By KEVIN TAN
TIRED of bring grossed out by all the iffy lorong belakang (back alleys) she sees in Malaysian neighbourhoods, architect Foo Hui Ping, 31, came up with a simple yet brilliant campaign to get people to reclaim these communal spaces. It promptly won her RM100,000.
Foo’s “Our Lost Space” campaign emerged as the grand prize winner of the Genovasi Challenge, a competition driven by Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) that challenges young Malaysians to come up with innovative ideas to make their community a better place.
Foo’s idea generated quite a bit of debate on the Challenge website (challenge.my), as many doubted whether Malaysians would actually be bothered to do anything about their back alleys.
Nevertheless, Foo’s vision of seeing neighbourhoods getting together to organise garage sales, barbecue parties or just a clean-up project in their back alleys received the highest number votes on the website. Not only will she be getting her huge cash prize for the idea, she will also receive support in seeing her campaign implemented.
“I used to drive past areas in Subang Jaya where I’d notice these huge steel gates erected on the back lanes of people’s homes. This left a deep impression on me,” said Foo.
She’s convinced that the back lanes of homes are collective spaces, and people should reclaim it from abandonment.
“Having recently moved from USJ to Petaling Jaya, I decided to do something about my home’s back lane. It actually has a decent width and length, coupled with low vehicle traffic, giving it a spatial sense of privacy and usability.”
Mark Rozario, CEO of AIM said the Genovasi Challenge is aimed at youths to stir them to initiate efforts that can bring change to their communities.
“What we want to achieve is to motivate young people to use their talent to bring change. Instead of complaining and whining about the things they are not satisfied about, we want them to actually do something about it,” he said.
The Genovasi Challenge was launched in November 2012, during a brainstorming
session with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak which the R.AGE team was a part of.
Thanks to the challenge, Khairun Nisa Zabidi, 26, took the leap of faith to kickstart a company called Recovr, which helps “empower under-privileged individuals through high quality employment in the recycling industry”, according to the campaign’s submission page on challenge.my.
Khairun’s campaign was selected as the runner-up behind Our Lost Space, and she hopes that it will not only help communities understand sustainable waste management, but also provide job opportunities through its own recycling centre.
“We hire people who are disabled because they too deserve to be given a career, and they would be doing something good and healthy,” said Khairun.
According to her, the biggest challenge was actually starting her own company. From employee welfare, to legal issues and business management, Khairun said it was all part of a tough learning process.
As for the Our Lost Space campaign, Foo said a lot will depend on the “individual efforts” of people in the community. Individuals will have to take the initiative to do something in order for this back alley revolution to take place.
“That’s what makes it interesting. Everyone can make the back space of their homes how they like it, which will make the neighbourhood’s back lanes a fun and creative space.
“What I want to encourage people to do is to be creative. I want to encourage people to be more open minded, think more critically, and know that things don’t always need to be the way they are. They can be changed for the better,” she said.
Foo said she has no plans just yet on how she is going to use the money. All she’s looking forward to now is implementing her own campaign in her own neighbourhood.