Books By The Book Interview literature Singapore

A Wave of Change: An Interview with Lina Marican, Regional Managing Director of Mutant Communications, on CSR Initiative ‘Mutant For Good’

Since setting up shop in Singapore in 2012, local PR and communications agency Mutant Communications are ready to celebrate their milestone 10 year anniversary. But being ‘a little bit extra’ (as evidenced by the third arch in the ‘m’ of their signature neon green logo), Mutant is choosing to go an extra step to do something different, and commemorate with a brand new initiative – Mutant For Good.

No longer content just gunning to become one of the best PR and content agencies in Southeast Asia, Mutant is expanding the scope of their business, and finding new ways and means to give back to the community and the world through communications. Mutant For Good is Mutant Communications’ team-driven CSR initiative, a means to galvanise advocates to inspire their communities to take action and make change.

In this inaugural edition, Mutant released Peering Into Our Future, a project in support of local non-profits Our Singapore Reefs, Coastal Natives and Ocean Purpose Project. Aimed at raising awareness and encouraging people to actively save our oceans from further destruction, Mutant gathered five acclaimed local authors, poets, and playwrights – Suffian Hakim, Joshua Ip, Amanda Lee Koe, Pooja Nansi, and Neo Xiaoyun – to pen stories about a not-so-distant dystopian future. The stories are available to read online, as well as the ongoing Waves of Change Festival at the ArtScience Museum.

Speaking to Lina Marican, Mutant’s Regional Managing Director, we found out more about the vision behind Mutant for Good, and look back on how much the company has grown over the last ten years.

“Joseph Barratt, our CEO and Founder, wanted to do something different from just a regular anniversary celebration, and looked towards the future instead of just the present,” says Lina, on Mutant For Good’s origin. “We were conversing with so many NGOs, and they were all telling us how they had knowledge and data, but lacked the power of storytelling to drive the story home. While Singaporeans are told what’s the right thing to do in school, how many of us actually follow through and change things up to make a difference? So our job then was to emotionally connect with Singaporeans, the masses and the average consumer.”

Mutant was born and bred in Singapore, and that naturally led the company to consider the idea of the island and how we’re surrounded by water, and how Southeast Asia contains 25% of the coral reefs in the world. In speaking to Our Singapore Reefs, Coastal Natives and Ocean Purpose Project, they decided to consider the future of the oceans should we continue the current trajectory of not caring enough for them.

“All our NGOs are brilliant, and all experts in their own field. We invited them to come over to our office, and from our first chat with Kathlyn Tan (founder of Coastal Natives), we were hooked, and she introduced us to the other two groups,” says Lina. “Even though they’re all focusing on their own niche areas, it’s not about competition, because there’s a common goal – they choose to come together and make a difference to our oceans.”

“So what we thought to do was to shock Singaporeans, sort of like Black Mirror, and gathered five of the best writers in Singapore who also cared about these issues, and got them to craft the scariest story they could about a dystopian future,” says Lina. “On our end, we wove it together into a collection, pushed it and promoted it, and aimed to use it as a way to drive change and behavioural change. Consumers are smart people, and while they may be skeptical, because these stories are based on fact, there’s an intuitive element to it that they know this is a foreseeable future, and important to educate them on it. We can’t force change, but we can engage them and get them to pay attention and understand the things they can do to change their lifestyles or volunteer.”

Pooja Nansi’s “Wherever we look, we will find them.” sees a lonely wife reflecting on her life and marriage after watching a documentary about the dangers of microplastics. 

In selecting the five writers, Mutant was careful to pick people who shared the same values and mission, furnishing them with all the information they needed for each story, and connecting them with the NGOs for research. What the writers then saw was an opportunity to use both data and creativity to do something good for climate change and ocean conservation, and brought these terrifying, chilling stories to life. “We gave them the freedom to write what they wanted, and because all five of them are so different, it appeals to various demographics, and there’s no one universal favourite among the five – each story speaks to audiences from different backgrounds, and connects with them on their level,” adds Lina.

Peering Into Our Future was officially launched on 8 September 2022, as part of a prelude to Coastal Natives’ Waves of Change Festival at the ArtScience Museum. Running till 9th October, the public is invited to learn about amazing marine life, the devastating impacts of global warming and how we can ally with the ocean to combat climate change through community and activism.

“WaterWorld” by Joshua Ip sees a family outing to WaterWorld highlight more than generational divides.

As for the future of the project, Mutant has plans to work with the National Library Board to store these stories in the digital system for greater accessibility, and for Mutant to dive even further into climate change action, with plans to work on the UN’s COP27, assisting the PMO in their efforts to set up the Singapore Pavilion for the conference. “”This is just the start, and everyone in Mutant is a part of it, each with their own responsibilities to take care of,” says Lina. “While it started in Singapore, we’re connected with the Malaysia and Indonesia team as well, and we’re imagining everyone coming together in future to continue developing and expanding on the project.”

“Sweet Sixteen” by Neo Xiaoyun sees thoughtful, ocean-loving Janice receiving a shocking gift on her sixteenth birthday. 

Beyond the project, Lina expresses the joy of working at Mutant, and how genuine the company is in its efforts to enact change for good, and is only improving year on year. “I’ve been with Mutant for almost 6 years now, and it’s been a journey to see our mutants grow, not just in terms of the team size, but how the company itself is even expanding into more markets and countries over the next few years,” says Lina. “Our goal is to empower people to do their best work, and what I’m so happy about is how I can continue to get my hands dirty and not just stick to desk-bound work all the time.”

“Even when selecting clients we work with, we’re not afraid to say no and walk away from clients who don’t align with our values of diversity and inclusion and climate change. As an independent agency, we need to execute that power, and choose not to work with ‘evil’ corporations, because what would that then reflect on us?” she adds. “Anyone who knows us can see that we’re very real in whatever we do, especially in terms of our transparency, and how we genuinely care enough to do these meaningful projects, and the passion that comes out from every team member.”

“OUR GIRL” by Amanda Lee Koe, plucky hawksbill turtle returns to Singapore after spending time with her mate.

On the Mutant family and what makes a good Mutant team member, Lina emphasises how much passion and drive they all possess. “Half my time is spent speaking with people, interviewing them and igniting their passion, and at our office, we’re always on the lookout for great talent, not just skill set but also the spark, to see whether they care, wanting to make a difference for themselves in their career and for clients,” she says. “I am nothing without my team, and they feel my passion, because we’re all in the same room, without an individual office for myself or Joe, because it’s important to share all that creativity and brilliance in the same space, and shape them in the right direction to provide the right outcomes.”

“We never underestimate our power as mutants. Our founder Joe was a journalist, and he remembers getting pitches from agencies that were pitching for the sake of it, and how exhausting that was,” says Lina. “For us, it’s all about understanding what clients need at the time, and for us to drive change through our global and local networks, and connecting the people with the right partners and push them into success, and hopefully spark a change with storytelling.”

Suffian Hakim’s “The Last Tales of the Merlion” imagines rising sea levels threatening to overwhelm most of the world, and leaves the last Merlion to tell the remaining Singaporeans three stories. 

Ultimately, with this project, Peering Into Our Future hopes to not only entertain, but move people and inspire action such as creating advocacy in communities, at home and in workplaces. “At the end of the day, it’s really about sparking the right conversation with people, and with our stories and storytelling, for Mutant For Good, it’s about creating that discourse, to get people to share more, and for ordinary people to realise that even if the idea of climate change seems very foreign, if you like diving or you like sushi, that’s going to change if we don’t start acting now,” she concludes.

Peering Into Our Future was officially launched on 8th September 2022, as part of Coastal Natives’ Waves of Change Festival at the ArtScience Museum, which runs from 10th September to 9th October 2022. Read the collection here. More information available here

Read more about the Mutant For Good campaign here, and more about Mutant here

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