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Navigating Networks and Transformation in South Korea

How LEINN International gave me the tools to contribute to changemaking through collaboration

A little over half a year ago, and after finishing a second six month long stint in Seattle, United States, I was presented with the opportunity to choose my own next challenge. For the first time since deciding to join LEINN International at the beat of a heart in September 2016, I was on my own — free to explore and embrace the future I wanted to build for myself. The choice was a clear one: South Korea.

At the top of Lotte Tower in Seoul, South Korea. March 2020.

A variety of reasons led me to pursue coming to Seoul. I have been deeply fascinated by and connected with Korean culture, history, language and people for years now, having found with them a place that feels like home, even while so far away from my own roots. Likewise, with an emerging social entrepreneurial ecosystem, a strong sense of collective identity, and technology being so thoroughly ingrained in Korean society’s fabric, the country, and Seoul specifically, embodied the intersection of my passions.

Nonetheless, I had made my mind up about the fact that this bet I was placing had to make sense towards and build on my goals for the future. That’s where Ashoka came into the picture. Over the years, this global social entrepreneurship network and I have crossed paths multiple times and across the world, both intentionally as well as by pure chance. Finding an organization rooted in the values of changemaking, collaboration, equality and diversity, that I genuinely connected with was essential for me to take the leap, and getting to know Ashoka Korea and meeting the team made the decision an easy one.

First meeting with the team of Ashoka Korea, December 2019. Pictured: Seungbin Lee (LEINN), Hae-Young Lee, me, Jisun Jung
First meeting with the team of Ashoka Korea, with Seungbin Lee (LEINN International, 2nd Generation), Hae-Young Lee, Jisun Jung. December 2019.

In the short time I have been here, however, the world as we knew it seems to have ceased to exist. Mere days after joining the Ashoka Korea team, Covid-19 wreaked havoc in South Korea, urging the country and in just a few weeks, the globe, to reconsider the way we work, socialize, live. The pandemic led the project I originally came for (미래를 여는 시간/Time to Open the Future, a unique collaborative network connecting education innovations in South Korea) to be put on-hold and for us to redefine and refocus our goals, plans and roles.

This is how I ended up becoming part of the team of Next Now, Ashoka’s newest global initiative to catalyze the network’s collective changemaking, starting with four pressing global challenges: Gender, Planet & Climate, Tech & Humanity, and Aging. I joined the latter, led by Ashoka Korea’s Country Representative, Hae-Young Lee, supporting the activation of the different goals and processes within the framework of Next Now/Aging, which tackles the demographic shift becoming one of the most fundamental evolutions of our century, with deep social and economic implications worldwide.

As part of this team, I am helping the community work together and utilize collective creativity, beyond geographies and programs; testing and finding effective ways of building and engaging communities; sourcing innovations to identify and crystalize insights, patterns and trends in Aging; and systematizing and developing a methodology to serve as pathways to igniting mindset shifts for an emerging future.

Participants from all around the world in a session of Ashoka Fellows Roundtable on Aging, one of the initiatives designed and developed by the Next Now/Aging team. May-June 2020.

Despite the uncertain reality I (like everyone else) find myself in, I am confident that the skills, experiences and tools I have honed over the years allow me to face this unprecedented context head on, while continuing to learn, and to contribute and add value to my surrounding community.

Now that my “formal” odyssey with LEINN is coming to an end, I have been taking the time and space to properly reflect on my journey. If there is one thing I have clarity on at this time, it is that the past four years in LEINN International have prepared me to navigate our ever-changing world with boldness, agility, creativity, resolve, and innovation. Over time and across our travels, MTA’s teampreneurial methodology has provided me with the environment to develop the tools I need as an entrepreneurial person in today’s world, the resources to continue growing, and the spirit to always learn. So, I want to take this chance to thank every person I’ve crossed paths with these past few years, for the laughs, headaches, care, tears, encouragement, challenges, and struggles — for giving me the opportunity to become a better version of myself. I will continue to do so, wherever the wind may take me.

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