Recently I’ve just returned home from a fantastic opportunity offered by the university to visit Kuala Lumpur on a leadership programme offered by Common Purpose. I’m still a little stunned, as I didn’t even think I’d be selected to go, however, I did and I had such an amazing time.
The programme involved exploring what a smart city is, leadership, exploring cultural leadership and undertaking the “challenge”.
When we first arrived in Malaysia we had time to explore the city. It was absolutely amazing and a bit of a culture shock compared to Scotland! We delved right in experiencing everything from the public transport to the food, navigating ourselves around the city (and getting lost in taxis!) We were introduced to our peers we’d be working with from both Heriot Watt Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Malaysia and got our bearings. We were introduced to all of the tourist spots including the KL tower, Twin Towers, and Batu caves!
The first thing we explored within the programme was “cultural intelligence” (CQ). We found it was an essential element to understanding the world and people around us. The programme taught us that this involved the cross between different cultures, but also different generations and even organisations. Personally, I felt this was how well we understand and respect others from different backgrounds.
We also took part in a number of group work activities. We were
grouped in a mixed group from Dundee and the two Heriot Watt campuses so we had a lot of diversity in our little team. We done little group work activities such as building the tallest tower (which we won!) as well are more thought-provoking activities. The one which got me the most was a group activity with cards. Each member of our team was given around 6 cards with very controversial statements regarding things such as religious clothing and if it should be worn at work, euthanasia and global warming. These were to be grouped into agree, disagree and can’t decide. after everyone had placed them down, we had the opportunity to read them all and turn over any we felt had been placed in the wrong area. These cards were then discussed and provoked some very interesting discussions. It was so interesting to hear other points of views on subjects that are not normally spoken about. This also provoked discussions on the difference between Scotland and Malaysia in regards to LGBT rights, legal systems, religion, and climate. These were very interesting to hear. I don’t think I was quite aware of the significant differences.
The programme was mainly aimed at the “challenge”. On two days there were opportunities to visit one of four businesses, so there was someone from your team represented at each. I visited ThinkCity and Women’s Aid.
ThinkCity is an organisation that uses small government grants to support communities to improve them. They ensure they involve the community and make sure what they are doing is really what the community needs. We heard some lovely stories of their past projects and it was great to hear how much of an impact they have on the local people.
Women’s Aid is an organisation that provides short term aid to Women who are victims of domestic abuse. Women are not particularly represented well and there is still a strong male dominance within the political system. This organisation comprising of social workers and volunteers work extremely hard, even more so considering there are two separate legal systems, one for everyone and one for muslims to follow.
After everyone had visited their organisations, we came together with our local mentor to come up with an idea. We felt that there were significant issues regarding the representation of the disabled and elderly. The first day I was in the city I was shocked at the fact the buses were so high up and didn’t even come over to the pavements as well as the lack of lifts or accessible footpaths. We later found out that due to this people who would benefit from these facilities cannot venture out without help. We decided that the disabled and elderly would be the focus of our idea, and we would implement these features into the community. After speaking to our mentor we also included the facilities at local community centres, to give these people an opportunity to leave
the house on outings and to join social groups. On the final day, we produced an action plan and presented our idea to s senior/expert panel. We were supported before doing so in a pitching workshop where we worked on the skills necessary to do so successfully. They were touched that we’d recognised the need for support for these people, as is not the first thing people consider when they think about “smart cities”
This opportunity was incredible and one I never even knew existed until I happened to open the email sitting in the library only a few weeks back. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me and the experiences I gained along the way. Malaysia is incredible and I hope to visit again soon!