Edited by Dr KK Tse

At September 2008, we announced the founding of a new social enterprise, DiD HK Ltd, the mission of which was to bring the Dialogue in the Dark program to Hong Kong and China. We have specifically stated the WHY and major steps to take in the article. Five months have now passed, all of the major steps has remained intact except one of them – instead of hosting a temporary exhibition, DiD HK Ltd had decided to organise a series of workshops to test the market. The results was a series of 21 Dialogue in the Dark Executive Workshops held between January 5 and 16, 2009.

The Inimitable Magic of Darkness

The workshops have been a spectacular success, exceeding even the expectations of the organisers. Four things are particularly noteworthy:

  1. The original plan was to offer 20 workshops with 24 participants each. In the end, 21 workshops were conducted with over 85% having 24 or more participants, and the remaining workshops having between 16-20 participants. The admission fee for the workshop is HK$950 per participant, which is relatively high. It is an impressive achievement to have sold so many workshops in the midst of financial tsunami. Overall, there was a modest deficit running these workshops mainly because of the cost of flying out three experts from Germany to help facilitate the workshops and train our local trainers.
  2. Perhaps the most significant outcome has been the positive feedback by the participants. It has been proven beyond doubt that there is a market for the Dialogue in the Dark workshop. We are particularly encouraged by the response from the human resources and training professionals who attended the workshops. They see the value and uniqueness of using darkness as a medium for leadership and team development.
  3. Equally if not more important is the fact that participants were impressed by the blind trainers and assistants who helped facilitated the workshops during the two hours in the dark. This is a very significant breakthrough: sighted people are helped by blind people to learn important lessons about leadership and team building, which was totally unheard of and unimaginable in the past. Herein rests the greatest power and uniqueness of this social enterprise. Most social enterprises are set up to look after or support disadvantaged groups; but with Dialogue in the Dark, it is the blind people who are enabling sighted people to learn.
  4. The workshops have been attended by a variety of people, including corporate executives, professionals, NGO leaders and managers, social entrepreneurs and social enterprise practitioners, civil servants, academics and students. After the workshops, many participants enquired about the company behind the Dialogue in the Dark. It was a great opportunity for them to learn about the nature and meaning of social enterprise – which is an unexpected result. This has turned out to be a great benefit in its own right.

What does ‘inimitable’ mean? Literally it means something that cannot be copied. This is the magic of Dialogue in the Dark – difficult, if not impossible, to replicate. Indeed, it is hard to design a program that has so much power.

A Social Enterprise in the Making

During and right after the Workshops, DiD HK Ltd has received many requests for additional workshops. It has now been decided that another series of workshops will be organised by the end of April this year.

At the same time, the search has been started to find a suitable site for the permanent Dialogue in the Dark exhibition, which required over 5,000 square feet and will be a year-round exhibition catering to an even wider audience.

Patrick Cheung, founder and main driver of the project, is optimistic about the market and future of Dialogue in the Dark in Hong Kong and ultimately mainland China. But he would like to share his dream and success with more people. Now that the workshops have tested the market, he would like to invite more people to join him to realize the dream.

If you can render support to Patrick, specifically on finding a suitable venue for the permanent exhibition, soliciting commercial partnership or sponsorship for the exhibition set-up, or preparing a long term business plan for DiD to deliver our mission and vision, please contact Patrick direct at patrick.s.l.cheung@gmail.com.