated tasks I have taken on. I was juggling time zones, speakers’ changing availability, and their personal situations (some of it unforeseen such as deaths in family and contracting COVID); emerging socio -economic issues, and of course, the socio-political climate of Malaysia.

The fragility of the political landscape of Malaysia and ASEAN, especially with recent events, meant that we had to carefully navigate the situation, selecting topics and speakers who could support us in balancing the fine line of speaking up for justice and promoting freedom of expression, while maintaining neutrality in all forms. 

Uphold your moral fortitude

The end goal for me as an individual, and as an organiser, was to uphold integrity and honesty, stay true to my own moral compass, while keeping everyone’s best interests in mind.

At the end of the day, I did not want to create a packed schedule, filling up useless topics, seeking unrelated speakers, just for the sake of checking things off, just for the sake of hosting a workshop.

Through this process, I was reminded to be guided by my own moral compass. 

Versatility is the engine of success
I’ve learned that versatility is one of the key cornerstones of success : being flexible and open to alternatives, in a project like this, is a MUST. 

As organisers, we needed to be mindful of the endless possibilities (beyond tech hiccups), and be able to react calmly, think out of the box, and also be willing (and courageous) to maneuver unfamiliar terrains. 

Exercising compassion
With all the changes and unforeseen circumstances, I learned how crucial it is to be compassionate. A longtime fan of the Dalai Lama and Patanjali’s Sutras, I am grateful for being able to practise Yoga off the mat.

Sutra 1.3 is a clear example of integrating compassion into our daily lives. Whether it was the way I responded to a speaker’s no-shows; or saying ‘no’ in a kind yet firm way because if I relented, it would have caused unnecessary inconveniences for the team and I; or event drawing boundaries for myself to ensure I looked after my own well-being, practising compassion towards others and myself made a world of difference. 

The Art of Communicating Empathy
Perhaps the biggest personal growths in designing and co-running this workshop was learning the art (and the importance) of communicating empathy (online) to both a small, and large group – when participants express their thoughts, share their work, or open up a part of their lives to the audience – snippets of acknowledgement and validation, be it a like, a ‘reaction’, or a response, regardless how small, matter. 

It matters because it is their only connection to you, with you.

It matters because we realised that for many of these young leaders attending our conference, that the bi-weekly sessions became a short staple of their month of March : the connections, laughs, jokes and pokes they shared, were something special, and something they really looked forward to, given the lockdown restrictions in most parts of the region. 

Maybe one day, when travel restrictions are lifted, when physical distancing isn’t the norm, when we have all been vaccinated (against all strains), and can all meet in person again, the little reactions on Zoom will be history in the life of online workshop facilitation.

Written by Liz Liew, Program Development and Strategic Partnerships of TechSoup Asia-Pacific.

Successful YSEALI Regional Workshop

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Regional Workshop: Good Governance and Civil Society has officially concluded on March 27, 2021.  This is a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department through funding managed by the U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur. This workshop was initially planned to be held in Kuala Lumpur but has shifted to a fully virtual program.

With over 40-hours sessions, the program included a combination of panel discussions, fireside chats, lightning talks, up-close and personal sessions with industry experts, virtual interactive group exercises, hands on activities, virtual networking, reading assignments and group project discussions. A total of 90 participants from Southeast Asia joined the online program and actively engaged in different discussions and conversations on topics related to good governance and transparency. The participants had the opportunity to network with and received mentorships from regional leaders and experts from different sectors of civil society, government and public institutions, and private industries.

Post-Workshop Evaluation Survey
As part of the monitoring and evaluation structure of the program, we asked the participants to fill in a post-workshop evaluation survey to understand participants’ overall learning journey as well as their feedback on different parts of the program, including their experience on each session, logistic arrangements, as well as the utilization and effectiveness of Howspace as an online engagement platform.

Summary of the survey highlights are as follows:
1. The top 3 things participants gained from the workshop:
– Networking with other emerging leaders
– Learn tools to drive positive change in communities
– Develop project ideas to tackle corruption and transparency issues.
2. 100% said they have broadened their understanding on good governance, transparency, and anti-corruption issues.
3. 98% said they have gained new connections and network through the program.

Pitching Competition Project Winners
This pitching competition aimed to support participants to develop and implement project ideas, to share their lessons learned with their communities, and give an opportunity to showcase their passion and commitment as change makers of the region. Each team conceptualized solutions on the issues and carved their project ideas. They submitted an infographic with details of their project ideas, implementation strategy and the impact it will contribute to the community. You can check the project winners here.

Workshop Engagement Awards
For the Aspiration Award, individual participants were asked to send their pledge on good governance and transparency, and the top four most meaningful and creative pledge won an award. For the Creative Team Award, we asked each team to submit a video showcasing their country’s culture as a team. One most creative video won an award. You can check the engagement award winners here.

Through this regional workshop, young Southeast Asian leaders who are working on issues related to good governance and civic engagement, were empowered and equipped with knowledge and techniques, enabling them to promote transparent governance and democracy upon returning to their home countries.