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.