Benjamin Ong

Applied Imagination Fellow, 2021-2022

Benjamin Ong is an ecologist by training, an educator by passion, and an explorer at heart. Between 2014 and 2019, he anchored volunteer engagement and environmental education at Universiti Malaya’s Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden through two platforms he co-founded: The Rimba Project and the Urban Biodiversity Initiative (Ubi). An avid writer and photographer, his book The Backyard Before You was published in 2017. Benjamin’s interests center on the relationship between humans and nature in cities, and on the power and agency of student volunteerism. He won the 2017 Chevening Green Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2019 Marsh Award for Education in Botanic Gardens. He is also a U.S. Department of State/East-West Center alum, a Chevening-CIMB scholar, and former Board Director of Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa (Student Volunteers Foundation). He holds a BSc in Ecology & Biodiversity from Universiti Malaya and an MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of St Andrews.

Benjamin’s Applied Imagination Fellowship Project, “The Kampung City,” considers how urban farming and micro-terraforming of city spaces brings the kampung — Malay for “village” or “hometown” — into rigidly planned, densely populated environments and creates an opportunity to reimagine cities of the future as lush, ecologically diverse and with an emphasis on edible.