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From Fragmentation and Silos to Tri-Sector Collaboration: Social Innovation in Hong Kong

Author: Ada Wong
Published Date: 2 July 2014

Social innovation is gathering momentum in Hong Kong. It is connecting silos and developing partnerships for change.
Ada Wong describes how five social innovators are approaching social change to bring about cohesion amidst a fragmented political landscape.

There are three zones at the Good Lab. On 27 July 2013, the eight finalists for the 2013 Young Social Entrepreneurs Award (comprising three grants of HK$100,000 each) were presenting to a panel of judges at the bean bag area.
This is Hong Kong’s only award that encourages young people to become social entrepreneurs by providing them with a stipend so that they are able to commit full-time to their fledgling social enterprises.
At the opposite end of The Good Lab, ladies from the nearby Sham Shui Po district gathered for a demonstration of soap-making with used oil. This is a “waste not” campaign organised by MaD (the Make A Difference initiative) for participants to learn how shops and households in poorer communities are mindful of food waste and have creative recipes even for leftovers.

In the Dialogue Experience Square, 30 people joined a “Lunch in the Dark,” one of the experiential activities designed by Hong Kong’s most popular social enterprises, Dialogue in the Dark. The event featured different kinds of dark experiences aimed at building empathy for the visually-impaired. There were probably over 200 people in the different spaces on that exceptionally busy Saturday.

The Good Lab is Hong Kong’s social innovation hub and the brainchild of five people: Francis Ngai (Social Ventures Hong Kong), Patrick Cheung (HK Social Entrepreneurship Forum), Dr Ka Kui Tse (Education for Good), Vincent Wong (Solutions On Wheels), and myself (Make a Difference). It is a convenor with networking and support functions. It serves as a platform with a mission to bring the most innovative ideas, the most passionate people, and individuals with resources and support together to create innovative solutions to address unmet needs.

In this 20,000 square feet of co-working space, trust is in the air. It is also a social innovation hub where knowledge, skills and insights are constantly shared. It is a cosy community where people easily become friends and interesting initiatives can be explored. IT start-ups and social entrepreneurs have sat next to each other and then decided to partner each other in new ventures. Here, people feel inspired to make a difference and believe that they too can help to change society for the better. The Good Lab does not sound real, since the positive energy and cross-sector collaboration that comes out from it is not the norm in Hong Kong.

We have been hard at work creating platforms to launch innovative initiatives and harness the work of those passionate in generating solutions to address unmet needs in society. Social innovation work involves a tri-sector approach; the wisdom, resources and insights of the public, private and people sectors must be shared. Here, trust is an essential ingredient. As social innovators, we encourage social entrepreneurship and advocate cross-sector collaborations by creating intermediary platforms to break silos. We attempt to identify unifying strands to work through the fragments in our society. However, our positive energy is not yet echoed in Hong Kong, which at the moment, is split politically.

You can read the full article here.