From Hong Kong to Sweden, and All Around Asia
i-genius: Removing the boundary of interest (travelling), passion (social innovation), and knowledge (business and design thinking). How has this evolved through your travels so far?
Stephanie: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin
After having my first solo trip to South East Asia last September, I realized my interest in travelling and my passion in social innovation were so strong that I struggled when I went back to normal Hong Kong student life – working so hard for GPA and applying for job that I had no intrinsic interest. I started wondering whether it is an “EITHER OR” question. I wanted to find the “AND” between my interest, passion and knowledge, without compromising any of these components that make up a desirable career.
i-genius: You’re currently doing 6 months of your university degree in Sweden. Why Sweden?
Stephanie: Many people see the emergence of social enterprises as bridging the gap of the social welfare and the private market. Sweden is a typical welfare state where the government covers a large part of the social welfare. I am curious about where the gap for social innovation to emerge and how this system is realized in the grassroots context.
i-genius: What is Brain.Heart.Hands?
Stephanie: Brain – Wisdom, Vision, Knowledge
Heart – Sincerity, Compassion, Integrity
Hands – The ability to make vision happen
In the context of social innovation:
Brain + Heart = Good ideas with good intention, without realization
Brain + Hands = Well-managed solution missing social good
Heart + Hands = Good intention with strong motivation, but not sure about the feasibility
Brain + Heart + Hands = Implementable ideas doing for the people’s good
On a personal level, I see “brain, heart, hands” as good indicator of my personal growth.
i-genius: What does the Hong Kong future look like in terms of social enterprise?
Stephanie:The public discourse on social entrepreneurship is gradually increasing, thanks to the notable promotion effort of the universities and the intermediaries as well as the surprising government announcement of the HK$ 500 million (~€ 50 million) Social Enterprise Development Fund.
There are more and more happenings on social entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, such as Social Enterprise Summit, Social Enterprise Challenge and research initiatives like EngageHK. The largest impact investing forum in East Asia (http://www.asiacommunityventures.org/2013-east-and-southeast-asia-impact-investing-forum/ is coming up in March, reflecting the potential of Hong Kong being an impact investing hub in Asia by capitalizing on its established financial infrastructure.
i-genius: Tell us about your Asia Tour, which starts in September 2013. What are your aims?
Stephanie: Social entrepreneurship has long been my passion, if not my dream. This September, I am going to take a big leap – taking a gap year to travel around Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam, etc. to engage with grassroots NGOs/ social enterprises that have good intentions but couldn’t meet the people’s needs. Instead of using traditional expert-oriented consultancy model, I would like to be a facilitator that helps harvest and organize their wisdom, based on the ideology of design thinking.
Impact to the developing community: To enable the local NGOs/ social enterprises to engage a bottom-up approach in service design
Impact to my own community: To empower my counterparts in Hong Kong to follow their passion and take an alternative step from the mainstream
Personal: To test my passion and prototype a career that I dream of
i-genius: How can design thinking and social innovation be applied to your degree in ‘International Business & Global Management’ (IBGM) or what you want to do?
Stephanie: “Discover IBGM, Discover the world”. We are encouraged to walk out of the classroom and learn about everyday “international business”– from a little village kiosk in Laos to the tram system in Gothenburg. As I travel and learn about social innovation, the definition of “international” broadens. It is not only about the Wall Street and the MNCs but also the Base of the Pyramid and the people in the “international” community. Social innovation opens more slots in my brain – environment, community, and people, on top of the straight-line profit making mentality. I am going to engage with the local community in Asia because I believe if I really want to solve a problem, I have to BE THERE – talking to the people, living their lives and testing the solutions with them. I think this is how I live out the essence of design thinking.
i-genius: What books are you reading now?
Stephanie: This is Service Design Thinking
i-genius: Anything you would like to share?
Stephanie: I realize that my perspective experienced so many changes in the recent years, but I cannot tell what and when sparked the changes.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back, everything is different…” – C. S. Lewis
Like diagnosing cataract, tracking the image you see reflects how your lens changes over time. I have recently started a small project called “Raconteur Lab – The 101 Ordinary People” (https://www.facebook.com/RaconteurLab). During my half-year stay in Europe, I am collecting 100 stories from the ordinary people. After half a year, I will look back to my own words – the angle, the focus, and the use of words; and look for patterns and evolution.
“The universe is not made of atoms. It’s made of TINY STORIES.”
Storytelling is a powerful tool to make an impact on people. I am a lot more conscious about PEOPLE with this project and honor the beauty of active listening. It has been touching me to see how the stories motivate the life of the story owners. They include an aspiring social entrepreneur from Tanzania, a girl who is passionate in food, and a collapsed woman who is rebuilding herself. One of the most fascinating moments of the project thus far was meeting an audience in person and hearing the impact of the stories on her.