The art of asking

IAF Regional Alumni Network aims to make real connection
Regional Alumni Network BKK

“People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care,” quotes training consultant Chris Otero. She is sharing influencing techniques with a diverse group from Southeast & East Asia, whose members are all leaders in their respective fields.

“Our natural tendency is to immediately advocate. However, if we want to influence actions and decisions, we should have genuine curiosity, and first ask our stakeholders about their interests and needs,” explains Otero. “The step is to acknowledge – verify that the data that we have are correct,” she adds.

The discussion was part of the two-day workshop of the Regional Alumni Network. 25 graduates of the International Academy for Leadership (IAF) of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) gathered together in Bangkok, Thailand on November 8-9, 2019 to talk about possible initiatives to engage youth in politics in the region.

It was second activity after the initial meeting in Siem Reap in June 2019 where the group ascertained the top three issues relevant to youth civic participation: apathy, poverty, and access to information. The workshop in Bangkok developed project plans to address these challenges.

Building relationship with stakeholders

The alumni network will launch a social media community page, an economic literacy school caravan, and create a pool of student fact-checkers as responses to the issues identified. “Political topics can be a tricky entry point if we want to engage students. We would like to connect with them through topics that interest them. One would be entrepreneurship because young people, especially in Vietnam, want to setup their own business. They might not realize it, but it’s about economic freedom,” said Dr. Cao Thi Hong Vinh, a member of the network and a lecturer at the Free Trade University in Hanoi.

Online campaigns will be conducted to meet the youth where they are – on social media. According to Atty. Karry Sison of the Philippines Center for Liberalism and Democracy, “we want hope build a platform to constellate young liberal democrats in Southeast & East Asia.”

“The work of civic education requires patience, and we are willing to invest this because our relationship with our stakeholders is important,” reflected Dr. Sayamol Charoenratana of Chulalongkorn University. “We should not give up, and we can’t leave anyone behind,” she concluded.