22 Sep 2020

Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year 2020

K K Tse, Founding Chair of Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Forum, awarded Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year 2020 by the Schwab Foundation for social Entrepreneurship.
Award Testimonial by KK Tse:

Earlier this year, when I heard from Schwab Foundation that I had been nominated for the Award of Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year 2020, I asked myself: what exactly have I done to deserve this award?

In the past 20 years, I have founded a number of social enterprises, two of which subsequently became the first and second Certified B Corps in HK. They are Education for Good, and Dialogue in the Dark (HK) Ltd.
Education for Good was a pioneer in social entrepreneurship education, the first of its kind in HK. We provide training, mentoring, and support to aspiring social entrepreneurs.
Dialogue in the Dark originated from Hamburg, Germany, and is probably the world’s largest social franchise. Dialogue in the Dark (HK) Ltd. is a franchisee.

Dialogue in the Dark is unlike the typical social enterprises. The latter usually provide service or assistance to underprivileged groups. Dialogue in the Dark, on the other hand, engages people with disabilities, but use their talents to create innovative and high value services for able-bodied persons, including corporate executives. The mission says its well: ‘We engage people of differences to create social impact.’

Dialogue in the Dark HK was self-financed by private capital with no government or charity funding. But we became profitable in the third year and was the first social enterprise that distributed dividends to the shareholders. Its success has inspired a large number of social entrepreneurs to start social ventures without government funding.

When I started all these, I was approaching 60. I was not interested only in creating successful social ventures; I wanted to start a movement of social entrepreneurship. That’s why in 2008, I set up the Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Forum, with the mission of ‘Creating and sustaining a civic movement of social entrepreneurship.’
During that time, I came across a book entitled Writing to Change the World, which left a great impression on me. Those were the days before social media came to dominate our lives. I used the old-fashion way, the printed words as well as electronic newsletters, to spread the message of social entrepreneurship. I started the publication of a bi-weekly, electronic Social Entrepreneurs Newsletter since June 2007, which went on to publish over 200 issues.

I also wrote regular columns on daily newspapers and have published over 500 articles in HK in the last two decades.

I co-authored or co-edited over 20 books on social entrepreneurship (in Chinese) and these have become basic references for anyone interested in the subject.

I have also been an active member of the Organizing Committee of the annual Social Enterprise Summit, a community-led initiative with government funding support to promote social entrepreneurship. The Summit has since become the premier annual event in the region attracting hundreds of participants from various Asian countries.
HKSEF had been successful in advancing the development of social entrepreneurship. After 10 years, the directors came to the conclusion that we needed to shift our focus to mainstream businesses. We reached out to B Lab in the US, and after working with them for four years, we set up B Lab HK in January 2020. I was elected as one of the three Co-chairs.

June 2019 was a turning point in the history of HK. The following six months witnessed the most violent political and social upheavals HK has ever experienced. And there was no end in sight. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, adding another blow to HK’s battered economy. July 2020 saw the introduction of the National Security Law for HK from Beijing.

HK has entered a new era of acute political, economic and social crises unprecedented and unimaginable – not only for people in HK but for the world at large.

It is under such circumstances that I came to be honored by the Award for Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year. My immediate reaction was being reminded of the saying “lecturing on navigation while the ship is going down.” Whatever I have done in the past to deserve this Award is no longer sufficient to address the multiple challenges we are facing in the decades ahead.

To say that I have a plan or a strategy to confront these challenges would be overoptimistic. For one thing, we do not know when and how the fourth or fifth blows will come; but we do expect they will come. My friends here talk about the best of times and the worst of times. The consensus, though, is that ‘Whether it’s the best of times or worst of times, this is the only time we’ve got.’

What I have done in recent months is to join hands with a young team to create a new organization, Impact Partners HK, which I hope would empower a new generation of changemakers and movement builders to carry on the Herculean fight for a better HK.
I have some unusual ideas about this organization, such as the following:

  • ‘Open-sourcing’ myself – making available free of charge my knowledge, expertise, resources, networks, etc. to individuals and groups who are keen to create positive impact on society
  • Spreading the knowledge, strategies and tools of movement building with New Power and New Values
  • Inspiring a new generation of changemakers who choose to stay in HK and fight for a better HK
  • Creating a pool of Impact Partners (starting with 20 in the first year and building up to over 100 within three years) who are capable of spearheading self-sustaining and high-impact movements
Some of the movements we are working on include the following:
a) B Corps – to transform mainstream businesses as a force for good
b) MBI (Master of Business Impact) – to displace the MBA programs which are mainly taught by outdated professors about outdate economy and management
c) ReWirement – to displace the outdated notion and practice of Retirement
d) People of Differences – to unleash the talents of people with apparent disabilities
e) Sustainable and Responsible Tourism – to reinvent tourism as a force for good
f) Growth Mindset – releasing educational potential from Fixed Mindset
g) Online-Merge-Offline learning – to challenge the conventional online learning practice
h) Movement Building – to popularize the art and science of movement building for social impact
HK is not an island – we are focusing our work on HK as this is the only place we know well. But HK is not an island to itself; whatever we do, or manage to achieve, could have an impact beyond HK.

We look forward to having continued support from all of you.