SISTEER Nepal Day 3: Himalayan Climate Initiative

On Day 3, we went to the Himalayan Climate Initiative which is a youth-led organisation which focuses on environmental and social causes in Nepal. The key objectives of the organisation are charitable ventures, social businesses and campaigns. As an incubator of ideas, various social initiatives such The Green Angels were formed. The business model adopted by the organisation is 'Empower, Ideate, Innovate, Incubate, Graduate'.

One interesting aspect of HCI is that they offer courses and activities that accentuates the idea of spirituality in guiding their promotion of social and environmental causes. This is particularly important in a country which has high religious affinity. For example, environmental initiatives are more easily advocated when there is emphasise and acceptance that nature is strongly tied with spirits and religion. With such a mindset cultivated, the people feel a stronger need to endorse environmental causes without having a dilemma.

Another interesting aspect is that HCI is led by a majority of women instead of men and that youths
are sent as advocates to government organisations instead of the adults. Having a women-led management of around 70% is an example of women empowerment that starts from the organisation itself. The idea of youths being the leaders of tomorrow was particularly emphasised when youths are also sent as representatives to formal meetings and events. The organisation also mentioned how sending youths was more effective as there is the mentality that they don't have ulterior political motives as compared to sending adults with high authority.

The speaker at HCI mentioned how their initiatives tackled business models instead of the idea on
corporate social responsibility. For instance, the initiative to cut down on plastic bag usage by encouraging consumers to bring their own bags requires HCI to monitor the businesses involved. This is because businesses have to show evidence of their plastic bag sales which is influenced by purchases. It was interesting to see how even with such challenges, the organisation pushes on to find a middle ground with such businesses. It was definitely an informative and eye-opening sharing.

Another idea that caught our attention was how easy it was for an individual to step up in the organisation. Through being a volunteer and learning about the work that the organisation does, individuals are empowered with knowledge which they are encouraged to lead their own projects with. HCI enriches volunteers with perspectives that cultivate an advocating mindset in youths and it
results in a bigger pool of them stepping up to make a change in the Nepali society.

We also visited a PET bottle recycling centre run by HCI. They shared with us their challenges in maintaining the recycling centre, ranging from complaints from neighbouring private property owners to their loss of business partners in India due to a recent ban imposed on plastic waste imports in India. As a social enterprise, HCI sought to find solutions to their problems, in particular sending their collected PET bottles to a plastic processing facility in Pokhara tentatively, where the plastics can be shredded to micro pellets to be reused again. Though this may be a temporary measure, the way HCI handled the matter impressed us as it is not easy for an enterprise to show us their problems and even being able to find effective countermeasures to mitigate the problem at hand.

Aligned with their business model, the organisation’s desire to empower struck us the most because other organisations do not focus on empowering individuals but more on incubating pre-existing ideas. Thus, with this unique business model, it not only allows a safe space for youths to step up with their own ideas but also allows for ideas to grow with the help of trained professionals. It was a fulfilling day at HCI where we learnt a lot about social innovation.

After our visit to HCI, we went to the famous Tibetan Buddhist temple, Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is said to house a bone from the Buddha's body. Worshippers circumambulate the stupa in a clockwise fashion for good luck and blessings, which is what we did there. Following the crowd and walking round the stupa may sound aimless and boring, yet everyone we saw there strode with purpose, and it also allowed us to take a good look at our surroundings and experience the spirituality that is imbued in the local culture.

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Edited by
Jing Qi