John-Son Oei

Back in 2010, a communications fresh graduate ventured into a remote village in Kuala Kubu Baru and found his calling. Today, Oei, 32, is the founder and CEO of EPIC Collective, an ecosystem of platforms and companies that promotes collaborative social impact.

EPIC stands for Extraordinary People Impacting Community. Its flagship programme, EPIC Homes, mobilises ordinary city folks to build homes for indigenous, or orang asli (OA), families in as fast as three days, and develop relationships while doing so.

Inspired by Lego and Ikea, Oei’s idea was developed with the help of friends and more than 40 architects, engineers and designers. The result is a modular building system that has been used to build 137 homes in the past nine years, with over 5,000 volunteers from some 40 organisations and more than 50 countries.

EPIC Collective also comprises EPIC Communities and EPIC DNA, its community and training arms. The group has established itself as a consultant in community development, civilian mobilisation and capacity building. It is also involved in infrastructure projects in Cambodia.

Oei’s work has won him various international recognition and awards, including being accepted into the Ashoka Fellowship; Forbes 30 under 30 2016; The Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Dedication 2017; SME Malaysian Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2017; Tatler Malaysia—Force for Good Award; The Edge Inspiring Young Leaders Award; the Iclif Leadership Energy Award 2015; and Microsoft’s Global YouthSpark Star award. He was also Malaysia’s official flag bearer for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Commonwealth Day.

Construction+ catches up with Oei to find out what his plans are moving forward. 

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