- If you don’t have the right connections, Malaysian youths don’t get a lot of opportunities towards personal and career development.
- This NGO was launched to fill that gap, funded out of the team’s own pockets, and later, small fees levied at events.
- Their programs include everything from social justice topics, to career development programs for fresh grads who can’t get jobs.
You’ve heard a similar song before. Malaysians, seeing the lack of opportunities for 20-something Malaysians who weren’t born with silver spoons and convenient connections, decided to launch an organisation to help open up these opportunities.
And they wanted to provide all of this for free.
Co-founder Marques Jeevan was an active churchgoer in his youth, so social work had been a part of his life since a young age. Together with co-founder Zaim Mohzani and a few other faculty members, they poured their own hard-earned money into events and activities meant to even the odds and empower youths.
“[We wanted to] democratise opportunities,” said Pixie Cigar, one of the current managers of Nation Building School.
“3 years ago when we started, the opportunity landscape in Malaysia was very different. Many opportunities for young people were limited to those who were in a certain inner circle, and if you wanted to get connected it was very difficult. So our goal was to really remove that barrier.”
You’ve got a plethora of youths with an interest in pursuing different cool fields, but with no earthly idea of where to begin. So Nation Building School wants to facilitate that need.
They hold events and classes to pair any interest with potential pursuits, from self-improvement, business, science, music, arts, sports, and even social work through exposure and opportunities to contribute in those fields.
Of course, while the sessions are designed with 20-somethings in mind, these classes can be attended by anyone, and Nation Building School notes that their demographics range from 16-year-olds to 60-year-olds.
Sessions are usually headed by influential leaders, companies or NGOs who are valuable networks into any field of interest.
For a section about human rights, for example, Nation Building School pulled in the expertise of activist Syed Azmi to give his talks and teach Malaysian youths how to go about becoming an activist.
Some of their more interesting sessions lately include, “Public speaking, artificial intelligence, one of our new projects called Career Clinic, which helps youth who can’t get a job after 6 months of graduation. We help re-skill them and better position them in the current job market,” said Pixie.
Events held by Nation Building School are usually categorised into:
- Guruship: Leadership programs that focus on personal, professional and civic growth.
- Assemblies: Forums to open conversations for everything from women empowerment to career.
- 3-Hour Workshops: Exactly what it says on the tin. This is where those artificial intelligence and acting classes come in.
The project has since been passed on to new management with, interestingly, more experience in the startup fields.
Nafis Nazri leads this new team, who is also a management consultant, and startup founder by day. He’s joined by Pixie Cigar, a Startup Community Manager, and Dzulhilmy Mohammad, student at IUMW, with the original founders serving a more advisory role.
With a team’s ages smack in the middle of Nation Building School’s target demographic, their experience helps them run projects to hit their specific pain points.
With a new leading team, they wanted to move away from the old metric of measuring success by number of events to focus on what they call “impact-driven initiatives”.
“The NGO world’s dirt is not uncommon to people, so I wouldn’t call it a secret, but the lack of impact-driven projects is sad. There are so many ‘touch and go’ initiatives that people do to ‘feel good’.”
“For the past year impact-driven projects is our main focus, to ensure that engagements are followed through to the best of our abilities that can actually benefit our youth, said Pixie.
So 2018 saw the NGO shift towards increasing employability.
Despite being an NGO, Nation Building School doesn’t take in any donations at all.
Funds usually came out of the team’s own pockets, but for 1 year now, Nation Building School has been charging for some events and workshops to help pay for equipment and general event costs. Extras are funneled into a company account to fund upcoming projects.
A brief glance at some of Nation Building School’s recent events shows that its recent events charge between RM10 to RM30 per session if it even charges at all.
When asked about significant milestones, Pixie speaks about one of their 2000-strong members representing Malaysia at a United Nations Youth Assembly in New York just last February.
“I think for us it is always about seeing our members grow. When we see the massive change they have made it keeps us moving forward and continuing the work we do.”
But their lack of funding from corporate sponsors does lead to one major issue.
“As a non-profit, retaining a passionate team with no ‘incentives‘ is [never] easy,” revealed Pixie.
“Our key is to make sure that everyone who volunteers with us gets the trust and space to learn, [while] we keep constant communication to ensure that they are being fulfilled by the work they are doing with us.”
That being said, if any volunteers feel like it is time to move on, Nation Building School will try to guide them and introduce them to opportunities through their growing network.
But what is interesting is that the new management of Nation Building School were actually graduates of the Guruship program.
If Nation Building School’s efforts continue to build enthusiastic, youthful members, then we are confident in the longevity of the program, provided it’s stewarded with thoughtfulness.
- To find out about their upcoming sessions, you can follow their Facebook page here, or follow their Peatix page here.