CAPT International Student Symposium

The first CAPT International Students' Symposium was held from 19 to 20 September 2014 and brought together 300 students from various universities around Asia from diverse backgrounds. It aims to allow students to reflect and discuss their experiences and ideas in the theme of community engagement.

For the recently concluded CAPT International Students’ Symposium, I took part in two Make-a-thons. I took part as a participant in one and as the lead facilitator in the other. For this reflection, I will focus on my learning and experience as the lead facilitator in the Make-a-thon which tackled the question of ‘How can technology make a positive impact on inequality?’

Out of the three inequalities that were raised, I found the groups that discussed about medical and healthcare inequalities to be the most interesting to me. As there were various Cambodian and Thai medical students who took part in the discussion, they brought up fresh new perspectives of the healthcare environment in developing countries. There were also a lot of new and interesting ideas that were brought up during the discussion, such as the usage of drones to deliver healthcare supplies to drop zones in the rural areas to increase accessibility to healthcare.

Besides learning from the content of the discussion, I also learnt a lot more from the process of the make-a-thon. Some of the participants felt that the ideal solutions that they came up with were not possible and not feasible in their countries, and that some just sounded to absurd to be true. As the lead facilitator, I struggled to manage their expectations and tried to make the learning more relevant to the participants. That was when I realized the key lesson that I had learnt from the make-a-thon. The make-a-thon taught me that no matter how implausible an idea might seem now given the current political and economic situations and various other factors, we should not limit ourselves and restrict ourselves from imagining about the possibilities of the future. This is especially so when we think about trying to use technology to positively impact such problems, because if we impose such limitations on ourselves, we will subconsciously limit our own creativity and imagination while brainstorming for possible solutions. Instead, we should envision an ideal solution without a regard for any limitations, and then seek to resolve or work around these limitations after we have identified a solution. I feel that this is especially important in developing countries plagued by rampant political and economic problems such that the people lose faith in the power of the community to make things happen.

As a member of the Social Innovation Wing in CAPT, I believe it is important for me to have such a mindset. I should not focus too much on the limitations and restrictions and allow myself to explore and imagine more. Doing so will allow me to have fresh new perspectives on projects and I believe to innovate, this is an extremely important mindset to have. For instance, I am now working on a project that seeks to bridge the misunderstanding between migrant workers and Singaporeans. However, I have been critical of many ideas because I chose to focus on the limitations instead of embracing these ideas and learning to work around them.

Written By Yan Xiao Dong