Grand Debut: Building a Thriving Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Grand Debut: Building a Thriving Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

HONG KONG, Nov. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In order to promote a sustainable social entrepreneurial ecosystem, a signature public event “Building a Thriving Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystem“, co-organized by the Centre for Civil Society and Governance of The University of Hong Kong (CCSG-HKU) and Ashoka, the international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship by affiliating individual social entrepreneurs, was successfully held online on 24 October, 2020. A number of influential incubators and social entrepreneurs were invited to share their insights on topics of basic necessities such as housing, clothing, food and transportation, and exchanged their ideas on how to foster a sustainable social entrepreneurial ecosystem at the event.

Entrepreneurial Incubators and Social Entrepreneurs Join Together for a Signature Public Event
Entrepreneurial Incubators and Social Entrepreneurs Join Together for a Signature Public Event

In the past decade, government, social and environmental non-profit organizations in Hong Kong and around the world have adopted the social entrepreneurship and innovation model and put forward many innovative solutions. Stakeholders were also engaged to collaborate and co-create innovations to solve social problems. However, public awareness and participation are still insufficient. These social innovations are still not recognized by the general public, nor stimulated an impactful behavioral change in the society.

The three-year programme (2019-2021) on “Social Innovations for Sustainable Communities” (SISC) is initiated by the Social Entrepreneurship and Civic Action Lab of the Centre of Civil Society and Governance at The University of Hong Kong, and supported by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC). The programme aims to build social entrepreneurship for the promotion and attainment of sustainability, by empowering the crowdsourcing of ideas and actions from a corps of “intergenerational catalyzers”. Social innovations call for an exploration of alternative pathways to solve various impacts and changes relating to sustainability and ageing challenges in Hong Kong, ranging from individual behaviours, to cultural, value changes, and systemic enhancement as the ultimate goal.

In collaboration with the government, business sector, non-profit organizations and community groups, the Programme will establish an incubation platform with a view to enriching and expanding the frontier of the ecosystem for social entrepreneurship in Hong Kong. “Building a Thriving Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” is a signature public event for the Programme, supported by HSBC and co-organized with Ashoka, the world’s largest working community of more than 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs. At the event, influential incubators and entrepreneurs shared their insights on topics of basic necessities such as housing, clothing, food and transportation, and exchanged their ideas on how to foster a sustainable social entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Mr. Mark Cheng, the Managing Director of Ashoka East Asia, concluded that, “Social entrepreneurs are more than just to sell a product, they sell a vision. There’s a vision behind the product. Resources like marketing agencies and media companies, those kinds of storytelling skills are very important to support their vision. The need to tell a story that mobilizes the community to support you and what you do is really essential when it comes to social innovation.”

Funding is another challenge to the social enterprises. Mark stated that, “We need to create an analogised version for social enterprise, which is the idea of social capital. Social capital is the ability to draw upon the good will of the community. They’re able to mobilize people to become ambassadors of the project, volunteer, people who want to buy, live in a sustainable way, people choose not to consume, or consume differently. If social enterprise just acts like a start-up, it’ll be full of disadvantages, because you’re trying to be a business, but your mission takes you away from fully profit maximizing. If you change the game, you can be ahead of the business, ahead of profit because you have the social capital that they don’t have.”

In regards to the scale and growth of the social enterprises, Mark emphasized that, “Scale and grow is not to launch hundred of franchises, it’s that you inspire hundreds of people to take on your model, and these social enterprises are engines of inspiration, and success perhaps is measured by how many people adopted your thinking that you’re promoting. That’s a different meaning of scale.”

In order to understand the community understanding or social entrepreneurial intent, Social Entrepreneurship and Civic Action Lab of the Centre for Civil Society and Governance of The University of Hong Kong has completed a community-wide survey in Hong Kong in Stage 1, which outlines citizens’ visions and expectations for sustainable development in 2030-2050. In Stage 2, a series of social innovation and incubation activities are underway, including Learning Programme, Sustainability Thinking Workshop, Seed Grant and Quick Connect and more. The Programme invites “sustainability catalyzers” from different expertise and age cohorts to exchange innovative ideas and develop their own ventures to cope with sustainability challenges. Seed grant will be offered to outstanding kick-starters and scale-up teams to implement their creative sustainable ideas.

Through knowledge exchange, experience inheritance and resource sharing, the Programme pertains to a commitment to inspire and incubate a corps of social innovators and entrepreneurial sustainability pioneers so as to tackle the sustainability challenges of different scales and scopes in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. Vigorous development of social innovation will help create an integrated society with shared values.

Following the “Building a Thriving Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystem“, the Social Entrepreneurship and Civic Action Lab of the Centre for Civil Society and Governance at The University of Hong Kong will organize “Sustainability Thinking Workshop” in November. The Workshop is now open for recruitment. Outstanding participants or teams will be invited to compete for the start-up seed grant (HK$100,000) or scale-up award (HK$200,000). If you are passionate about co-creating social innovations for sustainable communities in Hong Kong, Please register by 2 November, 2020 (noon).

Register now for “Sustainability Thinking Workshop”: https://rb.gy/8yawok.

For more information on “Sustainability Thinking Workshop”, please refer to: https://rb.gy/mqlltd.

About Social Innovations for Sustainable Communities:

The three-year programme (2019-2021) is initiated by the Centre of Civil Society and Governance and supported by HSBC. The programme team is led by Professor Wai-Fung Lam and formed by a group of sustainability experts. The programme aims to build social entrepreneurship for the promotion and attainment of sustainability, by empowering the crowdsourcing of ideas and actions from a corps of intergenerational “sustainability catalyzers” to respond to various impacts and changes relating to sustainability and ageing challenges in Hong Kong 2030-2050. The programme will also guide them to rethink how to change the current process of resource allocation and utilization for creating new possibilities and integrated values. It establishes a training platform and provides systematic support to cultivate sustainable development pioneers.

For more information on the “Social Innovations for Sustainable Communities“, please refer to: https://ccsg.hku.hk/sisc/.

About the Centre for Civil Society and Governance of The University of Hong Kong:

Established in December 2002, the Centre for Civil Society and Governance was the first research centre in Hong Kong dedicated to enhancing our knowledge of civil society—its nature, constituents, dynamics, roles in particular its contribution toward governance, including The Policy for Sustainability Lab (PSL), Social Entrepreneurship and Civic Action Lab (SECAL), and Nonprofits and Philanthropy Lab (NPPL), and to contributing to the attainment of a sustainable society through forging community-based, innovative solutions to inform policy deliberation and collective action.