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Projects Involving Cross-Sector Collaboration Discussed at Hong Kong Leadership Program

Participants identify underlying factors behind most pressing issues affecting Hong Kong’s society

Participants of Leadership for Inclusive Futures for Hong Kong

Michelle Dai Zotti | 01.12.2017

Hong Kong and its residents, once filled with optimism, are faced with a growing sense of uncertainty about the future. Rising inequality, low social mobility, and a growing generational divide are causing deep rifts in Hong Kong society. The younger generations, who feel not having benefitted from globalization and the territory’s growing integration with Mainland China, are challenging Hong Kong’s identity under the current political framework of “one country, two systems.” In addition, the World Economic Forum’s recently published 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Index shows a drop in Hong Kong’s competitiveness, from seventh position to ninth, highlighting the city’s struggle to innovate and remain relevant on the global stage.

To discuss these issues, explore underlying tensions, and develop pathways moving forward, 25 young Hong Kong leaders from local government agencies, businesses and social enterprises, and civil society organizations participated in the Leadership for Inclusive Futures in Hong Kong leadership weekend program. The program developed by Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities was held from November 17 -19, 2017 in Hong Kong.

The intensive three-day program kicked off with a public event on Friday evening with Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary-General of the World Scout Movement and Salzburg Global Fellow, providing a keynote speech. As the first-ever United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth and having held many other important positions in his early career, Alhendawi shared his personal experience in promoting youth engagement on the local, national, and international level. He called on organizations to open up to younger generations and encouraged the youth to “show up, speak up, engage and listen.” Alhendawi also stated that leaders should think bold and should serve others. The inspirational keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion on “Visions for an inclusive Hong Kong by 2030.”

The panel, moderated by Salzburg Global’s Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine, saw Alhendawi and two other distinguished guest speakers, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, non-official member at the HKSAR Executive Council, and Lau Ming-wai, chairman of the Commission on Youth, in Hong Kong, discussing the role of youth leadership in shaping a more sustainable and just future in Hong Kong and beyond.

The panel talked about the importance of thinking bold, having the courage to take risks, and the ability to create a following. There was disagreement on whether leaders are made or born but all panelists agreed that young people should be given the opportunity to experience and interact with new and different thinking stakeholders. The role of institutions is to provide exposure to young people and to change incentives within a society like in Hong Kong, where the education system is merely focused on measuring performance through testing and grades.

The program continued the following day giving the 25 selected local leaders the opportunity to learn from and engage with experts and dive deep into discussions about current tensions afflicting Hong Kong society and to analyze underlying issues of societal polarization.

During a panel discussion on “Fragmented Society: Social Cohesion and Identity in Hong Kong,” distinguished guest speakers described polarization as a global phenomenon and not a problem limited to Hong Kong.

One panelist spoke about the government’s role in serving not only as a service provider but also as a facilitating agent offering citizens opportunities to engage with officials online and offline and by appointing more young people to committees. At the same time, the speaker encouraged participants to engage and take advantage of resources provided by local government and Mainland China authorities.

According to one panelist, the biggest challenge currently faced by Hong Kong is to celebrate diversity in a united way under the “one country, two systems” framework, through which Hong Kong is given greater autonomy under China’s sovereignty. The speaker spoke about the need to try listening to and understanding each other, managing expectations, and focusing on promoting common objectives.

The second panelist spoke about globalization dividing our society into “winners” and “losers.” Those who cannot cope and are left disenfranchised by this ever-changing and interdependent “offline” world create new identities online finding others sharing the same belief. To counter this fragmentation of society, it is imperative to engage all people, including those who feel disenfranchised, through online and offline platforms.  

During a second panel on “Bridging Divides for an Inclusive Hong Kong: Conflict Mediation and Effective Advocacy,” experts with government experience shared suggestions and approaches to understanding and managing societal conflicts in the Hong Kong context.

Using a shared and agreeable terminology, finding an effective third-party mediator, keeping communication, listening, being empathetic, and focusing on common goals rather than demands and positions were some of the suggestions that the speakers shared with the group. It is increasingly difficult to disagree nowadays. People prefer to engage only with individuals thinking the same way, and difficult topics like race in the United States are being avoided. One of the panelists expressed the importance of disagreeing; the key is “to disagree without being disagreeable.”  

In the afternoon, the participants were divided into three groups. Facilitators walked each group through a different case study assignment that involved conflict transformation and has ongoing local relevance. Participants were asked to apply their personal experience and knowledge gained in the previous discussions and to work collaboratively to find an effective strategy. Each group shared a summary of their conversations.

At the end of the second day, participants were asked to think about who they don’t know how to talk to and to identify challenges that mattered most to them with the aim of encouraging participants to brainstorm potential topic proposal and project ideas. The participants organically divided into six groups discussing the following identified themes: ethnic minorities inclusion/elderly care; change; unaffordable housing; future of work; education; international exposure/competitiveness.  

On the final day of the program, experts presented and exposed participants to examples of local and global cross-sector partnerships through which specific issues have been tackled. The panelist encouraged the group to think of challenges as opportunities and to take advantage of resources made available in times of crises. The themes of focusing on shared goals, listening and understanding one another, and finding compromises were reiterated during this program segment.

In the afternoon, participants continued their project idea discussions started the day before and consolidated into five small groups. At the end of the program, each group presented potential project ideas involving cross-sector collaboration. Discussions on projects feasibility, implementation, and concrete follow-up actions are ongoing.


The session, “Leadership for Inclusive Futures in Hong Kong”, is organized by Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) and funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. To learn more see: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/588

01.12.2017 Category: SALZBURG IN THE WORLD, SALZBURG UPDATES, SUSTAINABILITY
Michelle Dai Zotti