The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs

Shin Fujiyama is a CNN Hero and the Executive Director of Students Helping Honduras. He lives with 30 former street children in Honduras where he runs a school and international NGO out of a tree house. In each episode Shin will be interviewing a proven social entrepreneur or NGO leader in the nonprofit or international development aid industry-- including several CNN Heroes and bestselling authors. They’re going to deconstruct their journey to explain HOW they built up their organizations. They’ll also tell us about their greatest failures, lessons, regrets, and behind-the-scenes realities. We’ll talk about their tactics, philosophies, principles, tools, and motivations to give you inspiration and actionable advice. 1) Subscribe to this podcast. 2) Turn on automatic downloads. 3) Leave me a review. 4.) Enjoy every new interview for FREE during your commute or workout.
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The Shin Fujiyama Podcast | Social Entrepreneurship | Nonprofit Organizations | International Development Aid | NGOs



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Apr 11, 2017

Most foreigners who visit Indonesia end up at the beaches of Bali. But not Adam Miller, a young conservationist from St. Louis. While volunteering at a pet shop at age 10, he came up with the vision of one day working in Indonesia to help the animals there. His vision quickly became an obsession. Many years later, Adam found himself in a remote village in Borneo, Indonesia. It’s a part of southeast Asia facing the fastest rate of deforestation in the world and the second highest number of endangered species in the world.

He lived there for six months on a total budget of $1,000 and built up a nonprofit organization called Planet Indonesia.

In this podcast episode, Adam discusses the challenges of working in a country with a culture that is vastly different. When he goes running, random fathers in the community might stop to offer their daughters as wives. And you will find out what Adam means when he says that in Indonesia, "host families will love you so much they might kill you in the process."

Adam also talks about grant writing, donor relations, using behavioral economics and incentives to promote conversation, and overcoming serious differences in the way people communicate in Indonesia.

This episode is sponsored by the Tikker, the death watch that counts down your life (and tells the time). Use the promo code SHIN at the checkout to get a 10% discount on your purchase.

Show Links for Adam Miller

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary

Mulago Foundation

Dan Pallotta’s TED talk: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

Poverty Inc. Documentary

Show Summary for Adam Miller

Adam was volunteering at a pet shop at age 10 in St. Louis, Missouri

He saw a bird from Indonesia that sparked his interest

Adam Miller was known as a “bird nerd” growing up

Adam Miller’s dream was to become a conservationist researcher

He began to feel inadequate just doing research, as just publishing articles didn’t feel like it was making enough of an impact

Adam Miller had an early life crisis and so jumped on a plane  to Indonesia

He ended up in Indonesia teaching English as a Fulbright Scholar

Learning about the culture, language, and the people led to him starting Planet Indonesia

Indonesian culture is very difficult to adapt to for a westerner

Conversations are much more indirect, longer-winded, and unclear in Indonesia

A donor foundation had a very strict reporting requirement and the finance team for Planet Indonesia kept assuring Adam that things were being done properly. Adam later found out that the team wasn’t doing the job as required by the foundation. They were not being honest and direct about their inadequacy

The Indonesian government is very unclear about requirements and permits for NGOs

When Adam first moved to Indonesia, there were very few foreign NGOs present

The Indonesians watch western TV and movies and romanticize the culture

The local Indonesians love to follow and take photos of foreigners

When Adam goes for jogs, fathers in the area ask him to marry their daughters

Indonesian cuisine is one of the best in the world. Especially lactose intolerant people like Adam and me!

Host families in Indonesia won’t let their guests do anything or go anywhere alone, especially for female guests

“Indonesians will love you so much that they’ll kill you in the process.” - Adam Miller

People live with their families and don’t go off to live independently as much as in the western culture

Now there are more nonprofit organizations in Indonesia

There are more than 85 nonprofit organizations in the area in Borneo where Adam Miller works

Indonesia food is usually rice, tempeh, chicken, vegetables, curries

Sambal is Indonesia’s popular hot chili sauce

Adam had dinner with a good expat friend in Borneo and in the conversation realized that it has been so hard for him to have long-term friends because expats come and go so frequently

Working for an NGO in Indonesia is not for everyone, according to Adam Miller

Meals in Indonesia cost $1.50-$2.00

Adam once lived for six months in Indonesia on a total budget of $1,000

Adam is a minimalist kind of guy and lived in a remote village

In Jakarta you can find anything you can do and buy in Europe

Very few cities have a bar or alcohol scene

Karaoke is a popular weekend activity

Men play a lot of indoor soccer (futsal) in Indonesia, Adam plays 3 times per week

Much of Planet Indonesia’s work is done on the weekends because that’s when community members (farmers and fishermen) are finally home

Dating in Indonesia is difficult and intense. By week two, marriage is already on the table. People have a lot of lovers on the side in Indonesia, before marriage.

Adam’s Fulbright proposal did not feel realistic on the ground

Adam met Novia Sagita, the co-founder of Planet Indonesia

Before starting Planet Indonesia, Adam had been offered other job options

A lot of the nonprofit work being done was not making a real impact because there was a disconnect between the NGO offices and the on the ground communities

Novia Sagita has worked in the NGO industry for 15 years and studied in Denver, Colorado. She has lived extensively abroad and can juggle different cultures

Novia Sagita started this weaving cooperative to empower village women

The weaving cooperative started with 21 weavers and now has 1,500 weavers

With four people (a conservationist, an NGO worker, a teacher, a fiction writer), Planet Indonesia began

A lot of people criticized Adam Miller for starting an NGO with people who didn’t necessarily have the “right” experience or resumes

Planet Indonesia starts communal business groups and trains them and invests in assets to kickstart the businesses of the business groups

For people to join the business groups, they are required to sign and follow conservation policies

Planet Indonesia provides the services and loans to encourage conservation practices by their nearly 24,000 participants

Another organization provides healthcare in exchange for the community members cutting back on their logging. The less loggers a community has, the bigger discounts the community gets in the health clinic

It’s important to listen to the communities

Planet Indonesia uses behavioral economics and incentives to change community behaviors

During year one when funding was low, Adam Miller had to spend $600 getting the 501 c 3 IRS status and then $1,200 to get the equivalent in Indonesia

Adam Miller only had a $500 limit on his credit card so he couldn’t even use it

Adam’s Fulbright cohort organized a secret fundraiser and raised $3,000 to help Adam start Planet Indonesia!!!

Novia Sagita said they needed $12,000 for the first year. Adam went back to the US and raised nearly $30,000!!

The help from The Franciscan Sisters of Mary has been critical for Planet Indonesia

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary was involved in stopping the Dakota pipeline case. They were the first Catholic organization to completely divest in fossil fuel

Adam was giving a talk at a Rotary Club and someone in the audience put him in touch with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary causes little hassle for Planet Indonesia in terms of reporting requirements. Not every foundation is the same!

Mulago Foundation

Running a nonprofit organization in the developing world is VERY challenging and when a donor is trying to control you on top of everything, it can be heartbreaking for the staff

Out of the last four years, the past month has been the HARDEST, all time low for Adam…!

Novia Sagita and Adam kept fighting together despite all of the hard moments. They are so united.

They all work 20 hour days sometimes

The energy level of the staff dropped when the donor tried to control them so much

Adam and Novia gave a speech to the staff during that all time low to give them inspiration and to stay true to their vision despite the periodic lows

Adam hopes that other NGOs can one day adopt Planet Indonesia’s model in other countries

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary sent 90 personal letters thanking the Planet Indonesia staff, miraculously when they were at their all time moral low

The people in Adam’s office go through ups and downs in their morale. They are humans!

1-2 staff members move in to live in the communities Planet Indonesia begins to work with

Adam Miller encourages nonprofit organizations to be honest with their donors, with their successes and failures

80% of Planet Indonesia’s funding comes from foundation grants. 20% comes from peer to peer

Adam Miller is the primary grant writer for Planet Indonesia, especially because he is the only English speaker in his staff

Many people in the nonprofit and development aid industry is scared to talk about their failures

Once, the seedlings that Planet Indonesia bought were bad and a bunch of trees died

At first, they didn’t understand why the locals were capturing and selling the threatened and endangered animals

Dan Pallotta’s TED talk: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

An expat could live comfortably in Indonesia for $15,000 and $25,000 for a family

Many of the best people in the grassroots nonprofit industry get poached by the larger organizations because of the better pay

Poverty Inc. Documentary

It took Novia Sagita 2-3 years just to convince the women to start weaving again, a tradition that had largely disappeared in the area

Novia Sagita identified a local market to sell the textile to. 70-80% of the sales are domestic

Novia Sagita built a textile museum in the area to explain the cultural importance of the textile

There were many risks involved, going for an unexpected market and building a museum, etc.

Now they are starting the textile products in Australia

There are many unexpected challenges in the NGO nonprofit world

Adam Miller gets stage fright before his public speeches and almost went down cold recently

Planet Indonesia offers internship positions to college students

Adam gives out a heartfelt shoutout to Novia Sagita and then to his family

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