The Backpacker Intern

17 Triggers Cambodia: doing great for good

Cambodia! That’s country number three in 1,5 week. It’s a bit rougher than Thailand and Malaysia. The traffic in Phnom Penh is sort of a chaos. But it’s organized at the same time. Nobody get’s angry when they have to wait or when they almost have an accident. After day one I was used to it. Just surrender yourself and go with the flow.

Last Sunday I visited the Central Market. A place where you can buy literally anything. From tarantula’s to PlayStations and from Nike running shoes to the most beautiful flowers. After that I hopped onto a motorbike to check out the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. That was quite intense. It’s unbelievable what happened during the regime of Pol Pot. With the entrance ticket for the Killing Fields you get free audio tour. I just wandered around and listened to the horrifying stories. I don’t know which words to choose to describe this. So if you haven’t been there yet I suggest you to visit it and see it with your own eyes.

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After a good sleep I got up early to meet Mike Rios. Mike is the co-founder of 17 Triggers. My 5th internship. We started the day with a typical Cambodian breakfast, fresh coconut juice and a great conversation. With a stuffed stomach we strolled to the 17 Triggers headquarters. It’s an agency. Not an ad-agency though. 17 Triggers solves the world’s greatest social challenges. They work with and for NGO’s such as UNICEF and MTV Exit in more than 16 countries. Good stuff.

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Mike introduced me to the team and we’ve started to work on a self-promotion campaign for 17 Triggers. They learned me all about their methods and ways of thinking. Which was very interesting to experience. One of them was ‘Naps 100+’. You have 10 seconds to come up with an idea (good or bad), write it down on a sticky note, say it out loud and hang it on the wall/window. Keep going untill you have a least 100 ideas. It opened my mind and the ideas of others inspired me to come up with even more ideas.

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They invited me for a lunch at Doors. A neat Spanish tapasbar. The food was amazing. After that we got back to work and used a different method of thinking: ‘Triggermapping’. Here we literally drew the journey from the targetgroup to the goal we’re trying to reach. On the way up we drew different factors that you’ll meet on the path. If problems were blocking the way we came up with solutions. An interesting approach. It makes difficult problems easier to understand. Much better than looking at a 200-pager-plan if you ask me.


17 Triggers hosted me at the Number9Hotel. Too bad I was too tired to jump into the Jacuzzi on the rooftop…It was good to have a private room to chill out a bit. Plus I needed a quit place to work on my TEDxtalk. That’s in less than 3 weeks already…CRAZY!

The next day we continued with a shortlist of our ideas. To see if the ideas would really work they use another technique. It’s called ‘Rapid Prototyping’. Basically it’s making a quick prototype and improve it while building. The first prototype for Google Glass was made in 20 minutes. Made out of stuff you have in the office. Just get your hands dirty, have fun and create!

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Keywords for the lunch break were: Child’s Pose, Warrior I, Downward Facing Dog. Yes, Yoga. Mike is also a yoga teacher. A great way of staying fit and to relieve stress. It felt good to stretch up my body again.

At the end of the day we reviewed our ideas with Mike and came to the conclusion that we’re onto something good. The team is now going to evolve it. I’m looking forward to see this magic come to life. To end the internship we had diner at a typical and popular Cambodian Restaurant. My favourite dish was Loc Lac.

Dear people of 17 Triggers, I want to thank you for two inspiring days. I’ve learned a lot about your creative ways of thinking and hope that I’ve inspired you guys a bit as well. All the best for the future!


In 30 minutes I’m taking the bus to Siem Reap. I’m going to check out something that’s been on my wish list for a loooooong time…Angkor Wat! Or, how Lil’ John would say it: “Angkor WHAT?!”.

Hopefully I have some time to answer all the emails I’m receiving. I’ll do my best to respond them all!

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