Ryan Joseph Figueiredo - Equal Asia Foundation

Our Change Accelerator for June is Ryan Joseph Figueiredo, Founder and Executive Director for Equal Asia Foundation, a regional innovations incubator for LGBT+ inclusive and appropriate SDG engagement in Thailand.

What does your organisation do?

Equal Asia Foundation is an incubator for inclusive LGBTI+ projects that is disrupting the LGBTI+ movement from within and encouraging it to find collaborative solutions to deep-seated social inequities.

Equal Asia Foundation’s work this year is focused on addressing the growing intergenerational gap in Asia, in particular reducing the social isolation of the elderly; preventing suicide and self-harm in the young; and mitigating the vulnerabilities of LGBT+ migrants and refugees affected by climate change, conflict and disaster.

The Equal Asia Foundation has a secretariat in Bangkok and is a collaborative community of change-makers from the non-profit, business and public sectors across borders who incubate and accelerate LGBTI+ inclusion projects in Asia.

Equal Asia Foundation has recently released its first publication. With this report, we have turned a corner in our work with refugees by documenting the condition and circumstances of LGBTI+ refugees, an invisible and vulnerable community living with us in this City of Angels and around Thailand. This report is a distillation of voices from across the refugee and LGBTI+ rights ecosystem and an urgent call for empathy and action. Click here to read more.

How did you get into social impact sector?

I  have worked for over 19 years in the social impact sector. Though I trained in Clinical genetics, I was moved by the plight of sex workers and their young children and started a local non-profit that provided basic health and nutrition services.

I also went back to school to pursue a Masters in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work.

I later began working in iNGOs, NGOs and social sector practices of management consulting firms across the region.

I founded Equal Asia Foundation in 2019 to respond to the glaring gaps in the LGBTI+ movement in Asia.

What is your driving force for accelerating change?

I am surrounded by inspiring human rights defenders who are driven to make the world a better place. I think human suffering is unnecessary and we have it in us to work together to find solutions to fix what is structurally wrong in our societies.

What one piece of advance would you give to future change accelerators who want to make a big impact in their work?

Radical collaboration is the key. The only way we can make a difference is if we are able to work intersectionally and across social movements.

We need to make leaps of faith and leaps of imagination if we want to make a big impact in the lives of the people we work with.

Also, be ready to grow and change as well. This work is as much about you as it is about the communities you work in.