We've teamed up with Virak Ou of Cambodia's leading think-tank Future Forum to bring a community-focused flexible workspace for Siem Reap's new generation of academics, entrepreneurs, and creatives. While construction of the kingdom's newest world-class collaboration hub is in full swing, we sit down with Virak to learn more about Future Forum at Rose Apple Square.
Q: What is the idea behind Future Forum at Rose Apple Square?
A: We support a community of young researchers. We don't just do generic training. We're always looking for ways to empower their voice. If we expect young people to think creatively about their future, there must be an environment where they have the freedom to be creative.
Q: Why is it important to have this kind of space in Siem Reap?
A: We have the most incredible ancient city in all of Asia, at least in all of Southeast Asia. It's an ancient global city. It has such historical importance that we put the Angkor Wat on our flag.It's a unique place where we can look back on our past and discuss the future. We can be discussing our future with Angkor Wat in our backdrop to remind us of where we came from.We also want to make policymaking and ideas less Phnom Penh-centric.
Q: How important is physical space in the work that you do?
A: We want to create a nurturing environment through architectural design. If we're going to bring people together from the community, we should provide a fun and stylish space. Otherwise, any discussion of the future would be bogged down. We would be banging our heads on the wall.It's our job to create an environment where ideas can flourish.
Q: What does Future Forum at Rose Apple Square have in store for Siem Reap?
A: There are so many good people and organizations based in Siem Reap already working on LGBTQIA+ rights, land rights, minority rights, discrimination, etc. We're looking forward to collaborating with them and doing something like a Festival of Ideas by the end of this year. It's not just going to be like TED Talks, we want it to be a festival.
Q: Who is Future Forum at Rose Apple Square for?
A: It's for everyone. Some parts are open to the public like the cafe and courtyard. This place is for you if you're looking to create solutions for your community. If you're a researcher, a university student working on your thesis, a writer working on a book, or a visiting academic from abroad, you’ll be very much welcome here.Future Forum at Rose Apple Square will feature a 150-seat community theater, lecture halls, breakout rooms, and co-working spaces