Well into collaborative production
Kuala Lumpur | Malaysia
“The Biji-biji Initiative is a social enterprise that aims to share progressive ideas with everyone. We champion sustainable living, reuse waste creatively and we love collaborative production. By using discarded materials, basic electronics and passive building techniques we aim to inspire our surroundings with fresh and fun approaches to sustainable living.”
What does it mean in practice?
Do you see this? It's a solar lamp - says Azam Hisham, founder of Biji Biji -. One of our clients is an alcohol distributor, which is commonly known as not really socially friendly company. They produce a lot of bottles and only 30% of glass is recycled in Malaysia. We suggested them to recycle their glass, fill it with water and just a LED and it can light quite brightly. If we power it with sun, we can send it to villages in Sabah, one of the poorest regions of Malaysia. Whenever there is no electricity, they can use it instead. You charge it during the day and it lasts 6-7h every night. And those here are bags from advertising banners. As everything in Biji-Biji, the technique for doing them is released as open source. We want people to use banners themselves and reduce rubbish. When we have a big order for bags, we hire people from low income groups and we pay them half of the price we sell it for. Beside the house you see here, we have another one, where we build bigger stuff: installation, sculptures, furniture. We have for example a bicycle with which you can produce power and make your own juice. We show people that there are other ways to produce electricity.
Biji Biji works with the general public, with individuals, private companies, government, non-governmental organizations, with anybody who shares the same values.
We work with those who want to communicate sustainability and be inclusive. As long as somebody wants to reuse waste materials or increase awareness on sustainability or employ more people - we work for them. But if they want to do something against our principles, we will not collaborate, maybe recommend some friends, other companies working in the same field.
To create innovative ideas for so many diverse clients, Biji Biji uses brainstorming, including people from very different fields, with assorted skills and experiences.
We have 30 people working with us: 20 people full time and 10 volunteers, usually long term, they stay at least one month. For every project we have people with different backgrounds coming together. I think anyone, any skills, any interest, any field of work or study can be engaged in social impact. We’ve been accepting musicians, we’ve been accepting multimedia people. It’s not about particular skills, it’s about principles. If you are a musician and you don’t tolerate pollution, then you are a changemaker. If you are a brilliant engineer which uses his skills to make oil cheaper, then the musician is a better changemaker than you. Our company was created by myself, I was from music journalism. My three partners are from finance, physics and international community development. We all have very different skills. Then we met other people with even more diverse abilities. What tights us together are principles.
Among them the most important is the love for their own planet, their country, their society.
I’m from Sarawak, Malaysia. Sabah, the region nearby, is beautiful, it’s very well kept, they are good in ecotourism. Sarawak is all about natural resources. Trees were cut like crazy. I met with my partners, friends at that time, and I said: things in Sarawak are bad, we should do something, increase awareness and communicate people the importance of caring about the environment and being creative in finding solutions. The initial idea was to open a hostel in Sarawak which would be sustainable, use waste materials, recycle and do many things like that. But we were 23 years old at that time, with no money. Starting a hotel was quite impossible. We saw a grant competition with a 40.000 ringgits prize [about 10000$]. Still not enough to open a hostel, so I proposed the idea of making furniture using recycled material instead and creating an open source workshop where people can come and leave what they don't need, find what can be useful for them, borrow tools instead of buying them.
Today Biji Biji is not only an open source workshop, it's so much more. It's a place where you can create, build, envision a better future, and above all, collaborate.
I think the only way to make a significant impact it’s to collaborate. Team up and work together. Forget about doing everything alone, the best way is to work with as many people as possible. Share your idea. Don’t be afraid of people stealing it because if it’s a good idea more of that should happen. I never understood why people don’t want to share. If I want to buy a drill, but my neighbor already has one, why don't I go to him and say: look, I wanted to buy a drill, but you have one already so maybe I buy a saw and in this way we have both a drill and a saw. It has so much more sense.
More about Biji Biji: biji-biji.com