We wanted to try something a bit different the other evening. Typically, we organize our events in Yangon around targeted agendas. We focus on very tangible issues and specific topics. This time, however, we wanted to try something new. We wanted an agenda-free mixer for small business owners and NGOs – a chance for them to come together to discuss freely whatever was on their minds.
So, what better way to spice up conversation than with Shan cuisine?
Just like the delicious tofu morsels, rice flour buns and sweet & spicy sauces, our crowd was a mix of flavors. We had humanitarian relief organizations like Solidarités, Save The Children, Merlin and AVSI. Better Life, a Myanmar civil society organization that focuses on community development activities, also sent a couple staff. The president of the Myanmar Business Executives association came. Several local companies attended. A manager for Earth Renewable Energy Co. (EREC), for instance. EREC imports and installs dozens of different types of solar panels and devices. Among other things, they outfitted the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway with solar powered streetlights. Myanmar Round The World Logistics Co. also attended – they specialize in imports & exports. NGOs in Myanmar often have to rely on importation specialists because the manufacturing sector in this country in still quite nascent (read: full of opportunity for local entrepreneurs).
By itself, that lightly fried tofu is only mildly satisfying. Dip it in some chili sauce and wash it down with some Shan tea, however, and you will find it quite delectable. So, too, with our event. Everyone mixed and mingled – across sectors, across ages. Perspectives and thoughts were shared in ways difficult to gauge. We always like to know that our activities are achieving meaningful impact, but how do you gauge the impact of a conversation? A young logistics officer for a local CSO chatting with the country director of an international NGO – that conversation surely has value, but good luck trying to put a number to assess what that value is. Ideas and business cards were exchanged. Networks were expanded.
So yes, we don’t do this sort-of thing every week, but occasionally spicing things up is fun. Most of the time we build markets, but sometimes we serve Shan food.
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