Monday, November 21, 2011

1Malaysia Roundtable Discussion on ‘Empathy in the Quest of 1Malaysia’ – Some recommendations

The online roundtable discussion moderated by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar and I concluded on 18 October 2011. Here are some of my observations and recommendations based on the discussion.

anas zubedy


The approach of our discussion was to put to the participants the idea of 1Malaysia starting with empathy at the individual level. We explained that empathy must start with individual effort, starting at their homes, their neighbourhoods, workplaces and communities. We put it squarely that if they wanted to talk about a need, their ideas and suggestions must be based on what they can start doing within their means, not pointing of fingers of what others should do.


We noticed that in general Malaysians seem to have an attitude of pointing fingers when they see something that needs to be done. Even after we tried prompting them several times, some found it difficult to shift their discussion from what this or that body had to do, to what they can start doing themselves. This seems to reflect a culture of ‘if there’s a problem, someone has to do something about it’, rather than what should be ‘what can I do to help fix this problem.’

I believe that it is because our people are not empowered – first, they are not empowered to recognize that they can and are key players in doing something about an issue, and secondly, they are not empowered with the skills, ideas and tools to know what to do.

What must be done

There is an urgent need to give Malaysians on the ground the empowerment to do things on their end. While all parties must play a role, we need to make the Malaysian rakyat see that Unity and 1Malaysia cannot happen without them working towards it, in their day-to-day activities. They must know that their small, everyday acts will create a chain reaction that will become the collective culture.

I recommend that 1Malaysia, as a platform, trigger this empowerment in the Rakyat. I recommend effective communication strategies, campaigns and activities which aim to change the culture at the ground level through:

1. Trigger awareness

Make Malaysians at the ground level aware that when a problem arises, they are key components in finding a solution – not the government, not political parties or any other party. The awareness must be strong enough that in time, it becomes an automatic response that when the rakyat sees a need, he/she will ask ‘what can I do about it?’

2. Provide them the skills and knowledge to do it.

This can be in the form of providing accessible content, for example, to promote cross-cultural understanding and unity at the ground level, we can give them knowledge like 10 good things about other races for them to tell their children. If they feel there is lack of unity in their neighbourhood or workplace, for example, we can provide them information and resources on how to organize a Rukun Tetangga or community that promotes cooperation and Unity.

3. Get Malaysians to understand why it is important for them to act themselves

When Malaysians at the ground level internalize the understanding that only they can do something to make 1Malaysia happen at the ground level, then more will respond to situations by thinking of doing something on their end first. The idea they need to capture is that they have the power to do what they can, from wherever they are, with whatever they have, as small as it is.

4. Providing avenues for them to practice it

Encourage the question ‘what can I do?’ whenever faced with a situation or a need. The more the Rakyat repeat this response and act based on it, the more it will be their behaviour towards an issue.

5. Promoting sharing and networks

With effective communication and campaigns among the people at the ground level, the hope that it will empower people to change their mindset. Each person acting with empathy day-to-day will create a chain reaction. The more this empowerment is shared and widespread, it can move from the individual level, to communities, to become our culture.

As a practical sample of what can be done from the people’s end in a business-type setting, zubedy is a working model of how it can be done. In our day-to-day functions as a training provider, empathy and unity is always present. Internally it is a common practice for our facilitators and employees get to know each others’ religion and race.

In our office activities we have shared with one another different ways of worship and prayer. In the program contents, shared values are always included because we consider it an important part of individual and corporate growth. In the resources, tools and advertising and communication material that we use for our work, we always put quotes from all spiritual faiths, and these are used both internally and with our external clients. We celebrate all festivals together even though there may be no employee who celebrates it traditionally at that time. And we never allow any pork or beef in any of our company events and activities.

These are just some of the simple ways 1Malaysia can be done on the ground level, starting from the people’s end. Zubedy is willing to work with 1Malaysia to communicate the decentralization of power – to empower people to have empathy and work towards unity from their end.


As it is at the moment, it seems that the culture of our people is the automatic response of asking what others, especially the government or political parties, can do when a need arises. This is unhelpful because no matter what campaigns are organized from the top-down, the people tend to respond by pushing the issue to others. For 1Malaysia, what must be done is to change the mindset of the people at the ground level that they are the key components to make 1Malaysia happen. They must ask ‘what can I do’ first.

For this to happen, we need to empower the Rakyat. 1Malaysia’s efforts should be directed with the aim of triggering awareness that the people need to do something for unity on their end, and providing the knowledge and avenues for them to practice empathy. The aim of this empowerment is to change our culture so that at the ground level we have people who take ownership to work towards becoming 1Malaysia.

1 comment:

samaritan said...

It's easier say than done though. Families with day out day in to put dinner on the table unlikely never able to participate and they are the majority.