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Starting Important Conversations with Yulianna Frederika

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

As a multi-faceted creative, Yulianna marries her expertise in strategy and communications with her personal passion for social change through Lepak Conversations, an online platform that encourages respectful conversations about the Malay/Muslim community. Yulianna empowers individuals to foster understanding of social issues through online resources and avenues for actionable change. Her advocacy touches on notable topics such as racism in Singapore, gender equality and mental health. Yulianna is also a full time digital content creator who is driven by the simple mission to make the world a more inclusive place for everyone. Today, she shares with us more about her initiative "Lepak Conversations" and the journey it's been.

Tell us about this personal community initiative you’ve taken on (Lepak Conversations).

Lepak Conversations is an online initiative that aims to educate the Malay/Muslim and non-Muslim community on issues affecting the Malay/Muslim community, and how we can overcome them together through respectful discussions, actionable solutions and community building.

Why did you choose to start this? What impact do you think it makes?

Lepak Conversations was started when we noticed a gap in public discourse surrounding Malay/Muslim issues.

It is important to share and discuss Malay/Muslim issues to foster allyship amongst the different racial and religious groups in Singapore, and promote acceptance of these groups’ practices and beliefs. We thought this would be a good way to strengthen religious and racial harmony in Singapore.

With over 7k followers, the platform has grown tremendously over just 16 months. Our advocacy (along with other ground-up initiatives) has encouraged the people in Singapore to practise active citizenship, proven by the rise of online activism. Following our advocacy for the Tudung Issue alongside the community, the government has since updated its policy to allow female Muslim healthcare workers to don the headscarf. We have also seen youths step up to start their own projects and conduct their own studies about social issues, referencing the work of Lepak Conversations.

Share with us a bit about your experience working on it.

The very first thing we worked on when brainstorming was actually the branding. We wanted to create a brand that was memorable and impactful. Thankfully, we quickly thought of the name Lepak Conversations. “Lepak” often has a negative connotation and was taken to mean lazy, loitering, wasting time or doing unproductive things. We wanted to address this age-old negative stereotype head on by redefining “lepak” as ‘people hanging out and having respectful, constructive conversations on things that matter to the community’. This shapes our philosophy of being both approachable yet trustworthy—communicated through our language, brand colours, and community engagement. I am glad that our community easily subscribed to this redefinition!

As a small team of 2, we don't have much difficulty deciding which social issue to tackle, or delegating tasks, as we each have highly specialized skills & knowledge—research for my co-founder Nur, who's a law graduate, and communications for myself, who's currently a full-time digital content creator.

Our difficulties mostly lie in trying to distill complex information into easy-to-digest content, fit for Instagram. Managing comments or direct messages also takes us a lot of time, as we have to ensure that discussions remain respectful, and that our responses are also properly fact-checked and crafted.

What did you learn or discover through this process, and what would your key takeaway be?

I discovered that most people are willing to engage in constructive discussions if you make it easy for them. We also became a safe platform for the voiceless/silenced to share their opinions & experiences. Setting guidelines helped to create this safe space on our platform, which we thought was especially important on social media where hateful speech is rife and hard to control. We hope this allows social media to be a safer place for community building.

I was also surprised by how quickly people trusted us, despite not knowing the creators as we initially ran the page anonymously. It taught me that people easily support you if they can see your genuine intentions and your work resonates deeply with them. Our Lepak community has been my biggest motivation—they always remind me to put the community first, because the work we do and the impact it makes is only possible because of them.

If you could give a piece of advice to another creative who’d like to work on such personal projects, what would it be?

Play to your strengths, manage your time well and have a plan! Lepak Conversations' success can largely be attributed to our discipline in setting goals and working towards achieving them. Both co-founders have heavy full time commitments, so planning ahead & managing expectations on how much resources and time is needed to complete a project is super important. Playing to our strengths also means that we work on projects where we have sound expertise & knowledge. If it's outside our expertise, we're not afraid to ask for help from those who do!

Overall, be realistic and realise you're a human with finite energy. Plan and do your best but also remember to take care of your health & personal needs! You truly can only pour when your own cup is full.

Do you have any other suggestions on how creatives as a community do more work that inspires change?

Work on projects & causes that you're passionate about! I believe when you're really passionate about something, your genuine intention and message will easily touch and inspire the hearts of others. A simple example would be Pann Lim putting up posters of encouragement for delivery riders outside his home—anything works! Creative work should be seen as socially impactful as much as it is economically viable.

What opportunities do you have at work / your day job to create meaningful/impactful design? I am currently a digital content creator with RICE Media. Everyday is a new opportunity for me to present stories in exciting formats, using compelling graphics on social media to create thought-provoking content. My personal mission & strength has always been to use storytelling to create a positive impact, and I'm glad I can do it in both my full-time job and passion projects.

If you’re interested to have respectful discussions about things that matter to the Malay/Muslim community, be an ally or find new ways to make some actionable change, do give follow @lepakconversations a follow on Instagram!

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