Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Ummus Sajidah Banu, 20, is currently a Year 1 undergraduate at NUS, studying Psychology and Life Sciences. She recently took part in the Youth Action Challenge Season 3, organised by the National Youth Council, leading a team of five to create a social project focusing on encouraging sustainability in Singapore. They call themselves “thesusnoobs”. Today Ummus shares more about her project!

What was your role within your YAC project?

I led a team of five to solve a given challenge statement: “How might we encourage sustainable practices among the public?” We embarked on our very own little project to make sustainability more mainstream and relatable to the layman, while trying to create a community of all who want to lead a green lifestyle — from the pros to the “noobs” (newbies).

We decided to call ourselves “thesusnoobs” to appeal to everyone who finds themselves lost in trying to comprehend all the various opinions, reports and news surrounding sustainability. There’s always something new to catch up on and sometimes it gets too overwhelming. Our team aims to make things a little easier for all to lead a sustainable lifestyle through the power of social media. We hope to model after content creators The Smart Local or Our Grandfather Story, but for sustainability — sharing little stories and easy ways to be more green!

What motivated you to join YAC?

It all started when I discovered that I had eco anxiety. We’re all going to be doomed! The climate crisis is coming! Plastic is everywhere! There was no [point] in worrying, and so I wanted to take action. In my secondary school days, I was part of [a] team that got straws banned in our school. Soon after, I realised that straws are not the cause of the problem. The climate crisis and sustainability is way bigger and more complex than any of us realise. Just getting rid of straws, albeit a good start, is not enough. I pondered over my life choices and what actions I should be taking. After all, in the grand scheme of things, I am just one person.

Then came along YAC, where I had an opportunity to take action. So I seized the day and joined YAC.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

It was a great experience. I learnt so much about myself and about what it means to take action. YAC conducted weekly webinars where I learnt a great deal about the various features of building a social project/enterprise. We started off by cementing the problem that we wanted to solve. Does the problem truly exist? Who faces this problem? Were we biased in any way? These were some of the many questions that we aimed to answer with the use of multiple surveys and research.

We then moved on to developing our solution — my favourite part of the challenge where I could let my creativity go wild. It was tough at first, to stop judging my ideas before I verbalised them. But I got past that barrier once I realised that all ideas are good ideas — for they have potential to become something greater.

After testing our solution, we were given an opportunity to consult individuals from various firms and companies about our idea. This was another memorable experience where I could hear firsthand from someone who has gone through building something from ground up and as a bonus, succeeded. We then moved on to looking at ways to make sure our project is sustainable in the long run.

Finally, after many hours of effort and discussions and getting lost in between, we started to prepare for the final Open Mic pitch. This was when I learnt what makes a good pitch and had my very first experience of pitching to an audience. It was inevitably intimidating. Our project was new and has been in the works for just a couple months. I gave it my best shot and I am incredibly thankful for the experience.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

Working on anything new means you never really know if what we’re doing is the “right” way to go. We don’t have a set path to follow and have to forge our own path to create something that’s new and never done before. All this, while working within tight deadlines. Mistakes are bound to happen, should happen, and did in fact happen. There were a couple of times where we had to go back to square one because our assumptions turned out to not apply to our target audience.

We had to marry what we wanted to do and what needed to be done. It was a long and tough process, but it was so worth it. We’ve grown so much from facing the challenges head on and we became stronger as a team.

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

Our project aims to be the social content creator for sustainability. With the purpose of building a community that spurs each other on, we aim to spark open and honest conversations by sharing stories and translate that into action by having opportunities for anyone interested to get their hands dirty and take action — a catalyst for change.

We also aim to curate content that is consolidated, relatable and easy to digest. In all honesty, our project is still in the works and at this point in time, we are still relatively new and small. There’s so much more planned for our future and I am more than thrilled to be part of such a wonderful team, as we turn our vision into reality, slowly but surely.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

Throughout my time in YAC, I’ve discovered that I am inspired and fueled by new ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement that came with building a project from [the] ground up. All the brainstorming sessions, the number of hours we spent trying to solidify our project, and all the times we got lost and had to bring ourselves back to why we were doing what we were doing… The journey has been messy — it has been long and not straightforward. And that’s what makes it so fulfilling and enriching. The answers are almost never there, and one needs to put in the work and the hours to get what we want.

If you’re passionate about something, go and take action. No matter how small it may be, go forth and start the change you want to see. Everyone can find fault and make a fuss about things. But taking the first step to do something? Now that requires courage and has so much more meaning. And that’s exactly why it’s so special that I found YAC. It’s been such an enlightening experience.

This article was published on May 6, 2022

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