Collaboration with Lestari Group Pahang: “Embracing Ourselves!”

By: Nicholas Augustin Jiemas

As a man, I grow up being told that crying is intolerable in public. Not only that men should not show their invulnerability, but they are also supposed to feel ashamed about it. At least, those are what my mom, uncle, and aunties told me whenever I cried. I knew even back then that little things can trigger tears: the slight progression of people’s facial emotion, the physical sting of a syringe, fictional deaths in comic books – crying is my first resort. I was labelled the crybaby of the family, albeit not in a good way.

Crying is more commonly associated with invulnerability, even to the extent that criers are judged as less competent than non-criers (van de Ven et al., 2016). This is interesting because criers, as opposed to those suppressing their emotions, are experiencing more connection and empathy to others (Hesdorffer et al., 2017), therefore having more chances to be helped by others and growing more “invulnerable” should another challenge surface.

While we have associated “invulnerability” with the power of overcoming hardships seemingly unscathed, it does not illustrate the truth that everyone fails at some point in their life. A much more preferred word for our imperfection (or rather perfection, paradoxically) is “resilience.” Perhaps, in the case of crying, we are made to believe that we might make it through it all without any bumps. Or perhaps no one cares enough about our own challenges. We subsequently toughen up in the disguise of our vulnerability. Perhaps, that’s what we were made to believe.

Because being resilient is getting up each time we fall, we would expect help from others. We are social beings after all. It is why we help each other. Why do we work with each other? Why do we team up with each other, bringing up the best of our own, in hope of a shared goal? We conspire for the better. We collaborate, but it started by understanding other’s challenges, including vulnerability. Perhaps that’s why collaboration starts with empathy as in understanding other’s perspectives. At the time, without prejudice or judgment (Gino, 2019).

This is also true of many of our collaboration stories. Recently, our partners in Malaysia who called themselves Lestari Group Pahang, are co-running their own Empathy Project. The way we are affected by the pandemic is different, but we all face difficulties to some degree. By inviting the public to create free and accessible videos about ways to maintain or improve wellness amidst the pandemic, they hope to facilitate not only a pool of resources but also people’s intention of helping each other without having to know each other.

We knew them 2 years ago when they visited us here in Indonesia. The members of the group are not your everyday people; they consisted of doctors, lecturers, and associate professors from 5 universities in Malaysia. In hindsight, you’d not notice these people are experts in their own field. They are light-hearted and humble. I’d like to believe that anyone will be able to engage in a long conversation with them if you have met them.

At that time, they were solely focusing on waste treatment. Their visit was to observe best practices in Indonesia about successful waste treatment with circular economy principles. As their host, we took them to tour the sites. SociopreneurID is not specifically focusing on waste treatment. I was oblivious to the nature of collaboration, and I wondered why we teamed up with them. Aren’t we going in a different direction?

2 years forward and noticing many forms of partnership with each other, I began to understand that we have always been on the same page: weaving collaboration for the good. The good being anything that improves the bad. The bad? Well, it can be defined from time to time. We have conducted a seminar about social entrepreneurship, produced videos about how to view and treat waste for a better environment, and currently co-running Empathy Project. The “bad” can be different problems in a different context – the collaboration manifest following how the bad takes shape. To date, there have been 1,500+ learners of our joint programs.

But the beginning – and much to the analogy of crying – are both the leaders of organizations sharing discussion about what they are doing in each country, what they need, and how they can cooperate. Indeed, Dessy (Founder and Executive Director of SociopreneurID) and Awanis (Leader of Lestari Group Pahang) has been friends since their doctoral studies in New Zealand. At the time of discussion, Lestari Group has not been established as a consortium yet, and SociopreneurID was merely a year old with limited personnel. They “cried” to each other, and by being fully open to each other, they have brought the best of them. Then, wonders happen!

There are many cases where openness leads to connection. A simple and popular example of that is the project Big Talk where we are free to ask big (uneasy, unconventional, thought-provoking) questions. Turns out we connect faster, because we open ourselves with each other, and move forward to finding the possible solution(s) to them.

In celebration of our partnership with Lestari Group Pahang, we pose this question for you and ourselves: have we embraced our true serves and show them to others? If you haven’t, then, together, let’s embrace our whole selves!

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