By CHRISTINE CHEAH
THE word “incitement” generally comes with a tinge of negativity, but 27-year-old Zikry Kholil has taken it upon himself to redefine the word, by inciting positivity that brings about peace and unity.
Zikry is one of the co-founders of Incitement, a movement that is fast spreading around the world thanks to its simple goal of connecting “changemakers” through fun, inspiring events. Kinda like TED Talks, but on a more intimate scale – and with a Malaysian behind it.
Incitement is about making the audience feel good and being comfortable, so you wouldn’t spot any seats at the talks held in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, just bean bags.
At one Incitement event R.AGE attended a couple of weeks ago, there was music pumping in the air as we walked in the auditorium and it all just felt really exciting.
One of the speakers that day was actor and television host Razif Hashim, who shared some acting school exercises and how they can be applied to everyone looking to take charge of their lives.
One of those exercises involved members of the audience imagining that they were holding an imaginary ball, throwing it up in the air, and catching it. Easy, right? Everyone could do it.
But then he brought two volunteers on stage, who were then asked to again throw an imaginary ball, but this time at each other and they were supposed to catch the other’s ball. They threw but it was obvious they didn’t manage to catch it – they weren’t focused.
Then Razif told them to have eye contact with each other and focused on each other’s movements. The point, said Razif, is that creativity and knowledge alone isn’t enough. It takes a lot of focus to really visualise something and follow it through all the way. Imagining the ball is easy – making it take flight in your mind is the tough part.
And that was just one of many creative and inspiring lessons the audience learned in just one Incitement talk. But the best part? All Incitement events are absolutely free.
Zikry describes Incitement as a global movement that encourages individuals to incite optimism in the forms of vision, ideas, goals and knowledge, with hopes of transforming that incitement into actions.
Founded on a rather auspicious date – November 11, 2011 – it has lived up to its promise so far with the movement having spread to 32 countries, and getting featured recently in CNN’s iReport. A year after its launch, global peace movement masterpeace.org ranked Incitement among the top ten influential movements in the world.
“What differs us is that Incitement talks not only feed information. The Incitement experience transforms people with this specific content that we have designed,” explained Zikry who founded the movement with a colleague, Dutchman Daniel de Gruijter.
Speakers at Incitement events are each allocated 18 minutes on stage to convey their message based on a pre-determined theme by Zikry and Daniel.
“In between speakers, we have ‘flashlights’ designed for the audience,” said Zikry, referring to a series of slides containing topics which they flash onto a screen. Any member of the audience can then take to the stage to present on one of the topics. According to him, the practice trains people to think faster and indirectly learn how to interact with a crowd.
Born in Baghdad, Iraq to diplomat parents, Zikry had the privilege of living in various countries across different continents when he was growing up.
With all the pleasures and comforts of life, Zikry could have followed his parents’ dream of obtaining a PhD and becoming a lecturer, but he had other plans.
“I had always wanted to help people but I didn’t know how and where to start,” said Zikry who served the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for two years in Jordan prior to his return to Malaysia in late 2010.
However, Zikry felt that working for UNHCR just wasn’t his calling. “It is a good platform, but the UN couldn’t provide me the freedom to express my ideas or innovate things to move over faster.”
He returned to Malaysia feeling lost. A friend introduced him to work at Mindvalley, a global investment group dedicated to finding solutions to the world’s problems, where he met de Gruijter, who joined the company around the same time.
The duo had wanted to apply to the company’s Awesomeness Fest, described on its website as an annual event where “250 select entrepreneurs gather in a paradise location” for a few days of seminars, workshops and networking, but their application was unsuccessful.
Dejected, they decided to take matters into their own hands by starting their own “fest”.
“At first it didn’t resonate with what we wanted to do which was to help people, but we realised that a lot of our colleagues are smart and have a lot of genuine content to share, so that’s how the first
Incitement was started,” said Zikry who only had 12 colleagues at his first Incitement talk.
The numbers grew quickly, and after four talks, the monthly event held in Mindvalley’s Bangsar office now regularly draws around 250 people – and that’s just in Malaysia.
The unique environment that Zikry was exposed to as a child indirectly helped him to expand Incitement to other parts of the world.
“I have friends around the world whom I met through the international schools I attended, so that helped,” said the Multimedia University virtual reality graduate.
Thanks to YouTube videos and livestreams of the events, Zikry and de Gruijter’s global network of friends started getting curious about what they were doing in Malaysia.
“People started contacting us, and when I travelled to Europe last year, people approached me to ask about starting Incitement (in their own cities),” he added.
The first overseas Incitement group was founded in San Francisco, California, the United States, where a visiting colleague was “incited” by a talk in Malaysia and decided to start a similar event in her hometown.
“After rounds of Skype calls, she got it running and is now in her sixth episode. Then Ottawa in Canada came about and the rest followed suit,” said Zikry.
Incitement today has grown beyond what Zikry and Daniel ever expected.
“The basis of the impact that we have for Incitement is personal growth, but Incitement is no longer just a talk, it’s a global organisation that focuses on helping people and the environment. It is a social business,” he said.
The Incitement now has different branches, all started by members of the Incitement “tribe”. There is Incitement Growth, which serves refugee homes; Incitement Speakup, focusing on public speaking training; Incitement Youth for college students; and the Incitepreneurship Program for aspiring entrepreneurs which is ongoing in Malaysia.
And this is all just the beginning. “We are trying to get Incitement Growth going in South Africa but each country has its own angle and challenges so we see them as opportunities to tackle different circumstances.”