Her name is Gift. And a gift is what she does. For Thai society.
Since we entered Ma:D, we knew this is exactly what we are looking for.
„Ma:D A CLUB FOR CHANGE is the place where social-oriented people can get closer to create connections, exchange ideas, collaborate and start something together to make a positive impact to the society.”
„No matter who you are or what you are doing. Believe it! You can make a change in our society. Just come to us and we will work together to change the world.”
„One little person can’t change the world, but one big group of persons can. That’s why Ma:D is here to gather people, knowledge, and resources together. We believe in the power of ordinary people, which leads to a WIDE and SUSTAINABLE impact for a better society.”
After one week spent in Ma:D, several interviews with changemakers from Bangkok for whom Ma:D is the place for meetings and developing the passion, after the everyday (and every night…) chance to observe the work of those people forming Ma:D‘s community, we are sure that these are not just words. Ma:D is an amazing gift for the whole society, but also for each and every person who want to change the world, for each changemaker.
I met so many people on my way who wanted to do something for the society. But they didn’t know how to start. Often they didn’t believe they can really do something. I wanted to change it, to create a space where anybody who has an idea, whether it is a social project or an enterprise, can come and find people with whom he or she can share passion, experience, ideas, knowledge.
Coming to Ma:D we passed few other co-working spaces. This is a quite strong trend. All of them look modern. One could say European. We even visited some of them. But Ma:D is the only one focused on social entrepreneurship.
I finished my economic studies five years ago, but my real passion was the social sector. When the time for graduation came and I needed to have a job, I’ve jump into the nonprofit sector. Many people ask me what am I doing, how will I support family? I started to collaborate with Change Fusion, which support social entrepreneurs in Thailand. In fact, I didn’t know the idea of social entrepreneurship by that time, but from the very first moment I felt this is something for me.
I came back to myself, learn more about that and I realize business itself is not bad. It can make an organization to be sustainable. I opened my mind and learned a lot working in Change Fusion: research microfinance, social communication… There I did so many things, I met a lot of people.
Change Fusion comes back in quite a few following interviews. It seems to be the organizations which initiated thinking about social entrepreneurship, still not so known in Thailand. As in many European countries, usually nongovernmental organizations work on social problems banking on grants and time limited resources. In people’s mind helping shouldn’t be connected with earning money.
If you exploit people you can be rich. But people who do social work they cannot. I think this is ridiculous. After working two years in Change Fusion I had to give up and came back to work in my family business, they do some selling and consulting. I still help them as part-time job. One and a half year later a friend of mine invited me to collaborate with a business magazine. I could interview business people in Thailand. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship from them. Six months later I was ready to open my own business.
In all those jobs I met so many people who would like to make some change. I decided to open a space for them. It was more or less two years ago.
The idea of a co-working space, even thought it had already existed in Bangkok, was relatively new. However, none of the existing places focused on social entrepreneurship.
I started with finding a place to rent. We have found this one, which is nice located and has a lot of advantages, but it’s also expensive. Firstly we created a standard co-working space. People paid a membership fee for using the room. After six months I realized it didn’t work. So many people were confused, they called me to ask: if I just have an idea, can I come and talk or do I need to pay? I didn’t charge people who didn’t start their social project but it was still confusing and I felt it’s not ok to do it that way. What’s more, we tried to make the space to be cheap as social entrepreneurs usually don’t have much money, especially at the beginning. Because of that many other people came, even with no social aim, just because it was cheap. I thought, it is totally wrong, it’s not the right answer. Fortunately, I have good friends, f.e. Khun, who has experience in business and who helped me. We decided to make the living room a tip-based open space, and we built separated offices around the main building to rent. More and more people once their business is set need their own space. At the same time they can’t afford to pay the rent for a big building. Our offices are a great solution for them. And thanks to that we can do what we want to do and be ok with the business side, with paying all the expenses.
But Ma:D is much more than just a space.
· Other co-working spaces have a very business attitude. Ma:D is just like family. (Jasnam, Coin Back)
· Ma:D is a second home to me. (Poa Begin)
· You were right to start looking for changemakers in Ma:D, in Bangkok there is no better place for that. (Nicha, Teach for Thailand)
Renting offices is just our business side. But our actual mission can be described in three points:
1. Space and community – we build the space to work but also a network and a community of people who want to start something social: projects, enterprises, anything which can make this world better. All those people can come to Ma:D just meet other likeminded people and share their ideas.
2. Incubation program – people come here with some ideas, but often they don’t know how to implement them. The incubation program can help in developing them.
3. Resource mobilization platform - we build it both off and on line. Different events, meetings, a facebook group. In our fb group there are more than 2.000 active members. Everybody can post their questions or needs and other answer with potential solutions or help.
Ma:D also developed a proactive approach on supporting other members’ ideas toward the common goal of changing the world. One evening the founders of the Coin Back project (you will read about it in a future issue) left a prototype machine in Ma:D to avoid bringing it back and forth. The same evening in Ma:D there was a craft activists meeting attended by many people. Gift right before the meeting placed the Coin Back machine in a visible spot and described briefly the idea on the nearby whiteboard asking for support and feedback. Nobody asked her to do so, nobody even thought about it. But in Ma:D this is normal, people are engaged in each other projects as all of them have a common aim: improve the world. Sharing ideas, helping others is the base of future entrepreneurship. This is so much the truth in social enterprises, where typical concurrency doesn’t exist; on the opposite, we want other people to take our idea and make it shine brighter. But this is not the only difference. What makes some people to choose that way, to become changemakers, social entrepreneurs, while so many others, often living in the same environment, the same circumstances, they don’t have this motivation?
I’m not sure. In my case it was probably my family which gave me freedom. Sometimes they don’t understand what I want to do, but they allow me to choose my way and keep supporting me.
And what is it needed to be a changemaker, a social entrepreneur like those you meet every day in Ma:D?
Determination. You need to keep going. Passion. Real understanding of what you want to do. The core, the roots of the problem. You need to keep learning and go deep inside yourself. Keep checking if what you are doing now still has impact. And you need to be able to engage people. You can’t be a changemaker alone. I think this is the most important part. I would never create Ma:D without other people’s help.
What is the most important message for people who may one day become changemakers?
Start it NOW. Your idea doesn’t have to be big. Start with small steps, but start right away.
Gift Preekamol Chantaranijakorn – founder of Ma:D in Bangkok, a co-working space where social entrepreneurs can share ideas, knowledge, passion, and experience to build together a better world.
Contact thanks to Amnesty International and the Ashoka Thailand Foundation which supports social innovators.
About Ashoka and Amnesty International