The Idea of Unconditional Effort

Stories of Change by Design: A Conversation with Kenneth, Writer & Founder of VERB


Hi Kenneth!

Tell us about a project or the projects you volunteered to work on.


Sure! Here are a few:

1. Edited a few articles and stories for an upcoming publication with REACH Community Services.


2. Created a series of social media content and videos with the Singapore After-Care Association – to bring more awareness to the team’s latest fundraising campaign.


3. Crafted the web copy for the We Love Learning Centre – compiled new programmes with a new angle and tone of voice.


4. Explored naming options for the Habitat Collective – part of their latest rebranding exercise.

Why did you choose to volunteer for this/these?

For the most part, I was just going with the flow and doing what seemed the most natural to me – times were difficult. Everybody needed help. So, it wasn’t about choosing who to work with but more about who needed help at that time.

To speak freely, a small part of ‘the why’ was to also treat MM as an experiment to improve the way I think in my practice, VERB. I’ve always wanted to explore the idea of unconditional effort without ever thinking, ‘aiyah, I should’ve charged for that’. MM gave me and other creatives great reasons to work for free. Willingly. Happily. Doing what we love. For the greater good. How cool is that?



Share with us a bit about your experience working on the project/s. (Both the good and the bad! e.g. Your process, difficulties faced)


The overall process was smooth and fluid for everyone involved. I realised that all these non-profits were just excited to get things done. And they really appreciated everyone for being there. So, it’s all good.


Difficulties…were more self-imposed, I guess. My pro-bono schedule was only limited to the weekends, and that can really stretch the client’s timeline. I wish I had more time for MM members.


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


This might sound a bit out of point, but the first takeaway that comes to mind is me learning to ‘stay in a one-metre world’ during execution (stole this expression from the U.S. Navy Seals). This means playing your part, being laser-focused only on what’s in front of you right now simply because that’s the only thing you can control.


This is important to me because big lofty dreams, though useful, can also be overwhelming. And being overwhelmed only leads to non-action or procrastination. We need to move forward. So, focusing on the small immediate actionable steps sets us up for success every day at work.


Are there any key differences working with a non-profit client VS a commercial client?


$$$ is the only key difference. But other than that, I think most clients respond similarly. If the work solves a problem effectively, if each milestone is timely met, if there’s a sense of dedication and open collaboration, most clients will leave satisfied. And return really soon for more.


How else could Making Meaning help support you, the creative or non-profits better?


MM is awesome as is! But if anything, I guess we need more non-profits. More long-term projects.


If you could give a piece of advice to another creative who’d like to volunteer, what would it be?


Never ever think that your work is too small to make a real difference. You’re making something out of nothing. And that’s the start of everything.



What opportunities do you have at work / your day job to create meaningful/impactful work?


MM actually inspired me to possibly offer low-bono or pay-as-you-wish services to brands and companies on a low-budget. I’m still exploring how I can do that viably and effectively without ‘spoiling market’.


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


I’m still pretty new to this, but I think sharing your experiences as a volunteer definitely helps. The more we talk about it, the bigger the network, the more change we can impact together.



Would you volunteer again? Why/Why not?


100% yes! I can imagine going pro-bono full time when I retire early. So, consulting, ideating, writing etc., with a select few non-profits and clients.



——

Kenneth is the founder of VERB, a copywriter-led creative and branding practice here to make your actions speak louder with words.


Interested in Making Meaning by volunteering creatively?

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