The Beautiful Foundation co-founded the Jirisan Small Change Support Center with social cooperative Jirisan Eum in 2018 to find new actors for change and promote public interest activities in the Jirisan region (Gurye, Namwon, Sancheong, Hadong, Hamyang).

Overcoming the Pandemic by Staying Connected

In 2020, we were all hit hard physically, mentally, and emotionally by COVID-19. The long year came to an end, and a new year has begun, but little has changed in our daily lives. A growing sense of heaviness seems inevitable with the pandemic persisting. At such a time as this, perhaps some stories of hope could lift our spirits. To lighten up your heart, we share news from Jirisan,[1] the mountainous region in the southern part of South Korea. We give you a full review of the activities of the Jirisan Small Change Support Center that made the Jirisan area bustle in 2020. Our wish is that these stories will fill you with new hope.

Last year, despite COVID-19 and a record flood in the region, the Jirisan Small Change Support Center unwaveringly supported 73 public interest activities[2] in the area that consists of one city and four counties. It was a challenge to carry on the activities as planned because they involved the concerted efforts of many people. Nevertheless, as they were essential to the region, they were pushed forward with extra care.

Experimenting & Realizing: The Scenario for Small Change Project

The ‘Scenario for Small Change’ project supports the work and activities with the citizens to achieve small changes in the region. Unlike other support projects, it is conducted for a longer period, giving ample time for more activities and experimental initiatives. In 2020, a total of eight scenarios for small change took place in the region, covering diverse themes such as disability, women, environment, ecology, learning, and children.

(Picture courtesy of Jirisan Small Change Support Center)

‘Nuri Farm’ allowed residents with different occupations to cultivate an eco-friendly farm and lay the foundation for the community; ‘Our Values’ was a self-help group that supports adults with developmental disabilities and their parents to be self-reliant in society; ‘Namwon Citizens’ Group for Play and Playground’ examined the destruction of forests and trees – playing grounds for children and areas of rest for citizens – and shared their progress with the citizens; ‘Jirisan Women’s Conference for Sexual Violence Elimination’ created an opportunity to reflect on and change the misogynistic culture in the region through feminist theatrical performances and studies on the conditions/awareness of adult entertainment establishments; ‘Gurye Child Education Community’ was a gathering where anyone, from infant to adult, could learn and experiment to build a sustainable living culture; ‘100 Days Bicycle Workshop’ promoted a bicycle riding culture for safety and environment protection; ‘Gurye Special Forces’ invited young people from Gurye county as guests in a talk show to interact with the community; and ‘Amicable Social Cooperative’ provided sex education for parents with disabled children. 

(Photo courtesy of Jirisan Small Change Support Center)

Gather, Try, Seek, Inquire: Small Gathering/Small Education/Small Research

The Jirisan Small Change Support Center also runs a “Small Gathering/Small Education/Small Research Project” that supports small-scale research or studies on the local areas, or education programs and courses with the local citizens. They are carried out twice a year to enable as many and different people to participate and receive support. The activities that the citizens want to do are as varied as Jirisan is wide.

This year marks the third anniversary of the Small Change Scenario and the Small Gathering/Small Education/Small Research Project. There have been some changes based on the citizens’ needs and situation, but the overarching purpose to support the citizens’ public interest activities that is centered on the people and processes has been constant. Maybe this is why we are hearing rumors that more and more people outside the Jirisan region also want the support of the Jirisan Small Change Support Center.

The Jirisan Small Change Support Center is characterized by its flexible handling of situations at the site. The Center firmly believes that as much as the outcomes of the activities are important, the processes by which the people carry them out are all the more so. This is why, in addition to the costs, we also provide such support as networking and consulting wherever they are needed. Last year, the Center’s adaptability was especially exhibited as the region’s situation constantly fluctuated due to COVID-19 and the flood.

(Photo courtesy of Jirisan Small Change Support Center)

Connecting & Sharing: Support for the Regional Network

The Jirisan Small Change Support Center manages the “Regional Network Project” that supports the activities for citizens to gather and connect around topics of concern in the region. For this, the citizens involved undertake specific issues such as the environment, library construction, and regional development, or meet to connect and build a network.

The participants in this project didn’t appear and become involved overnight. The network was a gradual build-up of individuals who gathered one by one and connected as one dot to another since the Center’s establishment in 2018. The people in this project are a little different from those in the Small Change Scenario Project in that they are more focused on tackling issues ‘through the connection of citizens.’ The density at which the citizens are connected varies slightly from region to region and network to network. The tight and at sometimes loose connections are slowly progressing to solve problems. In 2020, the following networks were established and active in the respective regions:

🖇 Gurye: Creating a small library network in Gurye (launching a consultative body for library-related policies and enacting ordinances, etc.)
🖇 Namwon: Establishing a forum for candidates of the 2020 parliamentary elections, understanding candidates’ policies and conveying the voices of citizens, etc.
🖇Sancheong: Classifying issues of the community by agenda and sharing the agenda and policies with citizens
🖇 Hadong: Sharing the stories and issues of Hadong residents through the Hadong YouTube platform
🖇Hamyang: Finding local instructors, connecting with local residents through diverse learning opportunities, and providing various cultural programs in the local community

The activities of the network weren’t all carried out as planned due to COVID-19 and the flood. But no disaster could end our connection! The citizens connected by the network will continue to share their concerns for the region and put their thoughts into action.

(Photo courtesy of Jirisan Small Change Support Center)

Grow & Expand: Supporting Small Change Activists

There are really special people at the Jirisan Small Change Support Center – the ‘Small Change Activists.’ They are spread out throughout the city and counties of Jirisan, active in their area of expertise while also revitalizing the public interest activities with the other citizens. These small change activists first gathered in early 2020 and led the changes in the region through the efforts they were determined to fulfill despite the difficulties of 2020. The 14 activists furthered their work in depth or embarked on new challenges. Their specific activities were different, but they had the common thread of finding the possibilities in public interest activities and seeing them through.

The Center supports the activists with a small allowance that enables them to steadily carry on their work. We also provide monthly training so that they can receive the information they need. The small change activists consistently participate in the education program, gaining information on public interest activities and sharing ideas on how to manage their work. The training is an opportunity to learn and also meet others to give and receive support. The efforts of the small change activists will continue in 2021. As we enter the second year of the project, we look forward to seeing what more these small change activists will do. We wholeheartedly cheer them on!

(Photo courtesy of Jirisan Small Change Support Center)

Overcoming the Pandemic by Staying Connected

In 2020, we often saw people who had been loosely connected become a strong safety net for each other throughout the pandemic. The ’local civil society where neighbor takes care of neighbor’ that The Beautiful Foundation and Jirisan Eum wanted to convey and create through the Jirisan Small Change Support Center is exactly what we witnessed last year.

People who exert their strength only after they are connected do not connect by force. They need enough time and the steady pace to gradually form their relationships. The Beautiful Foundation and Jirisan Eum will continuously support the citizens of this region through the Jirisan Small Change Support Center with ‘the people and the process at the center.’ We hope that the connectedness will go beyond the Jirisan region to create more wonderful stories of exciting public interest activities and great people. Until then, let’s never cease to hope!

[1] Jirisan refers to Jiri mountain; ‘san’ is the Korean word for mountain.
[2] The number of organizations/gatherings/individuals supported by the Center’s projects (based on the Center’s “Jirisan 2020 in Numbers”)


(Original blog written in Korean by Ji-eun Choi, Community Engagement Team; Translation by The Center on Philanthropy)