May 11, 2014 00:00 By Chanon Wongsatayanont
University students Phornatcha Jimlim, Saranya Patanasutakit and Wuttipong Ngamwaen come up with a project that could stamp out the makings of corruption
Few would disagree that corruption is one of the most complicated and deep-rooted problems in Thai society. It’s a topic about which many complain but are at a loss to come up with a solution. Except that is for three Chiang Mai University students who recently won a gold medal in an international competition through addressing this very problem.
Proud, inspired and US$15,000 (Bt487,000) richer, Phornatcha Jimlim, Saranya Patanasutakit and Wuttipong Ngamwaen, all 22, recently returned from Hong Kong’s first I-Relay Youth Integrity Project, where they beat hundreds of teams from universities around the world.
Better still, their ideas are not going to end with the competition. The youngsters have been told by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) that their prize-winning marketing plan is to become a reality, and that they might even lead it as NACC Youth Ambassadors, the title they were given after winning the gold medal.
“We never thought we’d get to this stage,” says Wuttipong, a student in public administration, with a laugh.
Phornatcha, a marketing student and team leader, nods her agreement but points out that they made every effort to consider the practical side of the project and how to make it possible, rather than just submit their proposal for the sake of the competition.
The three were preparing for their finals in January when the NACC sent out an announcement about the Youth Integrity Project. With one week to draw up a proposal, they quickly brainstormed and studied some practicalities before submitting it. The folks over at the NACC were impressed, commenting that the idea was “the most unique of all entries” and picking them out of six other Thai university challengers to represent the country.
The marketing plan that has drawn so much attention is called “A Maze will Amaze You” and it’s designed as an activity to raise awareness among young middle schoolers and engage them with the concept of integrity.
The reason the team chose to focus on young adolescents is because of the current state of corruption in Thailand.
“Corruption today is way beyond the ability of anyone to repair, as we’re dealing with the effect and not the cause of the problem,” Saranya says.
“We don’t want to engage the effects, but fix the root of the problem, which is people’s integrity. The solution to the problem starts with building integrity in children, the younger generation. We want children to learn and understand what corruption is by themselves,” Phornatcha says.
The project draws young participants into a maze where they encounter multiple-choice questionnaires about different moral scenarios, among them, ‘if you find the answer script for your exam, what would you do?’ Depending on the children’s answer, they will be led to another part of the maze to answer another questionnaire.
“The answers to the questions will not simply be positive and negative because if they were, the children would only give socially acceptable answers,” Phornatcha points out.
After completing the maze, the children’s answers will be used to determine their personality type, which in turn will identify their integrity and areas to improve.
They said they adapted a Myer-Briggs personality test as a measure for what kind of integrity the children exhibit.
For example, if the child’s scores determine him or her to be a “Guardian” personality type, this means that the child places a lot of importance on rules. This then is his/her moral strongpoint, but it also identifies other areas to work on in order to increase integrity, including honesty with oneself, giving importance to others and rational thinking. In other words, each personality type exhibits a different kind of moral forte.
“If you ask why we measure children according to personality instead of, say, honesty, it’s because we don’t want to say to them ‘you’re good or you’re bad’, as this will stick in their minds,” Phornatcha explains. Instead, the children learn about their moral strengths and weaknesses so they can have a better understanding of their characters in general.
After completing the maze and being given their personality type, a group of volunteers would then explain to the children about their personality type and what to work on.
The NACC says they will support the project and try to make it happen. However, the details remain to be confirmed as the commission has been busy investigating recently deposed caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra on the rice pledging case.
But with the promise of support, the group is thinking about the next step of their plans. Phornatcha says they intend to create a club and Facebook group to make sure they keep in touch with the participants, and they might target older students by turning the questionnaire into smartphone apps for them to try out.
From what is, on the surface, a normal university competition, their project is about to become a plan that might begin to fix a national problem. With their undertaking now in the process of taking off, they are keen to share their thoughts with anyone who has a similar aim.
“You now have an awareness [of the problem] but you need to find ways to express what you think by using your knowledge and ability, in the same way I have used what I learned about marketing for this project.” Phornatcha says.
“I believe that everyone has the potential to do this, though I guess some are limited by other factors such as the condescending opinion of adults.” Wuttipong opines.
“I want to ask state and independent agencies to organise more competitions or campaigns that allow young people to express themselves. We were given the opportunity and I would like to see that opportunity reaching more children,” Saranya concludes.