Building a movement – insights from two changemakers
November 5, 2018
I had the pleasure of hearing from two incredible changemakers over the weekend at Green is the new Black’s Conscious Festival: Jack Sim, the self-professed “Toilet Man”, who has championed the improvement of toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide through his non-profit the World Toilet Organisation, and Melati Wijsen who, together with her sister, formed Bye Bye Plastic Bags to campaign and advocate against the use of plastic bags polluting the oceans and riverways in Bali and now across the world.
Both are incredible speakers, and have brought about real change to the causes they support. Three common themes stood out to us about how they’ve achieved this.
1. Anyone can affect change but it will take time and persistence
Neither Jack or Melati were experts in sanitation or plastic before they started but were inspired to do something to tackle a problem. Since then, Jack has been working on toilets for over 15 years, whilst it has taken Melati and her sister over 5 years to persuade the government of Bali to ban plastic bags from January next year.
Melati and her sister started campaigning againts plastic bags aged 10 and 12
2. Bringing new approaches can make the difference
Jack is well known for his genuinely humorous approach to discussing toilets and speaking simply about sh*t! By doing that, he enabled a way for people to talk about an issue that was often neglected, caught the media’s interest and in doing so attracted the attention of a wider audience. Melati and her sister came up with the idea of greeting visitors at Bali airport to help support their change – their petition attracted 100,000 signatures, and gave them the clout to lobby government for change.
Jack uses humour to engage people on sanitation
3. You can’t do it on your own
But perhaps most importantly, both Jack and Melati emphasised the importance of building a team and inspiring others to join the change. Despite their own passion for their respective causes, there were limits as individuals to what they could achieve on their own. Bringing others on board meant they could for instance, persuade the UN to create a World Toilet Day, legitimising the issue of sanitation, or attract 12,000 volunteers to undertake Bali’s largest ever beach clean-up. In Jack’s case, it meant understanding the incentives of the people they were trying to influence, be it bureaucrats, funders or media and aligning what they wanted with his objectives.
Jack's understanding of the incentives driving key actors
For us, at the The Final Straw, we're supporting the movement to reduce disposable plastic consumption in the F&B industry in Singapore. We’re always on the look-out for new partners or volunteers. Please get in touch if you want to be involved!