Advancing sustainability at the United Nations
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For the past decade, Jenny Chow Fung-yee has viewed compliance as her life's work, undertaking senior roles in the field at major companies and angel investment firms, including SPDB, ICBC and China Renaissance.
Senior Advisor, United Nations Social Impact Fund
Sponsor, United Nations Development Programme - Build Bangladesh Fund
Chief Strategy Officer, MyCash Online
A lawyer by profession and currently Chief Strategy Officer at MyCash Online, Jenny always imagined her career would keep her within traditional business circles. Until a charity event during her CityU Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) studies stirred her thinking in other directions, leading to an additional role at the United Nations (UN), where she is now employing her expertise to boost global sustainable development.
Matching investors to projects
Sustainable development issues that the UN involves include food supplies, integrated education, clean water, and eco-friendly energy. Jenny, a senior advisor to the UN Social Impact Fund said: “My responsibilities include examining the feasibility, operating conditions, and business potential of projects in strict compliance with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. I sometimes have to communicate and negotiate with government departments in different countries, and then look for investors to fund the projects. I provide objective advice and assess the investment return during the investment matching process. Our ultimate goal is for socially minded projects to become win-win initiatives that are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and have a positive social impact.”
A forthcoming project, for example, involves a closely knit and productive village in southern Bangladesh. If interested investors can be found to build an electronic payment platform, the introduction of such financial technology is expected to further improve local livelihoods and promote the micro-economy between nearby villages. Jenny has already met investors in Australia and held an investment symposium, receiving encouraging responses in both cases; and recently, she signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bangladesh government.
Breaking away from conventional thinking
Recalling her experiences on the CityU EMBA, Jenny believes the inspiration and ideas from interacting with learning partners from different professions was crucial in broadening her perspective. “As I had been in the same industry for many years, I had already established my own formula for troubleshooting,” she noted. I was greatly inspired when other classmates put forward proposals different to my way of thinking during a discussion. The EMBA programme was definitely a platform for those taking part to learn from one another and exchange expertise. Thanks to this way of knowledge gathering, we developed deep friendships and have remained close even after graduation.”
Even small contribution makes a difference
While at CityU, Jenny joined the University delegation to take part in the super-tough 12th Business School – Xuanzang Gobi Challenge, a four-day trek across 112km of uninhabited desert. “The Gobi Desert's extreme climate is a huge challenge to withstand,” she said. “I was not that physically fit. And to make matters worse, I accidentally injured my foot on the second day. Even the team doctor advised me to withdraw. But I refused to give up and, in the end, I made it, thanks to my teammates' support.”
This unforgettable experience became a driver for Jenny to work for the UN Social Impact Fund. “I never imagined that my expertise would be useful in such a post and could even help change the world,” she said.
Jenny stressed that people, especially youngsters starting out in life, should always believe in themselves and never underestimate their ability to overcome difficulties or lend a hand. As she pointed out, a seemingly small contribution may be all that it takes to propel society forward.
Interview video: Advancing sustainability at the United Nations