Be Inspired

Raising Communities for Change: a talk with Blue Bear

Be Inspired

Bali, January 2019 (EVS Team)

Every project produces an impact: on the physical landscape, on the natural environment and on the community. A new enterprise construct new buildings or renovate existing ones, use natural resources, create new job openings and income for families. Despite this, many entrepreneurs look at their own project only from within, paying attention in structuring carefully its internal organization, without looking at the complex network of social relationships and dynamics that it will directly impact.

 

 

How can we be more considerate in our plans? How can we build a strong collaboration with the surrounding network of associations and institutions and with the people that live and work nearby?

Blue Bear Skatepark is a very young project, barely a few months old, but it is already fully integrated in its surroundings, engaging smoothly with the local community like a consolidated institution. We interviewed its founder, Daniela Budi, to understand the benefits of dedicating energy and time to consider and study your project’s impact.

 

 

Can you please describe Blue Bear, its history and its activities?

Education was one of the important components in thinking how to create this place. My experience as a mother of children with learning differences leads me to research about alternative education methods, integrating sport activities, nature exploration and connection with animals. When we moved here in Bali, I couldn’t find a place where children could learn in a different way, together with their families and interacting with the community.

The idea of opening a skatepark came after having studied the many benefit(s) of this sport for children: a part from sharpening sense of balance and reflexes, skateboarding is a non-competitive social sport that teaches the importance of solidarity and the acceptance of falling and failing as part of the learning journey. Next to the skatepark we built a restaurant as a meeting point for the families and the community.

Finding the right place where to build has been fundamental because this Banjar has been completely into our project and Blue Bear would not be what it is without the energy and collaboration of the local community. Before even starting to rent the land we spent two months talking with the Banjar and thinking of ways to engage the community in our project: brainstorming with them was absolutely necessary to build what we wanted in a fast and clever way. The people in this Banjar were interested in waste management and recycling and they had started to set up their own waste management system: it was already in place but not 100% running and relying mostly on volunteering. Using our experience, we helped them to build a business plan in order to make the whole facility economically sustainable, ready to employ people to work there.

 

 

What is the Green Skate Movement?

When it was time to define the pricing policies for the skatepark, we were faced with a dilemma: since skaters usually want to skate everyday, how can we make our space available to as many kids as possible engaging also the children of the Banjar? We had the idea of using a symbolic coin: if you bring 10 item of waste and you place them in our recycling station, you can skate for free. The idea has proved very successful, exceeding our expectations! Now, children ask their moms to keep the trash instead of burning it, we receive plastic bottles everyday and around the skatepark there’s not a single piece of trash on the ground. The people in the waste management receive baskets with trash already sorted by material, by color and type of plastic, improving their work. The Banjar has better profits because instead of dispatching little quantity of plastic and paying a collecting service, they can now sell huge quantity of plastic bottles to recycling facilities in Java, and they produce and sell compost. They started also to test some machines to improve the whole process.

Many expat families come to Bali and start to argue with their neighbors on the issue of burning trash, without even trying to understand the culture: Balinese people have been burning their organic waste for centuries. If change must be made, it should be done with understanding and collaboration, without judgment or contempt. With just a simple idea, we turned a bad habit into a good habit, declining the issue of pollution and environment protection in a fun, positive way.

 

 

What difficulties did you face and how did you overcome them?

Managing the bureaucratic part has for sure been challenging. We had to setting up licenses and insurances, consulting lawyers, appointing meetings that sometimes were delayed: it took patience and time and money. It was important to have a clear idea from the beginning of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go with our project.

Komang Priatna Suardi, our collaborator, had been fundamental in making Blue Bear possible: having found a Balinese partner that shared our vision and commitment makes our project grow smoothly and steadily.

 

What does it mean to make your company sustainable?

I think that sustainability should apply to different areas, in particular your project should be sustainable in terms of community, buildings and mission.

On the community level, is your project sustainable for the people that live nearby? Does it benefit the community? Is it creating new jobs? At Blue Bear we employ only Indonesians people and tightly collaborate with the Banjar.

Blue Bear is sustainable in terms of building as we built using mainly bamboo and materials from Bali, we avoid cement when possible.

And it’s important for your project to be sustainable with its mission, with its vision. With Blue Bear our main objective is to built a community, creating a space where expats and local people can fully engage together. We give up the income we could get from some entrance fees in order to invest in creating a community. We give up a little, we receive a lot.

 

 

Do you think in Bali there’s a risk of splitting the community between Indonesians and expat?

I think there are very few places where the two can interact. New clubs completely replicates the idea of club from Europe and Australia, with high entrance fees and I rarely see hotels with swimming pools with Balinese and expat people together. I think we should build more spaces of meeting and interaction: it’s beautiful to see my children skating with their new friends of the Banjar, they don’t speak each other languages but it’s not important, they communicate in their own way, they have fun and build friendships. I think it is very important for them to experience this as they grow.

 

What do you think are the greatest benefits you get from collaborating so tightly with the Banjar?

I would answer the energy and the support. There are not big economic benefits, it’s not about business. I receive invaluable help: whenever I have a question or I am facing some issues, the head of the Banjar, Bapak I Wayan Budiana, and the others are there to provide answers and solutions. They made the common area available for us to skate when it’s raining.

But most of all, what I receive is the feeling that what I want to realize is possible and that my vision is not mine alone. When I am struggling or facing difficulties, the Banjar is always there to say “let’s keep going, what you are doing is important for us”. I receive energy and strength, the idea that by working together we can really make things happen.

 

What are your future projects?

More than a project, it is still a dream. I am currently researching about innovative educational methods in order to build a learning center: Blue Bear would be a place where physical and motor abilities development is combined with a learning pathway integrating natural sciences with coding and digital music, experimenting with different approaches.

Another idea we are currently considering regards the opening of a Blue Bear branch in Tabanan, focused on agro sports, allowing kids to experience life in the mountains and in the forest. Also in Tabanan, we want to open a recording studio to support and grow the community of musicians and talents that live or visit Bali.

 

 

What is difference between a businessman and a entrepreneur?

I think being a businessman is related more to running the financial aspect of a business, focusing on returning an investment, while the main concern of an entrepreneur is building a world around the business, investing energy and money to grow the social project at the base of it. In my experience, in the third sector especially, the business and social aspect is combined. In our everyday work, I think we must be mindful of both models.

 

What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?

Understand the impact that your business will have. Don’t blindly replicate business models but be adaptive and flexible, connect with the people that are going to be directly impacted by your project, listen to what they need, and try to integrate it within your objectives.

If you have to build, then build wisely: use sustainable and local materials and make less damage as possible. Try to be fully integrated both in the social and the natural environment.