Knowledge Transfer

Dr Yanto Chandra: Transferring knowledge without borders

Dr Chandra believes that his accomplishments are a result of the various positions he held before joining the education sector.

Dr Yanto CHANDRA, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Policy, received the 2016 Teaching Excellence Award from the University and the Excellence in Knowledge Transfer Award from the College this year. As a subject-matter expert and a scholar, how does Dr Chandra ensure the wide availability of knowledge transfer so that it can benefit CityU students and the general public in Hong Kong and beyond? With his passion for teaching and research, his varied work experience over the past seven years and the hands-on insights he has gained from research, Dr Chandra guides students to apply what they learn, and to identify, respond to and resolve social issues.

Recent eye-catching social innovation projects

Dr Chandra has been leading CityU students to exert their potential in designing a number of innovative products to address current social issues. When asked to recall some of the most memorable, Dr Chandra replied, "One of them is called 'Transfriendly', a smart walking stick that comes with a keyboard. When an elderly or visually impaired person wants to take a bus ride, he or she can simply key in the route. When a bus approaches, a device on the bus picks up the signal from the stick and lets the user know how far away the bus is, and also informs the bus driver that an elderly or visually impaired passenger is waiting to board. Transfriendly won the 'My Own Discovery' award at the 2014 CityU Discovery Festival. A prototype was produced last year for a patent application. Another example is 'Sonus', a device tailored to the needs of the hearing and speech impaired, which won first prize in the 2014 Project Flame Social Innovation Awards. The device is worn on the finger and the neck, and converts sign language into speech sounds. The invention received sponsorship from CityU for a patent application last year. There is also a student-designed personal alarm security device. If a user wearing the device encounters a potential attacker, the safety pin on the device just needs to be removed to create a loud noise. The embedded video recording unit in the device will also start to capture images, which could be used as evidence in court when needed".

Apart from these innovations, CityU students also designed "Listen Your Way", a pair of smart navigational glasses for the visually impaired, which incorporate a recording lens, GPS and earphones. After keying in the destination, users are able to receive audio directions through the earphones.

From CityU to Hong Kong and beyond

As Dr Chandra puts it, knowledge transfer benefits both the giver and the receiver. He is keen on sharing his ideas and has taken part in many large-scale lectures, especially around the topics of social innovation, entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility. He spoke on behalf of Hong Kong social enterprises at the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), and successfully fought for Hong Kong to host the SEWF on 25-27 September this year to further demonstrate our leading position in Asia in the development of social enterprises. He was also the co-editor of Social Entrepreneurship in the Greater China Region, the first book on the topic in the region. The book documented the development of social enterprises in the Greater China region and the preface was written by Mrs Carrie LAM, Chief Secretary for Administration of the HKSAR government. According to Mr KEE Chi-hing, Chairman of the Fullness Social Enterprises Society, as the book is published by top-notch academic press Routledge, its global readership could highlight Hong Kong's contribution to and achievements in the development of social enterprises. In fact, Dr Chandra's knowledge transfer not only benefits CityU and local communities, but also Vietnamese social enterprises. Academic subjects about social enterprises are increasingly popular in the country as more and more Vietnamese students are interested in establishing such enterprises. At the invitation of the British Council, Dr Chandra visited Vietnam last year to share his insights on how to apply practical methods to learn about social innovation at the National Economics University. Mr Tristan ACE, Programme Development Manager (Social Enterprise) at the British Council, acknowledged that Dr Chandra is an exemplary educator on how to establish and develop social enterprises.

“Hiding away knowledge instead of sharing it is meaningless. Knowledge can only keep growing when it is transferred through different means.”

Unique techniques in knowledge transfer

Dr Chandra noted that there are numerous techniques for achieving knowledge transfer, and although there is no set formula, he shared his own insights on the matter. "One way to do it is to re-integrate the findings of academic research and turn them into a new direction that everyone – even a grandma at home – can understand." He noted that traditional classroom teaching is too uni-directional and there is a lack of communication. "Consider a Kung Fu practitioner. He may subjectively think that his moves are powerful, but spectators often know better – I act as a spectator when I am providing guidance to my students. My door is always open for them." He enjoys leading students to start a project using real life examples. For instance, he invites experts on social enterprises to be guest speakers and to join the judging panel in his class, so that his students understand that the establishment of a social enterprise calls for daring assumptions and careful validation.

Dr Chandra never looks back. Students' achievements are momentary, and he is more interested in their future. Dr Chandra is good at assisting students to uncover their true potential; he inspires their creativity by providing them with appropriate resources. For example, he once guided students to consider how to make use of old tyres to set up a new business. "I always encourage my students to maintain the mindset of an investor. Invest your time in doing something, put your mind and resources to it and expect something in return. Then you will see your humble ideas slowly take shape and transform themselves into the next level". Students must have the courage to take risks; even a small immediate step may contribute to a considerable stride towards success in life.

A cut above

As a distinguished figure in knowledge t ransfer, Dr Chandra be lieves that hi s accomplishments are a result of the various positions he held before joining the education sector. "I used to work in a bank, an accounting firm and in the field of marketing. Once I also founded my own small business. These experiences gave me essential knowledge in different areas, such as the lingo used in accounting and the strategies used in marketing; I even have a basic understanding of legal matters. These are all very helpful in my teaching. I enjoy the process of free creation." Dr Chandra does not consider himself especially better than others. "I am merely willing to give; I have courage and I dare to take risks. I strive to strike a balance between conducting academic research and organising knowledge transfer activities."

Dr Chandra has a rather busy schedule – he has to teach at least two courses over the 13 weeks of each semester, each of which has about 80 students enrolled. He spends five hours each week meeting two to four groups of students to offer appropriate guidance. Yet, he stresses that the door to his office is always open for students. Dr Chandra commented candidly, "As much as I love my work, I do occasionally feel tired. My passion for teaching is what keeps me going. Students' award-winning projects, in particular, remind me that all the hard work of the body and mind is worthwhile."

Dr Chandra has a broad social vision. He not only assists students in coming up with new solutions to resolve social issues, but also reaches out beyond Hong Kong to share his insights on knowledge transfer and developing social enterprises, in the hope that people's energies can be harnessed to make a difference to the future of our world.