Make a Difference: A journey of imagination and reflection

(Image provided by MaD (

Louise Pulford and So Jung Rim from SIX participated in the MaD Festival 2017 The Blink of the Creative Mass, which took place on 21-23 July. Here is Ada Wong’s closing remark from the Festival, reflecting on the journey of MaD during the past 8 years.

8 years ago, there was a container on this revolve.  The reconfigured container has been spray-painted with the MaD logo – in those days it was in sharp colours – bright red and blue mixed with black.  The whole design was sharp and busy, leaving no white space.  As Chiwai said, it was the MaD experimental spirit and persistence that enabled a container to be brought onto this stage, and the container became a symbol of MaD in our early days.

It went to the School of Creativity and was used as art installation space.  It then went to West Kowloon promenade and became the backdrop of performances, of public space re-imagined in MaD@West Kowloon.  At MaD 2012, it was the destination of Night City Challenge that culminated with a dance party for many MaDees. After that, the container had an unusual new life – it was magically handed over to someone working on wave electricity generation.  How exciting it is to know that there is a MaD container floating in the vast sea, playing its dutiful role towards renewable energy!

8 years ago, MaD forum was like its logo, packed with activities and obsessed with filling up the timetable.  The whole MaD team was exhausted and panda-eyed and every year someone would inevitably get sick.  MaDees also complained about not having time for lunch, and they could only eat some bread while queuing up for the next workshop.

8 years later, as the pace of urbanization quickens and a city is created every few months in Asia, the tempo and speed of MaD has, on the contrary, slowed down.  In recent years we have stopped organizing challenges that require excessive running. The creative team uses interactive art works to intervene and inspire, so that MaDees can go beyond their bubbly excitement, sink in what they have experienced, and be more quiet and reflective.

Like in mindfulness exercises, we hope MaDees can feel their own footsteps and listen to different sounds in the ambience. This year, MaDees had time to share ideas and imagination at the architectural installation at the piazza.  In the auditorium, they write their own stories quietly, and reflect on co-creation along the tracks of a little train.

So tonight, I can see that the revolving stage, where the container once was, has been transformed into a sea of green.  Are these the seeds that MaD has sown in our city?

In the last 8 years, we have done more than 500 events, big and small.  What is innovative about these events is that we are thoughtful about the HOW, how we organize these events:

At MaD Social Lab we try to connect citizens with government to understand social issues and people’s needs, and then propose new prototypes together.  We have just completed a Library Lab where public library officials and young people interviewed users and worked out ideas for change.  Right now we are in the middle of a Park Lab and you have also participated in the crowdsourcing of ideas at the piazza over the last two days.

The MaD School promotes cross sector, socially conscious, innovative and action oriented education.  We work with creative practitioners and go deep into communities to learn.  We have been to disused village schools; we have presented the University of Eats, reflecting on the connection between humans and food.  We went to a grassroots community called Tin Shui Wai and used our heart and creativity to revitalize a market, empower hawkers and confirm the value of local economy.

MaD Good Lab is led by young artists to undertake green and creative events such as making instruments from scrap.  Recently MaD also worked with comic artists and to bring out community stories via comics.

MaD is an Asian platform.  We have brought Hong Kong youngsters to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Taipei, Seoul and Bangkok for cultural exchange and to learn more about social innovation.  This year, we supported social designers and architects to travel to other Asian cities to learn how creative practitioners in those places foster social and environmental change.

MaD is always willing to step out of its comfort zone and connect with other sectors.  We have designed training for civil servants, NGOs and businesses, to encourage them to be more open, creative and empathetic towards others, and to break out of their habitual mode and have more trust towards young people.

Lately, we have been asked about the “achievements” of MaD.

We cannot say we have achieved much in the last 8 years.  We observe that MaDees are active in citizen participation, embrace creative entrepreneurship and have a more tolerant mindset.  We have seen the growth of creative civil society and managed to build a network of like-minded peers in Asia.  We see that young people who only had a vague idea about their future began to think about possibilities of change and social justice, after joining MaD.

We don’t have much resources, but we endeavour to connect creative practitioners and young people to form support networks and create sustainable and positive change together.

MaD has got to know many youth organizations and innovative spaces in Mainland China.  Kenny Choi, founder of bottledream, was inspired to embark on his social innovation journey after joining an early edition of MaD.  Youthology in Beijing has been our speaker, and youth organizations from Chengdu to Guangzhou bring young MaDees to Hong Kong each year.

We designed projects to link up people with shared values.  Liz Barry, Founder of Public Lab and promoter of civic science, has collaborated with HE Shan of Greenovation in Mainland China.  Newey from Ashoka Thailand has not only become MaD’s good friend but now sits on the board of MaD Institute.  Kelvin was the MC of the first MaD.  He saw hope for the future here, and we prompted him, a changemaker, to come back to Hong Kong.  Mohammed, a young Indian came to Hong Kong for MaD and then decided to stay here as an entrepreneur.

Qibin Zhang is an early MaDee who went with us to Bangkok. He told me in WeChat that he has not given up being a social entrepreneur in Guangzhou.  He said MaD’s impact is on opening up his mind, and embed in him the confidence that “things can be done better” in his daily life and in all the work he undertakes.

Thank you Qibin and the MaDees whom I have met on the MaD platform.  I hope after today, it’s your turn to inspire and empower more young people, so that this sea of green becomes bigger, and eventually covers Asia.

8 years ago at the opening, I said, CHANGE starts with you.

Today, I can see that new technology has not brought about more peace of mind.  There are too many conflicts in the world.  Our footsteps continue to quicken and those who live in cities can see less and less green, and can no longer hear birds chime.

Tonight I don’t want to use the same words.  Rather, I suggest we walk slowly together, think more, be honest with ourselves, and just be committed to use creativity to bring about more kindness and justice to our world.

There is a phrase which the Seoul Haja School tells students: we do what we can do.  Yes, we all have a role to play and we are never too small.  We do what we can do – reflects the courage, mindfulness and understanding we all need.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the entire MaD team, including all those who have been with us in this journey, and all interns, partners and collaborators.  There must be hundreds of young people in this amazing group.  They have taught me a lot, as they believe “HOW to do things is as important as WHAT we do”. For example, we are environmentally conscious in events organization, we value equal opportunities and insist on giving collaborators their reasonable share, with the view of promoting sustainability of our creative ecosystem.

Another example is the MaD team’s commitment to artistic quality. What this means is not just about things looking good. but is a spirit of criticality and originality, always willing to experiment and strive for the best, while not afraid to take risks and fail.  Perhaps this kind of attitude is MaD, make a difference, and is a prototype for the future world.