An Inclusive Social Enterprise Promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Hong Kong Economic Journal, Crystal Chan, March 16, 2019

Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy first proposed in 1929 the “six degrees of separation” theory on how 2 persons not socially connected will ultimately be linked up through 6 others or less. The small world theory was further researched by Harvard Professor Milgram in the 1960’s. Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell, in his “The Tipping Point” published in 2000, pointed out that some people are especially gifted to be “connectors” in a social circle. They are connected with a large number of people of many diverse backgrounds – social status, culture, profession, financial standing, etc. Through their linkages, people from different worlds are joined together in one network. I know a friend who is such a connector in the network of inclusion and diversity.

She is Benita Chick. Benita graduated in biology and cognitive science from Cornell University. She went on to a Masters in marine biology at Boston University, which brought her to field trips in Australia, Indonesia, Mexico and U.S. territories. Awarded the Hong Kong Outstanding Student Award in high school for excellence in studies and extra-curricular activities and the Dean’s list in Cornell, she is a certified NAUI diving instructor at the age of 18 – probably the youngest ever in HK. Passionate with youth development work, Benita’s first job is an Outward Bound instructor mentoring youth of disadvantaged backgrounds. After then she had a short stint as Student Advisor at the HKUST and did diploma studies at the HKU on Life Coaching and Career Counselling. Dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion, Benita curated and led HK’s first ever LGBT+ walk tour, hoping that the novel activity can help the general public to develop better understanding of gender minorities. Tied to this mission is Benita’s work as IDAHOT Director for Pink Alliance and board member of Aids Concern.

Benita quit a well-paid job in youth outreach to establish social enterprise Encompass HK last year. The enterprise aims to promote the UN’s 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality, quality education, climate change, clean energy, and poverty and hunger) to individuals, and commercial and public institutions. According to a Chinese University of Hong Kong survey in 2018, only 14.5% of Hong Kong youth (age 15 – 30) are aware of the SDGs.

HK’s First Green Women Festival
SDGs are well propagated in the western world. Finland is famed for its replacement of skill based education with training to prepare students for a SDG orientated work life. In contrast, Hong Kong schools have done very little with emphasizing SDGs in their syllabus. At the launch of its operation, Encompass HK commenced promotion of SDGs with fun filled activities. It has just organized the territory’s first Green Women Festival in March, the International Women’s Month. The one day event brought together women from all creeds and backgrounds – entrepreneurs, differently-abled individuals, equal rights advocates, foreign workers, housewives … etc. to discern on practicable contributions to SDGs. In conjunction with seminars on green living and exhibitions of green products, the Festival also featured green cooking workshops; green dating; meditation sessions; VR viewing of a green world; used books sales; dancing in wheelchairs; workshops on recycle economics, eco tour and green travel; green fashion and portrait photos for those wearing second hand clothing.

The Green Women Festival is one of the few events in town that totally prohibited use of disposable or non-recyclable supplies such as plastic or paper cups, and totally committed to advocacy of a green world such as prominently displaying Clean Water goal signs by drinking fountains. The participation of 20 community partners and 250 people at the event demonstrated the immense enthusiasm for the cause. It could potentially be built up to a TEDxGreen Women event for more pronounced advocacy of its undertaking.

Down to Earth Activities
Many of us might consider SDGs to be for academic conversations only and not practicable in everyday life. To generate general awareness and interest, Encompass HK organizes themed events to educate and encourage the public to practice SDGs in daily living. An example of the many engaging events that Encompass HK organizes is sustainable coffee tasting. It promotes SDGs in coffee growing, production, sales and brewing through responsible consumption. A portion of the event’s proceeds is donated to East Timor refugees through the Hummingfish Foundation. Music and art therapy workshops to improve mental well-being are some of the other events Encompass HK hosts to conduce attainment of SDGs in everyday life.

While recognizing the importance of generating public awareness, Encompass HK sees the strategic need to foster conviction in society through concerted efforts of schools, corporations, institutions and community stakeholders. In this regard, it provides consultancy to corporations and institutions on developing and implementing SDGs in their operations. It has begun such initiatives with a large international and local corporation, such as SAP and coworking space Campfire , and EncomassHK is looking forward to expand on these engagements.

SDGs is a vocation for all. Join the crusade. Visit Encompass HK’s Facebook to be connected and informed.

共融社企推動可持續發展目標

早於1929年,匈牙利作家Frigyes Karinthy已提出人與人之間的分隔概念。到1960年代,哈佛大學心理學教授Milgram提出六度分隔理論,認為世界上任何互不相識的兩人,只需要很少的中間人就能夠建立起聯繫。加拿大作家Malcolm Gladwell在其著作The Tipping Point中就指出,有種人是Connector(聯繫人),在他們的生活圈子裏有大量來自不同社會、文化、專業與經濟背景的人,他們喜歡將不同背景的人互相介紹,拉近人與人之間的距離。在香港,我有位朋友便是這種Connector。

她名叫戚本乙(Benita),於康奈爾大學取得生物學及認知科學榮譽學士學位,其後於波士頓大學完成海洋生物學碩士學位,曾於澳洲、印尼、墨西哥及美國等地進行實地研究。身為香港傑出學生的她18歲已成為潛水教練,而且對青少年發展非常有熱誠,曾於香港外展訓練學校擔任教練,又擁有港大人生教練證書、職業輔導及諮詢文憑,曾在科大擔任學生事務工作。除此之外,她亦是香港LGBT+界的代表人物之一,積極推動社會多元及共融,策劃香港性小眾之旅,希望可以藉着「非獵奇式」方法,令更多人認識香港性小眾文化,她亦是粉紅同盟國際不再恐同日(IDAHOT Director, Pink Alliance)總監,以及關懷愛滋(AIDS Concern)董事局成員。

Benita去年毅然辭去青年事務工作,創立共融社企「Encompass HK」,旨在於不同界別(包括個人、商業機構與政府)推動聯合國為2030年訂下的17個可持續發展目標(Sustainable Development Goals,簡稱SDGs)。根據中文大學去年發表有關香港15至30歲青年對「可持續發展」的意見,只有14.5%的香港青年對此有所聽聞。該17個可持續發展目標涵蓋性別平等、高質教育、氣候行動、潔淨能源、消除貧窮與饑荒等。

港首個綠色環保婦女節

可持續發展目標在西方教育已成風氣,例如芬蘭已取消科目為本的教育制度,改為以可持續發展目標融入教育。但香港的學校則很少把可持續發展目標納入課程,而共融社企Encompass HK則把可持續發展目標融入其舉辦的活動中,例如最近在三八婦女節期間舉辦全港首個Green Women Festival(綠色環保婦女節),活動參與者與義工包括環保領袖、環保初創企業家、傷健人士、平權人士與外籍傭工等。活動除了環保講座、社企展出環保產品、健康美食工作坊、環保約會工作坊,以及鼓勵參加者穿着二手衣物拍攝專業照片外,更有冥想環節、環保虛擬實境(VR)、二手書攤位,以及輪椅舞蹈等。講座探討的環保議題包括循環經濟、可持續時裝與生態旅遊等。

一般活動也會用到很多即用即棄的物資,包括塑膠、紙杯等,但Green Women Festival則使用循環再用物品,並在會場上多處標示出可持續發展目標,例如在飲水機處提示潔淨食水是目標之一,足見其潛移默化的心思。我亦到場支持,碰見不少志同道合的朋友。是次活動反應熱烈,合共有250人出席,更有參加者提出,將來可以舉辦名為TED x Green Women活動,令環保訊息更為普及。早前Encompass HK亦舉辦可持續品嘗咖啡活動,讓參加者加深了解咖啡行業從種植、生產、消費以至回收的過程,從而作出明智的消費抉擇,活動亦為The Hummingfish Foundation的東帝汶農民籌款。此外,Encompass HK將於3月20日舉辦音樂治療晚會,提高精神健康意識。每次活動均有部分收益捐給慈善團體,助其推動可持續發展的目標。

貼地好玩活動感染群眾

一般提到可持續發展目標,大家可能會感覺有些學術性,甚至覺得遙不可及,因此Encompass HK希望舉辦一些比較貼地與好玩的活動,讓更多人參與其中。說到底,活動形式並不重要,反而是這些活動可以形成一種風氣、一股潮流、一個社群,感染更多人參與其中,那麼我們便真的有可能在2030年前達到聯合國訂下的可持續發展目標。

除了舉辦活動外,Encompass HK另一重點經營模式是為企業,例如SAP與共享空間Campfire提供顧問服務,協助它們設計可持續發展活動內容,並且組織相關活動。

Benita表示,她希望形成一個共融社群,當中包括商業機構、其社會責任部門的員工、研究人員、學生,以至政府與一般市民大眾,令可持續發展目標成為各界的關注議題。

不過,要成功達標,亦有賴各界支持,如有企業或個人對可持續發展目標有興趣,歡迎在Facebook與Encompass HK聯絡。

作者為香港科技大學工商管理碩士校友會會員