The Yeh Family Philanthropy Limited (“YFP”) announced the launch of Nurturing Social Minds (“NSM”), an innovative programme designed to provide a hands-on action learning experience in social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy. NSM was conceived by YFP in partnership with the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and successfully piloted for two years. YFP is delighted to be an intermediary of the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (“SIE Fund”) and have the opportunity to scale NSM into nine courses at two tertiary institutions in Hong Kong over three years.
Each course integrates classroom learning with real life experience by creating an environment that requires students to engage in conversations and activities beyond their “institutional bubble.” From the first class, students in different disciplines are asked to work together in teams with a local social venture (“SV”). In addition to learning about theories and case studies on venture philanthropy, impact investments and social entrepreneurship, they will have access to international and local practitioners. Concurrently, students are working in teams with the SVs, helping them identify their strategic needs and develop a proposal to obtain YFP’s catalytic grant.
Through this process, the students not only act as business consultants but also as venture philanthropists. They play a critical role in determining which of the SVs receives the $250,000 funding when they act as judges, along with a panel of outside experts, in evaluating the proposals.
The official launch, held at the offices of UBS AG at Two IFC, was attended by students of the programme along with representatives from government, business, academia, the non-profit sector, philanthropic foundations and the social innovation sector. The Guest of Honor was the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs. Carrie Lam, GBS, JP. Addressing the students assembled, Mrs. Lam remarked, “I can see your passion and enthusiasm to bring about good impact for society. I am sure the programme has equipped you with the knowledge, insight and hands-on experience to help you create new social businesses, inspire and change existing businesses, and help charities and NGOs build more self-sustaining and adaptable services that continue to meet the changing needs of Hong Kong’s complex society in the years ahead.”
Other officiating guests included Dr. Joseph Lee, Vice-chairperson of the SIE Fund, and Mrs. Yvette Yeh Fung, Chair of YFP. Dr. Lee remarked, “Nurturing Social Minds brings into focus the social impact and responsibility of business and the opportunity to use business skills to create greater social impact while building sustainable and innovative businesses.”
Mrs. Fung expressed, “I am excited because the HK government has taken the lead by starting an initiative that fosters collaboration and creates a platform for cross-sector learning. I am excited because I have seen the curiosity and enthusiasm of our students and their eagerness to use their creativity and their knowledge to address social issues. But I am most excited because I have met our passionate and dedicated social entrepreneurs. Through their vision and actions, they have lit a fire under our students, opened their hearts and minds and moved them from observers to doers.”
Professor Jitendra V Singh, Dean of the HKUST Business School, also shared his remarks with the assembly, speaking meaningfully about how both businesses and universities, at their roots, were social institutions. He stated, “I hope our students will continue to make full use of the opportunities offered by the Social Entrepreneurship and Venture Philanthropy course to develop a caring mindset and learn to be a responsible corporate citizen. It is a great honor to our school to pioneer this new teaching model in Hong Kong. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the generous support from the Yeh Family Philanthropy and the active participation from social enterprises.”
The team that won this year represented Twopresents, an online party invitation and fundraising platform that allows children to turn their birthday parties into an opportunity to donate to their chosen charity. Twopresents founders Karola Szovati, Svetlana Kumanova and Shirin Staerkle took centre stage with their student team during the ceremony, passionately sharing their experiences and lessons from participating in the course. A Big Cheque for $250,000 was presented to the winning team by the officiating guests.
Sunny Um, an MBA student from HKUST enthusiastically shared her views. “One lesson we learned from this course is that ‘every business should be a social enterprise.’ In fact, this now seems like common sense but we often forget. Whatever career path I take, I will always remember the lessons from this course.”
Svetlana Kumanova and her team from Twopresents share their experiences as a social venture partner of the programme
The officiating guests Mrs. Carrie Lam, Dr. Joseph Lee and Mrs. Yvette Yeh Fung present Twopresents and their student team with a Big Cheque for $250,000