Hyder Albar may not be a household name but he’s literally a champion for young people in Singapore.
For the last five years, the former advertising research consultant has headed Invasion Singapore, a youth engagement and development agency that helps creatives in Singapore build an audience, develop their talents, and inspire the next generation of creative youths. The National Youth Council in Singapore defines a youth as anyone between the ages of 15 and 35. So far, over 700,000 of them have benefitted from Invasion Singapore’s programmes.
Now that Invasion Singapore is running on “autopilot” as Mr Albar calls it, the 34-year-old has turned his attention to building Creative Nation, which in simple terms is about using creativity to generate social impact.
The idea for Creative Nation came about when Mr Albar was invited to be part of a leadership programme organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Youth Council. He met with senior civil servants and political office holders to discuss the nation’s concerns, from the economic, social and foreign perspectives. From there, Mr Albar began thinking about how creatives can be a part of the development of Singapore.
(Related: Driving Youth to Social Causes: Rebekah Lin)
Creative Nation uses creativity to generate social impact. How does that happen?
It is an organisation that does two things. First, we bring together social impact creators that are often working in silos. For example, those championing environmental causes will always do environmental work, while those who help persons with disabilities don’t move out of their circle. It is very rare that you see a cross-section of intermingling of any two types of individuals. Creative Nation wants to be a central point to bring everyone together. But of course, there is a point to bringing groups of people together. I want to create a network where our members work together to share resources and opportunities to work with clients, and that includes government agencies.
Can you give some actual examples?
Many of the social impact creators we have as members are youths. For example, Elisa Lim, founder of Will and Well, designs clothes for people with disabilities. At our launch we introduced her to Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, to see how Elisa can bring her business to another level. The aim is ultimately to develop products and services that generate both profit and positive societal impact. The second thing that Creative Nation does is to design programmes that build bridges of understanding in society, across gender, class, and racial lines. We currently have Our Racial Biases in the Dark programme, which is an experiential live survey that uncovers racial biases that might exist in Singapore. More than 120 youths have already done the survey. The results will then be used to create programmes that promote racial cohesion. Equity, be it gender or race, is something that I personally champion, having seen how some people in society can be marginalised. Creative Nation sells the programmes to schools and we will also partner with various government ministries to introduce them into different agencies. Often when we think of creatives, we think of artists. But I feel everyone can be a creative person, and make a positive impact on society.
The concept for Creative Nation is so new. What challenges do you foresee?
One challenge will be from the social impact creators themselves. For a long time, we have been a culture that is all about ‘me, me, me’ and what can I get in return. Shifting the mindset and thinking from ‘me’ to ‘us’ is going to be a challenge, but it is necessary to understand that when we share, things will be better. A second challenge is convincing the public and individuals to see that social impact businesses can go beyond charity. Think about this, if a business is doing something good, they should be profitable and not be seen as doing social work.
Why are you so keen to work with and help youths?
A lot of it comes from wanting to make an impact in the future we want to see. I get a sense of achievement in knowing that I had a part in creating the opportunities that youths are seizing to further themselves. The platforms that we build are often inspired by the things I wish I had access to when I was their age.
What were your growing up years like, and do they have an impact on why you do what you do today?
My childhood was not great, but it was balanced. By that, I mean that while life in my family was turbulent, I was also exposed to the world in a broad way. My father was a ship captain, and he would bring us out to sea, and those moments stuck in my mind about how small we are in the world. There were bad moments, but I learnt how to deal with those moments was to take a look at them and figure out where I am in all this and how to push through them.
You are nearing the official age where you can no longer be considered a youth. How do you stay relevant?
My interests are very much what younger youths are into. I still love reading comic books and I’m a very big gamer. I listen to music by up and coming artists and music that older teenagers like listening to. I don’t hang out with 17- or 18-year-olds, that would be a bit odd, but my interests help me relate to them.
How can the public help Creative Nation?
It would be great if the public can attend our events such as our bi-monthly meetups. I think when you enter in your teens, early 20s, and later stages in life, there will be something that affects you, be it is mental health, or dealing with a relative that is going through old age. You will wonder if there are others out there going through the same experiences, and you may start to wonder if there are things you could volunteer for, that could make a social impact. That would be a win.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.