Knowledge Transfer

Project Flame – Cradle of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurships

CityU students undertook an internship programme in four social enterprises in Singapore.

Invited Guest Speaker, Mr Francis NGAI, Founder of Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVHK) and Fellow of CityU, shares his running at North Pole in one of the GE classes.

To exemplify the idea of recycling and reusing and promote sustainability fashion, second-hand apparel are displayed by student models in a fashion show held at CityU.

Students participate in the Mini-MaD, a popular Youth Engagement Programme in Hong Kong and Asia which conducts a one-day workshop at CityU to incubate new ideas for social and environmental issues.

Social Entrepreneurship (SE) deploys innovativeness, business tools, and market principles to address the world's toughest social problems, such as poverty, aging population, healthcare crisis, and environmental degradation, among others. Doing good for the needs of society using entrepreneurship is no longer a side effect but has become a primary goal for social enterprises. Besides, many of today's social problems have proven too complex for single-sector solutions. Instead of sitting by and whining about society's problems, social entrepreneurs proactively take actions and meet the needs of society in a clever way. While social innovation identifies the problem and creatively responds to social needs, entrepreneurship adopts a business mindset to achieve the social goal. This is the spirit that Project Flame would like to disseminate at CityU.

Project Flame aims to foster social innovation and transformation through academic and professional education, student leadership in services, incubation of social innovation, research and knowledge transfer, and proactive collaboration with partners in civil society, business, industry, academia, and the government.

From a small study group formed in 2011, Project Flame has now expanded to a team of 28 faculty members from 18 administrative / academic departments. With their support, Project Flame offers a range of courses, including several Gateway Education (GE) courses and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship.

Make a Difference

The GE courses aim to help students "make a difference" in life by "doing well and doing good". Through lectures, case studies, group discussions, innovation exploration and design, and visits to well-run local social enterprises, students would find out more about the process of innovative creations growing in response to social needs, and become equipped with interdisciplinary knowledge, an innovative mindset, and business skills to serve the needy in society.

Students who take the GE courses have to design and write a proposal for setting up a SE. The GE courses not only impart knowledge about setting up a SE, but also ignite a passion in students to address social issues. While taking the course "GE1218 Make a Difference: The Challenge of Social Entrepreneur in a Globalised World", Richard YUEN and his groupmates came up with an idea of setting up a drug-vending machine called InstaMeds. The machine targets lower-income people who can't afford conventional medical consultations in private clinics. "The machine will offer medicine and consultation services at affordable costs for lower-income families, so as to reduce their burden of medical expenses," said Richard. "As the project is still at a preliminary stage, we would like to seek further professional advice from the medical sector. Once we receive adequate funding, we will be able to develop InstaMeds into a viable service for the community."

As for the Minor in Social Entreprenuership programme, students are initiated into the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship. The programme gives students both theoretical knowledge and practical skills to identify and diagnose social problems and to generate intervention ideas for systemic change from multi-disciplinary perspectives. It includes a core course and a combination of four elective courses from the fields of public policy, social welfare, sociology, business management, marketing, and finance.

One of the courses, in particular, aims to equip students with service leadership skills. It is known that the service sector accounts for over 90 per cent of Hong Kong's economy and remains the major provider of jobs and business opportunities. From private to public sectors, small to large businesses, and commercial to social enterprises, the future of Hong Kong's service economy largely relies on the leadership skills of its people. Inevitably, such skills have become one of the key qualities that employers look for in university graduates. Some graduates have already established their own NGOs to serve the community. Others may contribute to the social enterprises established in CityU.

Awareness of Sustainability

H2S is the first ever social innovative platform for collection and sale of secondhand items at CityU. Both donations and consignments of second-hand items from students and staff are welcome. The items collected are sold on campus. Operated under the auspices of Project Flame, H2S aims to create a centre for second-hand items for the CityU community as a model of sustainable social enterprises. It aims to reduce waste and raise awareness of sustainability among our students and staff.

Approximately 293 tonnes of clothes are dumped in Hong Kong every day! Wearing second-hand clothing is indeed one way to ease the pressure on local landfills. On 22 October 2014, the Podium on Level Four was transformed into a runway to promote sustainability fashion featuring second-hand clothes. Exemplifying the idea of recycling and reusing, the second-hand apparel displayed by the nighteen student models in the show had been donated to H2S by CityU people. The show helped to encourage the CityU community to make a better use of second-hand clothes with a raised awareness of the landfill situation in Hong Kong.

International Exposure

Each year, Project Flame organises overseas student tours and runs an internship programme in social enterprise in order to help students gain insight into how an innovative idea could be turned into a successful business while contributing to social progress. In the past few years, Project Flame has received overwhelming applications from students to join the study tours and the internship programme.

Students were given opportunities to visit Singapore and Shanghai in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Personal experiences in an overseas environment enabled the students to explore and understand how SEs were developed there. Moreover, the study tours were also good learning opportunities for them to engage in cross-cultural exchanges on how social enterprises were run and social innovations were introduced.

In addition to such study tours, internships are also offered to students at CityU. In 2015, students undertook internship programmes in several organisations in Singapore, including Adrenalin Events Pte Ltd, Asian Women Welfare Association, Eighteen Chefs, and Social Innovation Park (SIP).

Leon LEE was assigned to work at SIP. He treasured the working opportunity in Singapore and said, "It has been a fruitful experience. I came to understand the concepts of social enterprises through participating in the Pop and Talent Hub (PaTH) scheme. It is a social entrepreneurship development scheme that gives talents access to mentors, networks, and commercial sales, and lets them develop sustainable business ventures. More importantly, I have become more mature and started to think what I can do for society. Many thanks to Project Flame and Social Innovation Park for giving me such an unforgettable internship experience. I will definitely return to SIP if there is a chance."

There has been a growing global wave of social entrepreneurship, with individuals and institutions with broader social agenda starting to tackle various social problems. Likewise, entrepreneurs in Hong Kong have started to put social innovative ideas into practice, along with good organisation and leadership. Social innovation is key to success in creating and re-creating desirable social values, thereby helping to solve problems in today's rapidly changing world. To achieve that, Project Flame has helped ignite the passion in CityU students to bring about changes in the future.