Kelvin Cheung, COO of Good Lab, shares his thoughts after the Social Innovation classroom in Term 1

Over the past 6 weeks, a diverse group of people developed and became a community.

The community were the participants of the Social Innovation Classroom, made possible by a grant from Henderson Land.  This 6 week social innovation and design thinking program course was designed to equip citizens with the tools and a framework in which to create their own social impact in the community.  The course was unique as it balanced classroom learning with field work and self discovery.

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Participants came from all walks of life, including students, young professionals, corporates and the recently retired.  The mix of people gave a unique opportunity for open interaction and sharing of viewpoints that does not usually open in the community.  This was a very important part of the process of creating new solutions, as diversity in opinions and views leads to breakthroughs.

15171261_10207613171789839_3598390263540686386_nThe first two weeks was more traditional in regards to classroom learning on social innovation and design thinking.  By week 3, that’s where it got more interesting.  It required individuals to find out where they passions and interests where, and investigate and discover for themselves what was happening in the surrounding Shum Shui Po area.

15123107_10101981549176571_2386986374100831784_oInstead of telling them and doing research online, they discovered for themselves as personal experience is so much stronger than anything you can get off a PowerPoint!

When we enter into any community, we always carry with us a set of assumptions, based on what we heard, read or saw in the past.  This time was no different.  Teams went into the community focused on certain themes, such as the use of public space, the life of low income families, education, and waste reduction.  However, instead of allowing their assumptions to color what they saw, they went into the community with open eyes and hearts, seeking to understand, instead of finding a solution or judging the situation.

The learning from the community was rich and insightful.

15156953_10157737150435587_8810502869330165084_oOne group discovered that Shum Shui Po probably had the highest rate of recycling in Hong Kong, with many gai fong reclaiming things from the garbage collection points, with higher end electronic items being sent overseas to be sold, and with smaller items being sold on the street.


Another group went underneath the flyover, to understand the situation on why people slept homeless under the street. Visiting the community over 3 weeks, they started to understand the stories, reasons and motivations behind each person’s journey.  

15235714_10157737150380587_6276232035014046352_oOn one visit, they surprisingly discovered that on that night, there seemed to be more people supporting the street sleepers than the actual homeless themselves!  What was once a broad brush stroke on street sleepers, the group started to understand everyone as a person and not as a statistic.

A group concerned with the plight of store owners in Pang Jai, went to visit the community.  They had read about their story and their fight in the newspapers.  Wishing to find a ‘solution’ to help them, they found that every time they went back, more insights were collected.  They dug deeper, and realised that the situation was much more complex than what they had read in the media, and that motivations with each one in the community was different and varied.  Instead of coming up with a solution, the team reported on their rich journey over the 3 weeks.

For the final week, all the groups came together for a night of sharing their learnings.  There were 6 teams in total, and here were their ideas.

Team name : Power Pang

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Team name : SI Buddy(Winners)

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Team name : Good Bridge

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Team name : Street Fighter

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Team name : Fruit Fighting(Winners)

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Team name : V.Hub(Winners)

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Like all courses, there is a beginning and an end.  However, we really didn’t want our end to be an end… but actually a beginning to the next stage of each person’s journey.  In the coming months, we are keen to find out more about how they will apply what they learned in design thinking and social innovation to their lives, to their work and to their community.

Already one team has decided to keep up the momentum, coming back next week to discuss next steps, to turn their idea to a reality. 

Our next cohort of Social Innovation Classroom starts on Feb 10th, with registrations now open.

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