Turning 12 and Growing Up

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years since we first started on the Kopernik journey. Back in 2010 we were a very small team with a big vision to solve social and environmental challenges. Looking back, I reflect on how much we have grown, in so many aspects - the size of our team, the number of people we have reached through our work, and how over the years we’ve done a lot of ‘growing up’ as an organization. But our vision, and commitment to making a meaningful contribution to solving some of the biggest problems facing underserved communities remains unchanged.

Everything we have done, and continue to do, is only possible because of our team. Many team members have come and gone over the years, but every single individual who has been part of our team, has made an important contribution to our evolution as an organization, to how we operate, to our culture, and to the impact we have been able to achieve through our work.

So on this, our 12th birthday we celebrate the people behind Kopernik - all the current and former team members. As an organization, we have been, and continue to be extremely lucky to have a team of incredible, unique individuals who are passionate, dedicated, and committed to Kopernik’s goal of finding effective solutions to social and environmental challenges.

When we first founded Kopernik, and as we have continued to evolve, a strong organizational culture has been at the forefront of our minds. We have always wanted Kopernik to be an organisation that people are proud to be part of, where they feel supported and cared for, that inspires their passions and allows them to use their talent and to learn, where people are motivated to come to work and feel they are contributing to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the communities we work with.

None of this is easy - and we’ve failed many times. We still have a long way to go towards realising this ideal organisation. But just as we are committed to learning from our failures when we conduct our experiments, we make the same commitment to our team, to continue to learn and grow and improve the organisation as a whole.

The past two years have been especially difficult. While our office has always been a hub for the team to connect and collaborate with each other, support each other, build and grow personal connections (which has led to at least three weddings between Kopernik team members), learn from one another, share stories, play music together, engage in highly intense and competitive table tennis matches, as well as yoga, meditation, dance and kickboxing classes.

Then the pandemic came, and we had to make an abrupt shift to working from home, which has resulted in all these opportunities to connect and get support also coming to an abrupt stop. We went from seeing each other daily, sharing meals, coffee, and blowing off steam together, the regular practice of ‘curhat’ (one of my favorite Indonesian expressions - an abbreviation of curahan hati - meaning to pour your heart out to or confide in someone you trust about something that may be bothering you) to a very different reality of Zoom and Google meetings - and trying to figure out how we can continue to do our work remotely and maintain our connections with people.

In terms of our work, 2021 was one of Kopernik’s busiest years to date, and I want to acknowledge the incredible work of the whole team, who despite all the challenges, continued to support the underserved communities we work with. To the whole Kopernik team - thank you.

While working from home does have its benefits, and some of our team members have said they do like working from home - appreciating the reduction in commuting time, having more control over their schedule, less distractions - but for many people, it’s not easy. Some have difficult home situations, and responsibilities to care for family members, others are far from their families, having moved to Bali for work, without the ability to see their families for long periods of time. For parents – managing home schooling, child care, while continuing to work can be extremely challenging.

Numerous studies conducted since the onset of the pandemic and work from home policies, have found that many people working from home have experienced negative mental health impacts, including isolation, depression and loneliness, which is cause for great concern.

I wish I had an answer to when we will return to some level of normalcy, but I do think that the future of work at Kopernik is some kind of hybrid model, with flexibility built in so that our team can find the right balance of working from home, while still maintaining those all important connections to others. In the meantime, as we figure out how we move forward, we need to ensure that our team can have access to support they need - through providing more opportunities for meaningful connections, and providing access to physical and mental health support. 

Last year we celebrated Kopernik’s 11th anniversary virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we continue to evolve and improve our organisation during these challenging times, there are a few initiatives that I am proud to share:

Paid parental leave

While paid maternity leave is regulated by the Law on Manpower Affairs in Indonesia, and is a basic right for all employees in Indonesia, paid paternity (or parental) leave is less common in the Indonesian workforce. Parental leave is an important component of family friendly policies, which according to recent reports by McKinsey and UNICEF have far reaching benefits for families, businesses and economies. These include an improvement in relationship stability, providing emotional support and being present during the early, challenging and critical days of baby care. Parenting together from the beginning is instrumental in shaping family dynamics according to McKinsey and can level the playing field for working mothers, strengthening gender equality and increasing women’s participation in the workforce.

Recognizing the importance of supporting the wellbeing of our team members and their families, last year we implemented a new parental leave policy, where team members whose partner will give birth or adopt a child are entitled to 20 working days of paid parental leave. 

Parental leave is an important component of family friendly policies, which have far reaching benefits for families, businesses and economies.

Growing and thriving with ‘The Next CEO’ Program

As an organization, we love to see our team grow and thrive. A survey we conducted found that 92% of our team members aspire to become entrepreneurs and we see this program as a great opportunity to support their dreams.

‘The Next CEO Program’ is designed for Kopernik team members who are passionate about one of our promising lean experiments and to transform them into independent impactful companies or organizations. In addition to nurturing entrepreneurial motivations, we can also ensure that our lean experiments result in bigger impact by ‘spinning’ them off.

The program is inspired by the Vera Institute of Justice’s long history of transforming their projects into independent organizations and we are applying the spin-off model at Kopernik for our team who are engaged, excited, and inspired by our lean experiments to launch a new entity that can have a greater impact.

Encouraged by Kopernik’s experience in spinning off two entities, Yayasan Rumbia and Perfect Fit Indonesia, the Next CEO Program provides selected team members a one year period of in-depth support to build the entity, together with seed funding, and the selected team member becoming the CEO of the new entity.

While the process is complex, it ensures that Kopernik maintains the resources and energy we need to stay focused on our core mission - finding what works to address social and environmental challenges through lean experimentation.

Soma of Magi Farm is the first participant in the ‘Next CEO’ program, inspired by Kopernik’s black soldier fly experiment addressing food waste and promoting a circular animal feed system.

Celebrating great minds with the Lean Experimentation Challenge: better solutions together

This year we are also opening up the opportunity to participate in our lean experiment approach beyond Kopernik’s team members through a lean experimentation challenge. We know there are many great minds and ideas across the country that can contribute to solving social and environmental challenges.

Many are hindered by limited resources to realize their ideas or self-censor themselves due to a label of ‘expertise’ - or the concern that only a particular person, with a specific background has the capacity to contribute to solving development problems.

Through this challenge, we want to break down these barriers and provide an opportunity for more people - especially with local and indigenous knowledge - to join us in designing and experimenting with potential solutions to solve social and environmental problems. 

Designing and conducting experiments is not easy - it requires creativity, willingness to fail, and persistence and dedication to find solutions to problems faced by underserved communities.

This program is our acknowledgment of, and invitation to all those people who are passionate about solving problems and have great ideas, but have not had the opportunity to turn these into reality. We will be issuing a call for proposals and those selected to be part of the challenge will be invited to develop and implement their experiment with our support. Great ideas can come from anywhere and we are excited to see what they are.

Welcoming the future

After 12 years of working with so many inspiring people, we have learned so much about the importance of supporting the wellbeing and growth of the Kopernik team. Our team is our biggest asset, and is critical to us being able to turn our ideas into impact.

A major source of inspiration for us is seeing former team members who have embarked on their new journeys - some have gone on to complete their Masters and Doctorate degrees at prestigious universities all over the world, some have senior roles at Indonesia’s leading companies, others have joined the civil service, while some have gone on to start and run their own businesses. We’re excited to follow their journeys as they become Indonesia’s next generation of leaders.