By Shivank Taksali

Three months ago, I embarked on a journey that would bring me to a small island nation nestled beneath the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. A country that has witnessed breathtaking transformation over the past few decades and built itself into one of the most competitive economies in the world. An island of over five million individuals striving to be at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A state with a strong business climate, unparalleled infrastructure, and hyper connectivity. This new chapter along my path brought me to Singapore — a unique melting pot of cultures and stories that I would call home for the next six months while on my second co-op at Ashoka.

My full-time internship at the Ashoka Singapore & Malaysia office was my first time working in the social impact sector. I had just started to scratch the surface of Ashoka’s Everyone a Changemaker world and the immense depth of the field of social entrepreneurship. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, the impact-driven organization identifies and invests in the world’s leading social entrepreneurs who seek to change the game and create large-scale impact on society. During my co-op, I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with some of Ashoka’s social entrepreneurs or Fellows from Southeast Asia, and I have been tremendously inspired to witness the relentless drive and commitment of these changemakers towards solving social problems.

A highlight of my co-op was when business leaders, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs convened in Singapore for the annual ASEAN Social Impact Awards organized by the Asia Philanthropy Circle, National University of Singapore Department of Social Work, our team at Ashoka, and the Ee Peng Liang Memorial Fund. I had the opportunity to collaborate with the six finalists from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. This experience opened my eyes to the remarkable culture of giving in Asia and the rise of philanthropy in the region. Ashoka Fellow, Tri Mumpuni, was the winner of the awards for the systems-changing impact her organization IBEKA has had on creating a future with electricity for all, including the most remote and inaccessible parts of Indonesia.

This co-op has empowered me to step into a leadership role, take ownership of my projects, and embrace my capacity to create change in the community. My colleagues and I organized and executed the first Regional Ashoka Support Network Gathering to engage our community on ‘Changing Asia’ and deepening our impact across the board. I kicked off the full-day event with a brief meditation session to allow our community members to feel the energy in the room and the significance of coming together change leaders towards a shared vision. We were kindly hosted by Citizen Farm, Singapore’s first urban farm and the brainchild of Edible Garden City, which was founded by Ashoka Fellow Bjorn Low.

Working at the world’s fifth leading NGO has exposed me to a plethora of social issues in education, environment, healthcare, and technology. As we move into an era of automation and intelligent design, we are also faced with new levels of uncertainty and complexity including how we work, live, and interact with each other. More now than ever before, we will need to tap into our ability to foster cognitive-based empathy and compassion to tackle the unique challenges of the 21st century. We need to empower the youth to embody their critical role as changemakers in an ever-changing society to transform our lives and co-create a sustainable future for all.