In this day and age, all it takes is a single Twitter post to start a social movement. Such was the case with Akademi Berbagi (Sharing Academy), a group that organizes free classes taught by volunteer teachers who are experts in their fields. The group has helped almost a thousand students learn new skills, and all it took was one tweet to get the ball rolling. It all started in June last year, when Ainun Chomsun (@pasarsapi), a social media activist and freelance public relations consultant, wrote a message on Twitter mentioning @subiakto, the Twitter handle of Subiakto Priosoedarsono, one of the most respected advertising experts in Indonesia. “I wrote to him saying that I really wanted to learn about advertising, but I could not afford to pay him,” Ainun said. Just a few minutes after Ainun had tweeted the message, Subiakto replied, saying that he was willing to help her. “My dream came true. The living legend would teach me for free!” she said. “Subiakto even allowed me to invite anyone interested in advertising to join the class.” Wasting no time, Ainun made an announcement and opened registration on Twitter. The response was enthusiastic, to say the least. In less than an hour, she got dozens of applicants, which she then shortlisted to only 30 people, as “Subiakto wanted a slim class, with a maximum of 20 pupils.” But demand continued to grow, as news of the class spread quickly though social media. The advertising class was held at Subiakto’s office, Hotline, his advertising agency in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. It was a no-frills affair but also completely free. “At that time, I was the only teacher,” Subiakto said. “I held the class once a week, on Fridays, for those who wanted to learn about copy writing and art direction. Those subjects are usually expensive to learn about, but I did the class for free. “Why? The only reason is because I wanted to share my knowledge and experience.” In addition to providing course materials and running the class, Subiakto said he also regaled his students with stories over coffee and snacks. “Entering the fasting month last year, I also provided iftar [the meal that breaks the fast] and dinner for them,” he said. All this, according to Subiakto, was undertaken happily and voluntarily. Ainun said she did not know how to thank Subiakto other than to handle all of the administrative duties for the class. But thanks to the continued interest from other potential students, that became a bigger and bigger job. “Over time, about two months after the first class started on June 16, 2010, more and more people began talking about it on Twitter. I continued to hear people express interest in the possibility of similar classes covering different subjects. So I decided I had to recruit some new teachers,” she said. While it might seem like a tough sell, Ainun was eventually able to put together an impressive list of 25 volunteer teachers including Budiono Darsono, chief editor of Detik.com, the largest online news portal in Indonesia; Djito Kasilo, a creative consultant; Ventura Elisawati, a digital communication entrepreneur; Enda Nasution, often referred to as the father of Indonesian blogging; Wicaksono, a veteran journalist, blogger and Twitter celebrity; Tya Subiakto, a music director; Clara Ng, a famous writer; Prabu Revolusi, a TV newscaster; and Budiman Hakim, an advertising practitioner. As the number of teachers and classes continued to grow, Budiman encouraged Ainun to create a brand in order to make the classes easier to find and recognize. “At the time, I happened to be browsing for information about the Academy Awards, so I got a flash of inspiration to call the project an academy,” Ainun said. “And because, from the beginning, the project has been based on the idea of sharing, I added the word berbagi. In addition to Subiakto’s first class on advertising, the Akademi has also organized classes on journalism, social media, photography, scriptwriting, public relations, financial planning, music production, public speaking, event organizing and more. “In some cases, we present a guest speaker to give a public lecture to a larger group of learners in bigger venues,” Ainun said. “Both the regular classes and the lecture classes are free to the public.” Not only are the number of classes in the Akademi growing, it has also branched out from Jakarta and now runs programs in 10 other cities, namely Bandung, Semarang, Solo, Yogyakarta, Madiun, Medan, Ambon, Palembang, Jambi and even Singapore. As it has grown, Ainun has also brought on more people to help her manage the increasingly complex program. “First I got Karmin Winata, a senior dot-com journalist, to become the head of Akademi Berbagi Jakarta,” Ainun said. “A number of former class participants also got involved to help organize classes. However, the work is voluntary, “so we can’t force them to continue and remain committed to helping.” Karmin said the group had already “graduated” more than a thousand students. “As the number of applicants has boomed, we have also had to become highly selective in choosing students,” he said. “If a potential participant registers for four different classes but does not reconfirm, their names are added to our blacklist,” he said. Karmin added that the whole administrative process is carried out via Twitter using the @akademiberbagi account and a Web site, akademiberbagi.org. “We do not have an office, so we don’t have to spend too much on overheads,” he said. “The founders, trustees and volunteers all like to discuss things through our mailing list and different online chat platforms.” In addition to valuable experience in managing a nonprofit educational organization, insider knowledge and networking opportunities, Karmin said the most important thing he got from participating in Akademi Berbagi was a feeling of joy from being able to share his abilities and help others do the same. “Apparently there are still many good people in Indonesia,” he said. “They are encouraged to share — not just knowledge, but their free time, rooms for classes, food and drink, and much more — to keep Akademi Berbagi running for free. We accept donations, of course, but we reject sponsorship offers.” Budiono, from Detik.com, said Akademi Berbagi was a positive example for young people of how they could escape the shackles of formality in education. “It is an ingenious program and practical for the needs of a fast-moving, modern society,” he said. “And it originated from a simple conversation on Twitter. Ainun has proven that she did not just make a hashtag, but created a new breakthrough in the world of education, one that has opened the floodgates,” he said. “Akademi Berbagi is a growing concept that will never fade away. It’s very dynamic.” Thanks to the hard work of Ainun and the group’s other volunteers, Akademi Berbagi has obtained two awards this year — an Editor’s Choice Award from Rolling Stone Indonesia magazine and the Most Inspiring Movement Award from KlikHati, a program run by German pharmaceutical firm Merck, that recognizes humanitarian work done through social media. “We accepted the awards with humility since Akademi Berbagi is not only the result of our work, but also the work of a vast number of people from across the nation,” said Ainun. “From the beginning, I only wanted to initiate and facilitate a way for learners to continue learning from anyone, from anywhere and about anything.”. By Candra Malik News Source: The Jakarta Globe Posted in Good News From Indonesia by Marina Nareswari

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