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60 Indonesia's Young Leaders Illuminate the Darkness

Young Leaders for Indonesia is a little effort to lit the candle instead of just cursing on the darkness. (Photo courtesy of YLI)

This month marked the end of McKinsey & Company's latest wave of Young Leaders for Indonesia. YLI is an annual series of intensive workshops for high-performing individuals with the aspiration of 'Unleashing Indonesia,' of helping the nation to achieve its economic and human potential. Since its kick-off in 2008, the foundation has been reaching out to the country's most talented youth and breeding them not only to become better leaders but also to inspire more people in the process.

Almost every person I talked to wanted to 'unleash Indonesia' — in academics' language this translates as "better coordination between scholars and policy-makers," whereas businessmen would naturally interpret the phrase as "generating more jobs and income." It seems that any profession can take specific roles in achieving the vision, although it is not as easy to understand from where exactly you should begin. Most of us end up being too confused and pessimistic. Hence opt for cursing the situation.

Meeting 59 other participants from various parts of Indonesia and Singapore in this event, however, I regained my faith and hope in the country. Juwairiyyah, fellow young leader from Jambi, shared her vision to foster Jambi's tourism potentials. Another delegate from East Java, despite his limited English, gave a very wonderful speech about his innovative entrepreneurship idea of breeding worms and cultivating new job fields. A medical student from Kalimantan dared himself to write in an international medical journal because he believes Indonesian students have to push themselves further in the global arena.

There were also amazing speakers that were invited to share their insights upon local and national issues, practical skills (e.g. problem-solving, feedback exchange, public speaking), as well as their own idea of leadership. I was greatly surprised by the blunt questions from the Head of President's Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, "Why do you think you are here if not for what the nation has provided for you? How do you plan to give back? Think about it."

In another opportunity, we had Tri Mumpuni, the lady who initiated IBEKA, a non-governmental organization that assists villages across Indonesia put together the funding and know-how to build hydro-electric power plants. "It is way nobler," she said passionately, "to help people empower themselves and grow with what they have, rather than giving them what they ask for." This philosophy keeps her aiming for more each and every day.

Anies Baswedan (the founder of Indonesia Mengajar), Svida Alisjahbana (CEO of Femina Group), Haryanto Budiman (Managing Director of JP Morgan), Sandiaga Uno (CEO of Saratoga Capital), are several other names that were also part of Young Leaders for Indonesia's mind-blowing list of speakers.

I used to think that YLI is just a generic leadership development program, but I realize that 'generic' is the least suitable adjective to describe this event. The program was in fact genuinely tailored and designed to enhance particular skills, knowledge and values that are fundamental to become a leader with clear vision for Indonesia. Once selected as part of YLI, participants should commit themselves to attend three different forums during March-September (each on 'leading self,' 'leading team' and 'leading Indonesia'). Within the interval of 2-3 months between each forum, participants were to initiate their own projects where they could practice what they learned in the workshops.

Kenny Lischer, for example, gathered volunteers to help blind people read books by recording their voice in digital formats and share them to the needs. Another participant, Hazki Hariowibowo developed Nokia-based game applications that use Indonesian traditional characters such as Gatot Kaca as its main hero and sold it very well in the market. Alfira Fitrananda, an IT student, invented RedHub, an integrated information system on blood distribution as her effort to help people who need blood donations. And, no kidding, there are 57 more unique projects like theirs founded since the kick-off of this year's first forum.

"You know, sometimes being a leader makes me feel lonely. But meeting all of you and listening to your stories, I realize I'm not alone. I believe together we can really do something big for the country," stated Recca Li, a participant from Jakarta, on the graduation day of YLI 2012 after which participants will contribute further in the Young Leaders for Indonesia Alumni Community (YLIAC).

I believe Young Leaders for Indonesia is a game-changer that will profoundly change its participants' perspective not only in seeing leadership issues but also how Indonesia can or should be unleashed. The application usually opens in January on an annual basis.

"Young Leaders for Indonesia is our little effort to lit the candle instead of just cursing on the darkness," said Phillia Wibowo, one of the founders of YLI. 

I cannot agree further — except for, probably the country desperately needs a much bigger number of candles before it can be completely 'unleashed.' The YLI foundation itself ambitiously aims to have 1000 young leaders by 2015, and I believe that everyone who cares about the nation should take part in this endeavor.

Visit YLI website for more information
Author : Andhyta Firselly Utami

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