Change Accelerator: Ryan Joseph Figueiredo

Ryan Joseph Figueiredo - Equal Asia Foundation

Archive for the ‘Change Accelerators’ Category

Change Accelerator: Ryan Joseph Figueiredo

Ryan Joseph Figueiredo - Equal Asia Foundation

Our Change Accelerator for June is Ryan Joseph Figueiredo, Founder and Executive Director for Equal Asia Foundation, a regional innovations incubator for LGBT+ inclusive and appropriate SDG engagement in Thailand.

What does your organisation do?

Equal Asia Foundation is an incubator for inclusive LGBTI+ projects that is disrupting the LGBTI+ movement from within and encouraging it to find collaborative solutions to deep-seated social inequities.

Equal Asia Foundation’s work this year is focused on addressing the growing intergenerational gap in Asia, in particular reducing the social isolation of the elderly; preventing suicide and self-harm in the young; and mitigating the vulnerabilities of LGBT+ migrants and refugees affected by climate change, conflict and disaster.

The Equal Asia Foundation has a secretariat in Bangkok and is a collaborative community of change-makers from the non-profit, business and public sectors across borders who incubate and accelerate LGBTI+ inclusion projects in Asia.

Equal Asia Foundation has recently released its first publication. With this report, we have turned a corner in our work with refugees by documenting the condition and circumstances of LGBTI+ refugees, an invisible and vulnerable community living with us in this City of Angels and around Thailand. This report is a distillation of voices from across the refugee and LGBTI+ rights ecosystem and an urgent call for empathy and action. Click here to read more.

How did you get into social impact sector?

I  have worked for over 19 years in the social impact sector. Though I trained in Clinical genetics, I was moved by the plight of sex workers and their young children and started a local non-profit that provided basic health and nutrition services.

I also went back to school to pursue a Masters in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work.

I later began working in iNGOs, NGOs and social sector practices of management consulting firms across the region.

I founded Equal Asia Foundation in 2019 to respond to the glaring gaps in the LGBTI+ movement in Asia.

What is your driving force for accelerating change?

I am surrounded by inspiring human rights defenders who are driven to make the world a better place. I think human suffering is unnecessary and we have it in us to work together to find solutions to fix what is structurally wrong in our societies.

What one piece of advance would you give to future change accelerators who want to make a big impact in their work?

Radical collaboration is the key. The only way we can make a difference is if we are able to work intersectionally and across social movements.

We need to make leaps of faith and leaps of imagination if we want to make a big impact in the lives of the people we work with.

Also, be ready to grow and change as well. This work is as much about you as it is about the communities you work in.

Change Accelerator: Ntombenqaba Precious Petros

Change Accelerator - Ntombenqaba Precious Petros

Our Change Accelerator for May is Ntombenqaba Precious Petros, Co-founder of Masakhe Community Development Programme,  a community self-empowerment organisation in South Africa.

What does your organisation do?

MASAKHE (which means ‘we build’ in Xhosa) is a community self-empowerment organisation in Nyanga East and Lower Crossroads. The organisation emerged as a response to the difficult economic situation in the townships. There are not enough jobs for people and unemployment is very high.

We came together as concerned community members and decided to form an organisation to help ourselves and many others who are desperately looking for income.

Our aim is therefore to instil our members with a sense of self-worth, self-respect, dignity and hope for a future. We aim to help our members find employment and a steady income. To have an income and a daily task gives a person dignity.

The organisation started in February 2011. We were a group of 6 women then – women who were not educated and so found it very difficult to find paid employment. 

Things have been even harder during Covid-19 lockdown, as we had to shut down operations leaving many families in the community left without support, and without a safe place for their children to go each day.

As a response to this, I started an online funding campaign to help get essential food parcels to children and families in Nyanga East township to that they could survive the lockdown period.

This is something as an organisation we have never done before, and the response was incredible. In just a couple of weeks we were able to raise enough to get food packs together for 56 families.

I also reached out to other NGOs who were running feeding schemes and they were able to support and provide an additional 144 families with food packs.

What motivates you?

I am motivated every day by the people in my community. I see the hope and determination of people who want to make change happen to improve the situation that their community is in.

Their eagerness to do something different and learn new skills, or support others – regardless of their own situation.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My mother played a big role. She always made sure that everything she did came from her heart, focusing on supporting others who were less fortunate than her.

Everything she did was with passion, and she brought people along with her by inspiring others to support people who needed it.

What piece of advice would you give to future change accelerators who want to make a big impact in their work?

Trust yourself. Do everything with confidence and passion.

Change Accelerator: Ouafa Belgacem

Change Accelerator: Ouafa Belgacem

Ouafa Belgacem - CEO of Culture Funding Watch - TunisiaOur Change Accelerator for April is Ouafa Belgacem, CEO of Culture Funding Watch, Tunisia, who advocate for sustainable, transparent and smart culture and creative sector financing.

Please briefly describe what your organisation does 

Culture Funding Watch is a social enterprise specializing in intelligence, capacity building and advocacy for sustainable, transparent and smart culture and creative sector financing.

We support cultural and creative industry workers by giving them access to the information, resources, advice and assistance they need to achieve their goals. We do this by facilitating access to information on resources, training and building capacities in resources mobilization, raising resources and influencing donors and future donors.

Our reach expands across Europe, MENA Region and Africa, offering 20 workshops per year and supporting over 9,000 users through our Facebook page.  

How did you get into social impact sector? 

This is funny story… I am actually an archeologist by trade, and I was destined to be a researcher or a teacher with little exposure to project design or implementation. My passion for old stones and dead bodies meant my mum used to tease me, saying ‘you are grave digger’. My shift to the social impact sector started when I got my first job and international experience at the supreme council of antiquities in Egypt where I was working on a Finnish/Egyptian collaboration project. There I discovered the whole world of development, collaboration and fundraising. When I joined the project it was nearing the end of it’s funding and I was worried about its sustainability and continuity. I remember asking my Egyptian manager “what is going to happing once the Finnish funding is over?”, to which he replied “you are a ‘digger’ and I have still 6 months budget for a junior researcher… go and dig and find out what we should do next”. I was convinced that the survival of the art and culture sector was dependent on the “cultural workers”  themselves mastering their own financial sustainability. 

And there came my lightbulb moment. I discovered that Fundraising is a profession in it’s own right, and there is a whole world out there that comes with it. In 2005 I decided to become a fundraiser, and to learn as much as I could, so I could come back and apply it to the arts and culture sector. It was around the same time that I found the Resource Alliance. It was a turning point in my career, and my whole life. Being among the 12 bursary winners from over 450 applicants for the IWRM Workshop in Malaysia was the little push that I needed to be able to shift from an archeologist to a professional fundraiser. I met people that inspired and encouraged me, and it allowed me to move forward and dare to apply for a position at the European commission delegation in Egypt (where I knew I would have exposure to the most complex intuitional donor in my region). Following that I worked at Oxfam as regional funding programme coordinator and now I am the founder of Culture Funding Watch. I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far. CFW is the only MENA and Africa focused social enterprise helping the arts and culture sector reach the resources they need. 

What is your driving force for accelerating change? 

I have always been driven to solidarity and caring about others, but most importantly I have a deep belief in the major role that art and culture plays in human lives and collective wellbeing. And besides, I am Tunisian and French – an explosive combination of cultures of resistance, revolution and strong women. It is in my genes. This is the reason I have been driven to working with organisations like Oxfam, SNV etc. I have a very low tolerance threshold to injustice.  

What one piece of advance would you give to future change accelerators who want to make a big impact in their work?

Give it time. If you have a look at my career you will see what kind of change maker I am. I took time (15 years) to master my knowledge before creating CFW because I have always advocated that meaningful change can only happen when we act on the roots of the problem. I like to inscribe my actions in the time so that they have deep and lasting impact. It takes time to change policies and behavior and I am not afraid of time. 

The first time art financing and funding was mentioned in the MENA regional art and culture conference arenas was in 2010 when I brought it into discussion, when most of the sectors’ attention was about cultural policies. CFW is 6-7 years ahead of the game when it comes to bringing this dimension of cultural and creative sector development. I am very proud now that my small organisation is operating with zero external funding, zero influential supporters is now a reference in the region. I take pride in quality, durability and solidarity. 

Do you know an inspirational Change Accelerator? Nominate them for our next newsletter and to be entered into our global awards by emailing us here.

Change Accelerator: Sandy Cipriano

Change Accelerator: Sandy Cipriano

Sandy Cipriana with Alber, Luthuli and friends - young boys dressed as superheroesdressed

Our Change Accelerator for March is Sandy Cipriano, Founder of Cupcakes of Hope, who aim to create awareness and raise funds for children with life threatening diseases, predominantly done through a love of baking cupcakes. Every month Cupcakes of Hope helps 80 -100 little cancer patients by paying for their medical and day-to-day expenses.

How did you get into social impact sector?

I’ve always volunteered as a student.  It was not always easy, but it felt good knowing that I could and did make a difference. Unfortunately one of our family friends lost their 3 year old daughter to cancer. Seeing what this family went through, I felt I could do something to help similar families during one of their toughest journeys. 

We run a family restaurant and we decided to do our first fundraiser in 2009, we raised R5 000 for one little patient. Our yearly fundraisers grew bigger every year and in 2011 we introduced cupcakes as a fundraising tool. That year we set a New World Record for the MOST CUPCAKES ON DISPLAY, 21 000, and raised R200 000 for children with cancer.  

I absolutely loved seeing how the whole community came together to ‘bake’ a difference and I felt that we could help more children if we get the whole South Africa involved so we decided to registered Cupcakes of Hope as a Non Profit Company in 2012. 

Since we started our foundation, we have helped more than 2 000 patients as well as 16 other cancer charities in South Africa, and raised over R10 million. This is by far the SWEETEST way to help SAVE a life.

What is your driving force for accelerating change?

I believe that EVERY ONE can make a difference in this world – all you need is a bit of time and LOADS of LOVE! I also believe that every act of kindness has a ripple effect with no end.
If you could “wave a magic wand” and accelerate your organisation’s success, what’s the one big thing you’d most like to accomplish?
I believe that Cupcakes of Hope has created a community of volunteers (our Cupcake Angels), who are between the ages of 3 and 90, from pre-schoolers to firemen, from nurses to accountants, who stand side by side to change the world for the better.

Together we are ‘baking’ a difference in the lives of children with life threatening diseases. I would love to see more people from different socio-economic backgrounds, working together for a great cause.

On National Cupcake Day we see our Cupcake Angels coming together, working side by side to ‘bake’ a difference in someone’s life.

What one piece of advance would you give to future change accelerators who want to make a big impact in their work?

In my case I started with a fundraiser to help one patient and little did I know that it would be ‘the spark’ to ignite Cupcakes of Hope. My message to accelerators is to always dream BIG, and believe that you can make a difference.

Find your passion, in our case it was using our God given talent of baking cupcakes, and try and use that to make a difference in a cause you believe in!

So let your light shine bright and it will inspire others to do the same.

This week International Women’s Day took place. Tell us about a women who has inspired/helped you accelerate change in your life or work.

I always talk about two ladies who had a huge impact on me when I was growing up. 

The first one was Oprah Winfrey, as I loved watching her Angel Network shows. The foundation of Cupcakes of Hope is actually based on one of the episodes I watched, where a young 15 year old girl wanted to make a difference, but she did not have money. So instead she visited old age homes and spoilt the ladies by doing their nails and hair… showing me that you don’t always need money to make a difference and that sometimes all people need is a bit of time and loads of love. 

I alway knew that one day I would meet Oprah, but I always thought that I would be flying out to America to attend her show, instead Oprah actually came to visit us as she has had dinner at our restaurant in Vereeniging, not once but on three separate occasions. For me this was a full circle moment meeting someone who has inspired and touched millions of people all over the world.

The second woman who inspired me is Mother Teresa, who said ‘we can’t all do great things, but we can do little things with great LOVE” – and that is what Cupcakes of Hope is all about.  

Our Cupcake Angels are spreading Cupcake LOVE all across South Africa and my dream is to see Cupcake LOVE being spread all over the world, helping even more children fight their battles because they don’t deserve to fight this battle alone.

Do you know a inspirational Change Accelerator? Nominate them for our next newsletter and to be entered into our global awards by emailing us here.