What's the key to social mobility? Being creative

What's the key to social mobility? Being creative

HKOSA's Hong Kong Youth Summit 2015 is back with Forums 2 and 3. Guests of honour talk about tough circumstances and say an entrepreneurial mind-set is the key to success in times of social change

Students got stuck into the second and third forums of the Hong Kong Outstanding Students' Association's Hong Kong Youth Summit 2015 (HKYS 15) this month at the University of Hong Kong.

Energised by the passion from Forum One, which was held at the beginning of last month, students continued to think about how difficult it is for people in Hong Kong to change their "social floor" - the social class they were born into based on money, power and respect.

Social change will only get harder

There were lots of exciting ideas at both meetings and seminars. Guest speakers from different fields encouraged students to think about social mobility and social change.

Professor Lo Chung-mau points out Hong Kong's problems. Photo: Adrian Pang Chak-fung

While each speaker had a different understanding of social mobility, they all agreed that the scramble to change "social floors" in Hong Kong is only going to get tougher in the future.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, Chair Professor of HKU's Department of Surgery, pointed out that Hong Kong is facing a lot of problems. Hong Kong is an open, global city. This means there is a lot of competition from people and businesses who come to Hong Kong from overseas.

On the other hand, the mainland is a growing power. This could mean that Hong Kong is becoming less important as a gateway to the mainland.

Also, highly educated Hongkongers who left the city before the handover are now flooding back. This means competition here is likely to get even tougher.

The 'ideal life' is a moving target

Stephen Sui Wai-keung, Under Secretary for Labour and Welfare, said that as society gets richer, social mobility becomes harder. He said people used to think poverty meant not having enough to get by. But that view has changed. Now "the ideal life" is a moving target, and the more you have, the more you want.

Dr Andy Wong Kam-din, Associate Professor at Polytechnic University's Department of Building and Real Estate, agreed. He said that because we have what feels like an endless supply of resources in Hong Kong, the competition for social mobility is more intense. People aim higher and higher, hoping to finally reach a "social floor" that they are happy with. But that level may be impossibly high, meaning they never reach it.

Creativity can lead to success

Yet speakers also said that with an innovative and open mind, we can thrive in these chaotic times.

"Unrest creates opportunities for success," said Ada Wong, Convenor of Make a Difference (MaD) Asia and Director-cum-Convenor of the Good Lab, a platform for social entrepreneurship. She thinks the government only plays a small role in social change. Rather, she said that entrepreneurs can have more of an impact. If they can see opportunities in our dynamic society to become successful, they are also making positives changes to society at the same time.

Ada Wong talked about the success of Katie Harris' Nana Cafe in London. The cafe makes use of the new, booming, "silver economy". Staffed entirely by senior citizens, Nana Cafe uses an otherwise inactive workforce and turns it into a helpful resource to give the cafe its unique identity.

The likes of Harris have taken advantage of Britain's ageing population. While it is often thought of as a barrier for social movement, Harris has proven that by being creative, it can be turned into a stepping-stone for moving upward socially.

Keep up with the times

Dr Dixon Wong, Associate Professor of HKU's School of Modern Languages and Cultures, warned that being against change is our biggest obstacle. We need to be flexible to keep up with the times.

Ada Wong encouraged students to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit to find opportunities in our environment. "If you don't try, you never know." Of course, being prepared is also important for success.

Lo reminded students to make the most of education to shape their own future.

HKYS 15 continues on Saturday, with the Final Summit at HKU. Students will present their suggested solutions to social problems before a public audience.

For more information on HKYS 15, visit the HKOSA website

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Being creative is the key to social change

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