For many, teenage concerns were heavy on navigating high school hierarchies and hormone fluctuations, less on how to improve society around them. And then there’s Ehon Chan, whose teen years were spent harnessing innovative digital technologies and the growing power of new media to advocate projects and issues inspired by the difficult, still developing circumstances of his home in South East Asia.
By 18, Chan had led numerous projects touting community development and literacy. By 2009, he had co-founded News Unlimited, a prominent digital entertainment and lifestyle site catering to Brisbane youth. By 2010, Chan had also co-founded Youth Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Brisbane — the first think tank program for young entrepreneurs and budding changemakers.
Then, in 2011, Chan and a group of his mates pointedly asked their fellow young Aussies to “Soften the Fck Up,” an award-winning campaign calling attention to disturbing statistics pinpointing suicide as one of the leading causes of death in young Australians, specifically males. At its core, Soften the Fck Up encourages blokes to toss aside biased, testosterone-tinged views of discussing their emotions. It’s not weak; it’s human and necessary. Giving a damn can save a life.
Of course, he didn’t stop there. Chan has also worked on “We Can Help Us,” a community-driven digital campaign aimed at suicide prevention in the U.S. and alongside nonprofit mobilizer Epic Change to launch “To Mama With Love,” a collaborative art and fundraising project aimed at inspirational women, and to co-found TeacherTime, an online effort to connect and develop educators.
Chan’s latest co-founding endeavor is Hub Sydney, a digital network linking individuals interested in driving innovation through collaboration, set to launch this month. His hope is that Hub Sydney will increase the visibility of these cooperative communities and thus call attention to real-world outcomes of just what becomes possible when collaboration and technology collide. Oh, but let’s not leave out giving a damn. That’s important too.
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