Our Year-In-Review: Bringing Sustainability to Life Online

Navigating through a challenging year

It’s quite the understatement to say that the last year has been tough on all of us. Such an understatement that it no longer begs to be said. While we might be a tad late in posting our reflection for the past year, we hope you can indulge us a little as we look back at how we’ve navigated such a trying time. It’s an opportunity, if any, to thank those who have made it possible to be here, writing about some of our wins.

The face of our business was tourism. It was in the name, after all: MAD Travel. But our core, from the very start, has always been education. Education about sustainability, environment, culture, equity, and social entrepreneurship. Education through shared experience, through genuine connections, through meaningful community. Our mission was to inspire change-makers the world over through the powerful vehicle of tourism.

How we got here

As borders came up and travel became inaccessible, we had to abandon this vehicle while still carrying with us the same mission of inspiring positive change. But what was to be the new vehicle by which we could continue to do this? There was hardly anything in our older business model that required us to delve much into tech — we used old jeepneys, bamboo cutlery, and local fruit seeds. All of a sudden, a strong WiFi connection and a professional Zoom account was what was going to keep the mission alive.

Luckily, our team was already well-equipped with the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm that was required for this big pivot from on-ground tourism to online learning. We leveraged our network on all relevant fronts: local communities, social innovators, and international schools and universities.

By May 2020, we were running programs for both high schools and universities, filling the gap of international study tours that had to be halted for the same reasons. We started with simple programs that resembled what we were already good at doing: connecting people and facilitating important conversations. Month on month, we met with more social innovators, engaged with more community members, and pushed the envelope more and more for what we could do within the e-learning space. We incorporated hands-on cultural activities, took students to off-grid communities, pitched new social business ideas, and empowered disadvantaged community members at a time when economic opportunity and social connection were scarce.

Our big wins

Today, about a year since we launched our first MAD Courses program, we have been able to run over a dozen programs for over 2,000 students from various schools & universities since (ESSEC Business School, Singapore University of Social Sciences, International School of Manila, to name a few); have engaged with 6 local communities from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brazil; continue to partner with more than 20 social innovators across these countries; and continue to be supported and guided by industry experts. We have also started investing in our partner community (GK Silver Heights)’s connectivity (WiFi and gadgets) so that more adults may be empowered economically and more children gain access to e-learning.

2021 continues to be a tough year for all of us. We at MAD Courses have been incredibly fortunate to be helped and supported by our powerhouse network of changemakers: Messy Bessy, Gawad Kalinga, Magwai, MAD Market, Dignity, Native, Virtualahan, Rags2Riches, Bambike, Braziliando, EcoVietnam Group, People Pods, Pure Oceans, Kayumanggi Organic, Lokal Lab, Bayatakan, and many more. We have the deepest gratitude to all of them for helping us keep our mission alive.

Exciting plans are ahead in terms of digitizing our content, expanding our reach, and deepening our impact through online education. Consider this a re-introduction, if you will, a ‘hello’, and a ‘stay tuned for updates’!

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