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Facebook chose 4 M’sian FB groups for its coveted accelerator, here are their stories

Facebook community groups can be a powerful source of impact if used and managed right, and each year, the social media’s own accelerator programme seeks to pick out the best to grow them more through training and funding.

Called the Facebook Community Accelerator, 2021’s programme saw over 14K applicants across the world. Out of that number, 130 were selected across 9 regions.

From APAC, we proudly present the 4 Malaysian Facebook community builders who made it.

1. Rafidah Ahmad, Gabungan Anak-Anak Palsi Serebrum (GAPS)

Rafidah is the founder and president of GAPS, a non-profit NGO community that supports and empowers people with cerebral palsy (CP) while raising awareness about the condition.

CP is a neurological condition where parts of the brain which control body movement are injured, and there are about 17 million people across the world living with CP.

Some further stats include 1 out of 300 children having CP, making it the most common physical disability in childhood. “Despite this, people with CP are one of the least understood and most stigmatised communities in the world,” Rafidah told Vulcan Post.

She herself would know best, as in 2005, she had a challenging pregnancy and finally gave birth to a premature baby girl, Janna.

As Janna grew, Rafidah realised she had delays in her physical milestones. Yet she was unable to find much information on the internet, nor did she know who to turn to for answers.

Only when Janna was 4 years old was she diagnosed with CP, and it was then that Rafidah knew she didn’t want other parents and children to go through the same uncertainty she did.

A pre-pandemic community get-together with parents and children / Image Credit: GAPS

So, in October 2016, she established GAPS. Of being accepted into the accelerator, Rafidah shared, “This recognition means a lot to me as I have been pushing towards making the CP community more visible through empowerment and opportunities to participate.”

“Because I’m doing this on a voluntary basis, juggling between taking care of my family and the community, this is a recognition of all the hard work, time and money spent, sweat, tears, and passion that I have put into the community.”

An example of initiatives she’s been proud to conduct is the GREAT Programme, which is a daily education opportunity for students with CP aged between 6 to 25 years old. She emphasised the importance of this:

Many children with CP are deprived of the crucial basic right to quality education, with most schools rejecting them, thinking that these children do not have the capability to learn or be active members that contribute to society.

Rafidah Ahmad, Gabungan Anak-Anak Palsi Serebrum (GAPS).

With the funding they’ll receive, she intends to further develop learning modules to train young adults with CP in skills that would help them be more employable. In the long run, she plans to get long-term corporate partners to sponsor the project.

2. Anita Adnan, Doctorate Support Group (DSG)

Anita is the proud founder of DSG, boasting 90K members worldwide with 80% of them being Malaysian postgrads. At the same time, she manages her own company, Megabase Global, which sells research software to academicians.

Safe to say, she’s extremely passionate about academia. It’s why in 2010, she created DSG so that Malaysian postgrads struggling to write their thesis and find resources could get support.

Her acceptance into this programme comes with extreme gratitude, as she’s applied for it 3 times in the past, but this is the first time she’s made it in.

According to her, DSG likely stood out because it’s the only academic group in Malaysia that provides research software information so students can easily make purchases. At the same time, the community has covered hundreds of relevant postgrad topics via webinars, making it a treasure trove of information.

Other than these initiatives, Anita shared, “We have also been helping members who struggle financially by appointing them to become our affiliates or resellers for software so they can earn an online income.”

“We are currently working out job and publication opportunities for members, and more initiatives to expand into a DSG Virtual Academy (and later, DSG e-Varsity) are on the way.”

One of DSG’s previous in-person events for the academic community / Image Credit: DGS

These initiatives are where she will channel the accelerator’s funds, and some lessons she wants to take away include better focus and leadership skills so she can better grow DSG’s efforts and its members to 100K soon.

We believe that the model of learning has to change, as many people were impacted by various changes such as COVID-19, and a lot more people are finding themselves jobless. Therefore, DSG hopes to revolutionise teaching and learning—at least in Malaysia and to the bigger Southeast Asia region later.

Anita Adnan, Doctorate Support Group (DSG).

3. Daniel Cerventus, Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia

Those in Malaysia’s startup community may know Daniel as a man of many roles, with a few being the founding curator of TEDxKL and of course, an admin for Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia.

He originally started the group with an ex-business partner to test its functionality, but after leaving it up to the latter, the group was abandoned.

After 2 years of inactivity, Daniel resumed control over it and grew the group from 8K members to almost 70K members today, with the goal of being a support system to nurture entrepreneurs in Malaysia into global players.

Here’s where you’ll find entrepreneurs partake in all kinds of serious and fun discussions daily

His work has paid off, as his goal of fostering deeper engagement amongst the community members was what he believes convinced Facebook to pick them.

For him, fostering a sense of community isn’t limited to just exchanging written messages online, but this sense of care has to translate offline too.

“There are many stories like how one of our active members suddenly went quiet in the group last year, and a bunch of us were wondering what happened to him. So, we gave him a surprise visit at his restaurant,” Daniel recalled.

The Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia community also came together during COVID-19 to offer up help like gigs and introductions to clients in order to support one another.

With funding of up to US$50K up for grabs by each participant (along with an additional US$1 million, potentially), we asked Daniel how he would use it to improve the group.

He replied that they’ll work on creating programmes that allow entrepreneurs to collaborate and connect, whether they’re from Malaysia or from other global communities.

Furthermore, he wants to create lessons where entrepreneurs can improve their skills as leaders, founders, managers, marketers, salespeople, and more.

I want to make entrepreneurship as accessible as possible to as many people in the community.

Daniel Cerventus, Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia.

4. Johnson Lam, KakiRepair by KakiDIY (KakiRepair)

Johnson has been doing DIY and repair projects since he was 7 years old, and his ongoing involvement in such projects is a testament to his passion.

The idea to start KakiRepair came in 2017 when he wanted to create a DIY community to encourage innovators and makers, but it didn’t scale.

Then I realised I should take a few steps back to see what is relevant for the community’s needs. That was life skills, diagnosing, and repairing broken items.

Johnson Lam, KakiRepair by KakiDIY (KakiRepair).

KakiRepair’s concept is simple: you bring in your broken items (or your neighbours’) and come with an openness to get your hands dirty as you learn how to do repairs.

For Johnson, getting recognised by Facebook validated and motivated him in his mission, as KakiRepair was originally a physical events based community, which was tiring and hard to scale.

But the COVID-19 pandemic spelled an opportunity in disguise to bring the community online, and it grew by 10x in the last 18 months. Today, it has around 19K members.

Johnson believes that KakiRepair’s participation is well deserved, as the community prevents still-salvageable items from going to landfills, and it’s a group that has over 90% of its members active each day.

The MakerVan and team in action / Image Credit: KakiRepair

One of his proudest initiatives today remains the creation of MakerVan, which has enabled KakiRepair to reach underserved and faraway communities so they can benefit from repair knowledge too.

Once they’ve emerged from this accelerator, Johnson shared that they aim to:

  • Activate more KakiRepair communities in each Malaysian state via the refurbished MakerVan,
  • Create an online platform as a knowledge management system so members can self-help and connect with one another,
  • Build an all-in-one KakiRepair repair kit consisting of tools and IoT solutions to their web platform for their communities, and more.

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Our interviewees shared that getting onto the list was no easy feat, as it involved extensive questionnaires and intensive interviews across a few months. Some of them had to do these while juggling full-time day jobs too.

At the moment, they’re all halfway through the programme already, and Vulcan Post wishes them the best on the remaining stretch. Their success could inspire more passionate individuals to start up their own online communities, whether to raise awareness for a condition, encourage more sustainable lifestyles, foster a stronger industry ecosystem, and more.

With their connections to other global communities through the accelerator, it’s likely we’ll see more interesting developments in these groups to come, to the benefit of their existing and future members.

  • You can learn more about the Facebook Community Accelerator 2021 here.

Featured Image Credit: Anita, DGS / Johnson, KakiRepair / Rafidah, GAPS / Daniel, Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia

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