what asean changemakers read in their free time

What ASEAN Changemakers Read In Their Free Time

Between launching initiatives, building movements, and lobbying for progress, what do changemakers read in their free time?

Changemakers in the ASEAN region share the titles and tomes that keep them educated, inspired, and mentally recharged. From memoirs offering personal inspiration, to analytical texts unpacking complex challenges, the changemaker’s reading list highlight the value of constantly learning, questioning, and deriving insights from myriad sources.

Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change” by Sir Ronald Cohen

Bolun Li, the co-founder of Development Innovation Insider, has had the unique opportunity to not only read Impact, but also meet the author himself. He attended a book release for the title, where Cohen’s vision for driving sustainable change through entrepreneurship and investing made a powerful impression.

“He does not only talk about investment as an investor, but also entrepreneurship for startups and innovations for large companies,” Bolun observes. “This could be inclusive for all kinds of readers.”

Cohen, the President of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, spent decades at the forefront of venture capital and social finance innovation. In the book, he draws from this experience to make a compelling case for how impact investing can fundamentally reshape capitalism to achieve real environmental and social progress.

The concept resonated with Bolun, influencing his work. “That is why I came up with the idea of doing Diinsider’s impact report in 2023,” he explains. This, alongside impact measurement efforts, was regarded positively by key networks.

“The book is a must-read for impact-driven entrepreneurs who aspire to build a successful venture in sustainability,” Bolun affirms.

The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity” by Grant Snider

For designer Dana Praise Guerrero, The Shape of Ideas holds a special significance beyond its insights. The book’s very journey into her hands years ago reinforced its central message — that the creative process is often marked by unexpected twists.

As an aspiring young changemaker, Dana mustered up the courage to cold email the author, asking if she could get a copy of his book exploring the oft-messy nature of ideation. Snider responded with an offer to mail her the book himself.

“That small gesture of generosity not only fueled my spirits back then, but left a lasting impression,” she shares. It’s been six years since and Dana is now a design consultant working with Edukasyon.ph and Accel Institute.

“Snider’s comics perfectly depict the messy, non-linear journey of creativity,” Dana explains. “It’s a fantastic reminder that even for us, changemakers, inspiration strikes in unexpected ways, filled with both frustration and exhilaration.”

Well-worn from countless re-reads, The Shape of Ideas remains a treasured reminder for Dana as she carves her path as an impact-led creative.

Lighting The Fire: Stories of the Women’s Health Rights Movement in the Philippines” edited by Florence M. Tadiar with Neferti Xina M. Tadiar

Faye Cura, the publisher of non-profit feminist Gantala Press, turns to the stories collected in Lighting The Fire. The anthology compiles raw memoirs and reflections of trailblazing ‘Pinay origs’ – activists, leaders, and service providers who fought for nearly half a century to secure women’s rights.

“It’s one of very few books on the women’s health rights movement in the Philippines,” Faye says, seeing the value in amplifying long-silenced narratives.

From community work in urban poor communities to lobbying at the UN, the stories chronicle why the fight must go on.

“It’s a reminder that whatever we enjoy now are the result of collective action and struggle.”

One account talks about a doctor’s ethical quandary after turning away a woman seeking an abortion, who then fell ill from an unsafe alternative.

“We’ve achieved a lot in women’s health rights but we still have a long way to go,” Faye states, reflecting not only on abortion but also rape, divorce, and the health and welfare of trans women and men.

The Karma of Love: 100 Answers for Your Relationship, from the Ancient Wisdom of Tibet” by Geshe Michael Roach

At first glance, a book about relationships may seem like an outlier on a changemaker’s reading list. But for Serene, a mental health advocate empowering women in Hongkong through emotional wellness events and activities, The Karma of Love has proven surprisingly impactful.

“We can create more positive impact by planting the ‘good’ seeds!” she shares, recounting how the book explores small acts of kindness and how they can create ripple effects of good.

The 600-pager draws from ancient Buddhist wisdom to provide guidance on everything from finding a partner to cultivating lasting happiness in a relationship.

“This book has promptly altered my habits and thought patterns,” Serene shares. “Now I can incorporate small positive actions into my daily routine in order to do good more effectively.”

Sometimes, the most impactful lessons arise from unexpected places.

The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World” by Aaron Hurst

As an MSc Urban Management and Development student specializing in sustainability and climate change, Samyuktha Sethuraman found The Purpose Economy to be an eye-opening read about the intersection of local communities and positive impact.

“It helped me understand the intersection of economy and community,” the student from Erasmus University Rotterdam shares. “Most importantly, the importance of community within any economy was highlighted which helped me understand the power of community, no matter what era we live in.”

Hurst’s book explores how a new breed of purpose-driven companies like Etsy, Kickstarter and Airbnb have tapped into people’s search for meaning and connection to local communities as a core value proposition.

For Sam, two key takeaways resonated deeply, “Never underestimate the power of community.” She also said it impacted her as a changemaker, “Embody the changemaker you wish to see in this world and be smart about it.”

By spotlighting the rise of this purpose economy, the book provided Sam with a framework for baking community-building and social consciousness into her work.

The Changemaker’s Reading List

The books recommended by these changemakers from across the Asia-Pacific region reflect the diversity of their work and interests, yet share a common thread of seeking to create positive impact.

For those striving to drive social, environmental, and economic progress, these works provide food for thought and motivation to continue pushing boundaries. The varied topics and genres also underscore that solving the world’s biggest problems requires drawing from multiple disciplines and ways of thinking.

By sharing what they read in their precious free moments, these busy changemakers invite us into their intellectual lives and offer a window into the ideas fueling the impact they make.

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