Saturday, 4 October 2014

Seize Anglo Sikh Heritage!

This month I want to inspire you all.  Yes YOU!

For far too long work on the agenda of Anglo-Sikh heritage has been the bastion of politically motivated and ego-centric organisations.

Such organisations use and abuse contacts and well-wishers, burn bridges with new and established talent and prevent others from leading on heritage awareness programmes.  I am thinking of one organisation in particular.

Not any more.

Through our Kickstarter campaign, the #WW1SikhMemorial has proved that good ideas will find support and funds to become a reality.

That where there is a need to raise awareness and promote the history and heritage we are proud of, people and groups will band together to make something great happen.

That's how I feel about the memorial project.

It was an idea I had in the back of my mind for a very long time.  Ever since I started making films under the "Sikhs At War" banner, uploading them for free usage as a resource on the websites I felt there was a need for a lasting legacy of Sikh remembrance.

I watched with interest to see whether anyone would occupy the space devoid of a memorial and try to create something fantastic.  It didn't happen.

So earlier this year, when I decided that my own journey to narrate the WW1 Sikh story through online films was coming to an end, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to see left behind for future generations.

It's one that has inspired me - both as a Brit and as a Sikh.

The old adage came to mind that: we shape buildings and in future buildings shape us (or words to that effect).

With the centenary commemorations of the start of the Great War taking place, I was sure there would be some move to create a memorial.

But nothing happened.

That's when I knew it was my duty to MAKE it happen.

I looked to the social fundraising site Kickstarter to plan how to raise money from the grassroots to create a memorial.

I thought that for a memorial to be not just successful but to stand the test of time, it needed to have mass support.  My belief became that it should be a monument funded by the many and not the few who could afford it.

I filmed and put together a short video, nothing amazing, but one which told the important facts of what I wanted to do.

I consulted a lot, in private, with individuals and groups.  Ascertained what the thoughts of Sikhs and non-Sikhs were about a national memorial.  And I put these ideas into a plan.

Then I waited.  I waited for summer, then I waited for the world cup to be over.  Secretly, I wondered whether anyone else would gazump me by launching a Kickstarter campaign first.  I didn't mind, this would after all create a lot of work for me at a time when I need to let go of responsibilities.

Then came the planning for "Saragarhi day" which I created and organised and was a tremendous success.

When was the best time to launch a campaign?  I thought long and hard...

It wasn't the summer and it wasn't when people were pre-occupied with football.  So it had to be after.  And so I prepared the ground work of the project.  I budgeted the memorial.  I made connections with the proposed venue.  I consulted more Sikhs and non-Sikhs.  I wrote a proposal.  I met with business leaders and potential corporate donors.  I tried to partner with other Sikh groups (too much politics).

Then came the time to launch ... and with baited breath the campaign went live.

You know that the #WW1SikhMemorial campaign was a huge success - but you probably don't know why it was so.

In a series of blogs this month I will aim to show you why it was - and in turn try and encourage you to seek such ways of empowerment to make your own projects happen.

Seize the initiative!  Don't allow the oldies and politics cloud your ability - if you believe it make it happen!  I believe there are many many more great initiatives out there, and I want to pass on what I have learnt so that more young people can create history and heritage.

For now, and you've probably guessed what I've been trying to get to with this post; let me tell you that a successful campaign is about a good idea and preparation.

If its not a good idea - which has wider appeal and realistic potential; and you don't prepare the groundwork, then you will fail.  Either you won't find the money or resources, or you will but the final outcome will be a flop.

So think about what you want to create - be energetic and enthusiastic but ultimately be realistic.

Plan it and plan some more ... but ultimately think about what need their is out there.

In part 2 I will shed light on the final outcome of the memorial project and what it can tell you about creating a wide support base.

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