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  Project Flame: Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship@CityU

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  Project team members  
Despite modern developments in technology, business, and in the efforts of governments and NGOs, problems of poverty, discrimination, social and economic exclusion, and environmental degradation dominate our world. Some people face lives burdened by the lack of access to basic necessities such as water, energy, or sanitation. Many others are deprived of education, health care or the means for a sustainable living. Whether looking across the globe or closer to home in Hong Kong, we clearly need to find new and more impactful solutions. What can be done?

At the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) we believe that an important first step is to foster among our students, staff and the wider community a belief that we can and will make a difference. Beginning in 2012 as an informal interdisciplinary staff group, ‘Project Flame: Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship@CityU’ (Project Flame), is an applied academic and research project that has become a campus-wide platform with a mission to promote social innovation and entrepreneurship. Partially funded by CityU under the ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ project and very generously supported by a donation from the Li and Fung Foundation, Project Flame now involves 30 staff from 18 academic and administrative support units.
  Student and their elderly partners in the O! Love Tour  

To fulfil its vision and mission, Project Flame has developed four core programs. The first focuses on Academic and Professional Education. To date, over 1 000 students have enrolled in a range of Gateway Education Courses researched and developed by Project Flame staff. Various courses examine the challenges to social innovation and entrepreneurship such as how to: make a difference (MaD) in a globalized world; enhance service leadership for the 21st Century; turn social problems into services/ business opportunities; or to engage in social innovation and entrepreneurial venture exploration. In addition, a new milestone has been Project Flame’s contribution to developing an interdisciplinary Minor in Social Entrepreneurship, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, that is attracting many students from across the university.

The Student Service Leadership programme provides direct experiences for students to participate, observe and reflect on leadership qualities and challenges in various service settings. Activities include visits to agencies and social enterprises in Hong Kong such as Green Ladies, i-bakery, Dialogue in the Dark, and many more. Classroom engagement with local and international practicing social entrepreneurs as well as study tours to visit innovation centres, agencies and social entrepreneurs internationally and locally provide students with many insights into the values, social, economic and environmental impacts made by social innovators and entrepreneurs. Summer internships in Zhongshan City, Guangdong, Taiwan or Singapore, such as with Benny SZE TEO’s 18 Chefs, have proved particular inspiration to students. A highlight has been the annual O! Love Tours to Taiwan, co-organized with the Junior Chamber International. These match 20 CityU students with 20 poor single elders in Hong Kong to visit Taipei for a holiday. The students learn how to communicate with and support the elderly and, for both the elderly and students, participation can be a truly life enriching experience. In 2015, the O! Love Tour won the Best Social Service Project and also the Best of the Best of the 2015 JCI Outstanding Projects Awards.

  O! Love Tour Participants  

Another activity that provides students with leadership experience is our participation in Project WeCan with over 120 students taking part in leadership training and activities with underprivileged secondary school children.
  Teaching team and student interns  
  Social Enterprise Endorsement Mark (SEE Mark) First Award Ceremony  

The third programme area is Social Innovation Incubation. This focuses on increasingly important ideas, practices and research in social innovation. Students manage and operate our campus second-hand shop, ‘Hand 2 Spot’, with many others being engaged in activities such Green Fashion Shows in which student models, with the support of a local fashion coordinator and make-up artists, wear donated second-hand clothing to highlight environmental consciousness and student talent. A Mini-MaD (Make a Difference) Workshop on Zero Food Waste has promoted environmental and lifestyle consciousness to students.

The final programme area is Research and Knowledge Transfer. This has included a Social Entrepreneur in Residence Program, two international symposia that have included international and local social entrepreneurs providing master classes and insights into successful entrepreneurship, whilst also giving advice to university and community participants seeking to start or scale up a social enterprise. Our open pitching competitions to experts encourage young people to imagine, develop or implement their own social innovations and enterprises. Project Flame’s major research project, led by Dr Mark HAYLLAR, current Director of Project Flame, was the successful development and piloting of Hong Kong’s a Social Enterprise Endorsement Mark (SEE Mark) with the Hong Kong General Chamber of Social Enterprises.

  Student interns with Benny SZE TEO at 18 Chefs  

Dr Mark Richard HAYLLAR
Department of Public Policy

City University of Hong Kong