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YNPACt Community Huddle #1

We held our first event on 16 September! YNPACt started with the goal of helping alumni support each other in our social impact journeys. Given the news about YNC's closure, we felt like it was even more important for us to hold space for each other, and reflect about the role the Yale-NUS played in bringing us where we were.

Screenshot of YNPACt Community Huddle Miro board

The Zoom session was facilitated by Sylvia Gan '17 and Callysta Thony '19, who are now working in environmental education and social innovation consulting respectively. Together with fellow alumni, we moved through a series of questions:

"Which aspects of the Yale-NUS experience have been integral to your social impact journey?"

In the first segment, we asked alumni to identify aspects of the College experience that had nudged them towards pursuing social impact. The answers were clustered around Centre for International and Professional Experience's (CIPE) programmes, academic courses, internships and aspects of the college culture. For example, CIPE's annual Social Impact Bootcamp (previously known as the NGO Bootcamp) gave some alumni the skills and knowledge to talk about the sector. Through the CIPE Social Impact Fellowship, one alumni also started thinking more deeply about inefficiencies in the charity model and dependencies in the international development framework.

"YNC had a culture of communication, collaboration and inclusion. That really helped me grow in my journey of social impact."

For some, it was the connections that they made between courses and fieldwork - one alumni found linkages between a course on agrarian studies, an internship in Indonesia and her study abroad programme in Costa Rica. This led her to think about how to put theory into practice, and how there can be many ways of building meaning in life. For another, interning with a civic engagement programme for ethnic Vietnamese students in Cambodia set her on the path of looking at how to decolonise education, and promote equity in the education space.

Many pointed towards a culture of open communication - even outside the classroom - paired with classmates taking action as a key driving factor behind them choosing to pursue social impact themselves.

"What are you doing now?"

We then turned to ask alumni what they are doing now. Predictably, everyone's journeys spanned across a diverse continuum: public policy research, intercultural engagement, farming and development in rural Southeast Asia, ecology research and environmental impact assessments, marketing at a fast-food MNC, education, and youth development and mentorship.

"What's next for you?"

Some alumni who have been working in research shared about a desire to move into more action-focused roles. Others talked about wanting to take their corporate experiences to marketing and fundraising roles in non-profits, reflecting a broader trend around wanting to boost the fundraising capabilities of non-profits.

One interesting idea that came up was alumni who wanted to go back to the corporate sector to build skills before returning to the social sector, along with one attendee who highlighted financial independence as their primary goal, freeing them to pursue their own interest in marine conservation.

"I learnt to not see career arcs according to the standard metrics around us."

This led to the question of how to make these transitions, and the factors in consideration.

Choosing where to work, and the accompanying ethical and practical considerations, was a meaty topic for the group. The group in attendance consisted of non-Singaporean alumni on the Tuition Grant Scheme looking to return to their home countries, as well as Singaporeans looking to travel out. Those who wanted to move home, but had been raised and educated overseas, expressed doubts over whether they were best placed to help back in their home communities. Singaporeans looking to work in Southeast Asia also felt like they weren't sure if they were the best people to be looking for non-profit on-the-ground roles overseas.

Financially, financing a move or finding sustainable income sources - especially for those who have already been bootstrapping in non-profit organisations for the past few years - would be a challenge. Visa and immigration issues - worsened in the age of COVID-19 - only exacerbated these concerns.

"What would you choose to pass on to future students or your younger self?"

"One thing I would tell current YNC students would be to build a wider range of demographics with whom you can talk about social impact. At the end of the day, YNC is a fairly small community with our own peculiar characteristics."

Given all that we had learnt since our College days till now, we asked alumni for advice they'd give to their younger self, or current students. These tips were what surfaced:

  • Build range in talking to different demographic groups;

  • Understand the Singaporean social impact/service sector;

  • Prioritise treating others well, regardless of whether this was within a defined "impact space;"

  • Invest in community - shared goals really help, and don't get bogged down by details, labels [how you define yourself] and guilt [of not doing enough/the most impactful thing];

  • Live up to your personal values; interacting with others with humility and helping on a personal level all count as impact. Impact does not have to look a particular way;

  • Take time to find your own voice and opinion amidst the noise that the YNC community can sometimes tend to generate.

"How can we make the most of the last few years to develop the Yale-NUS social impact community?"

We concluded our reflections about YNC's impact on us by asking how alumni might be interested in investing in these last few years of the YNC student body and its social impact journey. A few reiterated their desire to mentor, and meet with current students to share their experiences, ideas for social impact, volunteering opportunities.

Some alumni also wanted to show that a career in the non-profit/social impact world is "survivable" (tough, but doable!) and the various career paths that current students may not be aware of. Sharing tactical advice, through sessions on running a non-profit, motivating volunteers, grad school and fellowship applications also came up.

Lastly, some suggested expanding on our directory of alumni, to link users to fellowships, internship programmes and full-time job postings.

"I hope alumni can continue to support international students, by helping them to see how they can continue to stay involved in social impact work whilst being on TGS."

Hearing news about YNC's closure was tough to stomach. But at least for us, the Community Huddle was a warm, familiar space to yet again wrestle through ideas of social impact and what living it out entailed for people of all backgrounds.

Still, the concluding theme around alumni's desire to engage and support current students rang clearly. We hope to run an event for current Yale-NUS students in early November to share about how some of us navigated this journey of graduating from YNC and figuring out where to channel our social impact passions. Details are in the works, so watch this space!

P.S. Our pose on Zoom is a reflection of the new YNPACt logo: a Kingfisher emerging from the Y in YNPACt, ready to extend its shared takeaways to the world. Check out the logo on our Facebook and LinkedIn.

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