When it comes down to our dreams, many of us want the same things – happiness, a sense of fulfilment, financial security, a family. Often, these overarching goals are broken down into specific, measurable goals that we strive towards. This could be landing that high paying job, getting that acceptance letter from your dream university, or even picking up a skill you’ve always wanted to have.
For us at Seastainable, we dream of a future where sustainability is the natural state in our society. Our food is sourced sustainably, our trash generation is kept at a minimum, and something closer to our hearts – our oceans are healthy and thriving. We’ve thought long and hard about how we can strive towards this lofty goal.
A challenge we’ve faced, and continue to face everyday, is to translate our business into actual impact on the environment. We’ve found that the best way for us to contribute towards living in a more sustainable society, is to provide financial muscle to individuals and groups doing the actual job in the field. In short, we’ve encapsulated this big dream of ours into funding as many impactful environmental projects across South East Asia as possible.
This is only possible through our partner organisations. With that being said, we also wanted to be careful with where we park our seapporters’ contributions – our customers are our most important stakeholder. Without them, we’ll not be able to do what we want to do, which is to make a lasting positive impact on the environment. Hence, we have to be accountable to them and be careful with their money. We have to ensure returns on their purchases; not just in the form of quality products, but also in environmental impact.
Initially, we sourced for projects to support through our own networks. But this was limiting, both in scope and number of projects. We felt that the search for environmental projects needs to be more streamlined, which eventually led to us creating the Seastainable Grant. Rather than stretching our limited networks looking for more projects to fund, perhaps projects can start coming to us too! Our grant is available for all individual, grassroots, NGOs, and even governmental organisations to apply for, as long as the project is centred around sustainability and conservation.
But, man, it was a bit of a head-scratcher setting up our grant. We had to figure out a bunch of stuff on our own.
One of our biggest questions was: how much is the grant worth? We didn’t want to settle for a nominal sum that could barely cover the costs of a potentially impactful project. We also didn’t want to overcommit to a single project because we wanted to be a platform where different projects across South East Asia could springboard from. After consulting many of our friends and partners in different countries and communities, we’ve found that $500 USD was a comfortable amount for most projects to get lifted off the ground.
Another major dilemma we faced was: how do we decide which projects to fund? Initially, where we received projects from our own networks, we’re in close proximity with our partners’ plans and their personal motivations, which gives us some sort of guarantee that their projects will be seen through.
But with this new approach, we’ll be receiving applications from individuals we’ve never met before, from various countries across South East Asia. The sense of accountability between us and our new partners feels less tangible. Bottom line is, we had to put in place processes to screen various project proposals and to be as present as possible so that we can provide help whenever they need to ensure the success of their project. Bottom line is: there must be a tangible impact that comes from wherever we park our seapporter’s money. This resulted in a lot of internal brainstorming and discussion, eventually resulting in our current system of grant administration. We find that what works for us is to be a great partner to our grantees – to provide support in whatever way possible whenever they need.
Despite our struggles, we still consider each project and grant that we fund a win for the environment and for our ocean. We have discovered amazing initiatives and great potential through the Seastainable Grant Winners, but more importantly, we have found hope—hope that we can still bring about change to the damage that we have unwittingly caused our planet. For example, we’ve managed to fund a plastic waste management site in Southern Sumba with our Seastainable Grantee, Hananto (Give him a follow! Think his Instagram is private, but he'll be more than willing to share about what he does). The island did not have a plastic waste management site before this. Now, Hananto collects plastic trash and processes it for proper disposal on mainland Surabaya. He also runs educational campaigns to spread the awareness of plastic pollution and waste management amongst the youths of Southern Sumba.
For anyone keen on helping Hananto out - he needs a little help with acquiring glue to secure eco-bricks out of the trash he's collecting. You can help him with funding him, or providing him with the actual product itself. Let us know - we'll connect you!
We're also excited to share that in 2018, we've contributed over $15,000 to 14 conservation projects across 4 countries and impacted over 5,200 individuals in local communities (check out our 2018 report here!), and up to date we have contributed a total of $30,000 for conservation projects. All this is incredibly exciting for us – we didn’t expect such a warm response to the Seastainable Grant. Read more about what our grantees have done in 2018 here!
Yet, as with all things new, we’re still figuring things out. We still make mistakes and still struggle with spreading the word and reaching out to applicants, but we learn. Our end goal is to bring about change by seeking driven advocates for our seas who have the same passion no matter what background they come from. In the past year, we have seen projects grow and garner positive outcomes because of their determination and hard work. This is where we get the fuel to do what we do, and hope to continuously create waves of change..
All in all, we’re glad that we’ve ventured into creating the Seastainable Grant. It has definitely allowed us to create a bigger social and environmental impact than we could have initially.
So if you’ve a big dream, don’t be afraid to work towards it by breaking it down into smaller, measurable objectives. Even if the objectives themselves turn out to be big questions that need to be broken down even further, keep working at it and you’ll figure out your next steps eventually. Just like how the Seastainable Grant is merely a small step in our overall dream of living in a sustainable society, setting it up was unchartered territory all on its own. Still, we figured it out eventually – and it was a big step forward in us achieving our dream.
Big dreams are always daunting, and there will be many times you’ll feel lost and overwhelmed, but they are always worth it. Take it from us. :)