AT TAYLOR'S: Lin Yuen (meilin.yuen@taylors.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: Generasi Gemilang (info@gengemilang.org)
Spread of Love was a fund-raising project to spur entrepreneurial acumen in the women that had volunteered to come to the DOTS (Developing Opportunities Through Service). The idea arose from the women themselves as they were led through a series of workshops by the DOTS team that were based on the principles of Appreciative Inquiry. This approach is based on the assumption that the questions we ask determines the solutions we find. The familiar problem-solving method tends to focus on what is wrong, or what needs to be fixed in any given situation.

Appreciative Inquiry instead looks at the strengths and talents in a community and asks how those strengths and talents can be harnessed for the good of the community. After much discussion about their lack of education and their opportunities to work outside the home, the women decided that their greatest strengths lay in their cooperation with each other and their cooking skills. Leveraging these two strengths, a project was conceived to make homemade jam, package it nicely in gift jars, and sell the jam at Christmas in local market stall. Using RM10,000 in seed money donated by Ernst & Young, the women capitalized on community talents and strengths in a simple entrepreneurial project that was to prove highly successful. 
Vintha Guptan, Dean of Taylor’s Business School reports, “For some of these women it was the first time they had ever made money for themselves. We walked them through opening their first bank account and putting their first savings in the bank. It is an everyday occurrence for us, but for them it was transformational. To see their joy when they saw at the end of the project how much money they had saved was truly heartwarming. We had made a difference in their lives.”

Along with learning the basic of setting up a business, the women learned the importance of earning money and saving it safely. They learned the importance of cooperation with others and learned how to trust both people and institutions of which they long been afraid. They saw through this simple project a way out of their systemic poverty through the discovery of themselves and their own abilities in the context of their community. The learned the joy of ownership of their own ideas, and how ideas, especially those that involve others in their community, can have great value in changing their world. They developed teamwork, learned how to negotiate conflicts, and developed communication skills in talking to the public. Most importantly they developed some pride in the work of their own hands.

As one of the women involved in the Spread of Love project shared, “Today I am very happy. There was so much that I didn’t know about myself and about the world. It’s like I was trapped in a box. From this project I have learned to work hard, to cooperate with others, and to be more creative. I have also learned to think more positively about myself.” Spreading that message of love and acceptance has been at the heart of this project from its inception, and Taylor’s Hostel Management and the DOTS team are to be commended for the positive affect they have had on this community. 

Written by Stephen Wise