Planning the ASEAN Youth Forum: Collaboration between Brunei and Malaysia
For the past three years, Chevening Alumni in Brunei have been running a highly successful youth forum to engage young people in their country with ideas such as social entrepreneurship, innovation, and the creative industries. This year, they have joined forces with Chevening Alumni Malaysia to host a forum for young people across the ASEAN. We asked two of the alumni who have been instrumental in making this happen a few questions to see how they went about planning it.
How did you first come up with the idea for the Brunei Chevening Youth Forum?
Fatin Arifin (representing Chevening Alumni Brunei): A few months after returning back home, there was that itch to continue being connected to Chevening in a constructive way. So when Maya (Chevening officer in Brunei) shared the opportunity to bid for the CAPF fund, ideas ran wild! Meeting some of the past scholars in Brunei in influential positions in government gave me the inspiration to create a platform for constructive engagement between the alumni and young people. Hence the Brunei Chevening Youth Forum (BCYF) was born, aimed at bringing together young leaders and Chevening Alumni from Brunei. By leveraging alumni expertise, experience and influence, BCYF aspires to promote youth participation and leadership in economic, national, and regional development.
What have been some of the highlights of the past few years of running it?
FA: The greatest highlight is the committee members who continue to believe in the initiative, taking time off from work to make the forums happen, despite difficult schedules. We are also pleased to have the opportunity to connect with both local and regional alumni, and continue to build engagement with alumni after the forum. We have also been able to engage the right stakeholders (including the Minister of Youth, the Permanent Secretaries at the Ministry of Youth, and Members of the Legislative Council) with both the forum and its outcomes.
How did you come up with the idea of expanding the project to all ASEAN countries?
FA: After having done BCYF for over two years, we knew there needed to be some level of innovation. We therefore ran the idea past our Chevening Alumni Malaysia colleague, Mr Wan Djawad, about taking this platform to ASEAN. We firmly believe that there is power in a collective force. So we hope to be able to bring our expertise, experience, and insights to inspire the young generation to contribute progressively to the development of their nation and the region.
What are you most looking forward to about the ASEAN youth forum?
FA: We are looking forward to the big gathering of ASEAN Chevening Alumni and the young people from across ASEAN. We aspire to collectively discuss the sustainable development goals and how young people can make a difference in the region. This is a youth-led forum where a majority of the speakers are actually young people themselves, and our goal is to make the forum as engaging as possible to create meaningful exchanges.
Wan Djawad (representing Chevening Alumni Malaysia): The youth forum is a culmination of a successful regional collaboration amongst the Chevening community. We hope that the forum will educate and increase participants’ awareness of the importance of sustainable development, both in ASEAN and globally. Apart from that, we are looking forward to seeing the creativity and leadership qualities amongst the youth participating. We always enjoy the opportunity to network during Chevening events. Without fail, these opportunities will connect us with amazing individuals with whom we can collaborate on future projects.
How have you been preparing for the event?
FA: The collaborative work with Chevening Alumni Malaysia began in September 2017 when we first met and sat down with the whole committee to brainstorm the shape and format of the forum. Since then, we have taken the work virtually through regular updates via WhatsApp, email, and Google Drive. In all of our communication, what has worked for us was to set expectations openly with each other.
WD: The real magic happened when we started contacting alumni from all the other ASEAN countries through British embassies and high commissions. Within days, we were receiving responses from Chevening officers from every country that we had contacted with nominations for speakers, as well as invitations for participants. We had participants coming from almost every country in ASEAN and even participants from outside of ASEAN who are based in South East Asia. Every step of the way, we relied on the collaboration and responsiveness of every embassy, high commission, and alumnus that we worked with. Everyone was completely stellar in being a part of this initiative.
What impact do you hope that it will have on Brunei/Malaysia and the region more widely?
FA: We hope that some great initiatives will be conceived at the forum between participants and alumni. We also hope to inspire other alumni to create similar initiatives—to use their skills, expertise, and influence to impact the development of young people.
WD: We hope that by successfully carrying this out, more youth will be aware of the challenges our region faces in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving a global target is a daunting task, and more often than not, we may feel overwhelmed at the thought of ever doing anything that would amount to any real change. Hopefully, by capitalising on our young talents within the Chevening Alumni community, we will be able to inspire our youth to take even baby steps and incorporate in their lives, where they can, actions that contribute towards the end goal. All we need is for one person to turn their thoughts into action. And we hope that this forum will fill them with great thoughts on how they can change the world!
Thanks to Fatin Arifin (Brunei) and Wan Djawad (Malaysia) for taking the time to answer these questions! See what happened at the youth forum by looking back at their Instagram posts.