Sowing the Seeds of Sustainable Development in Hong Kong

Created on 20 July 2022

Vivian Lai: “Regardless of age or social-economic status, everyone tried to look for innovative ways to support our communities.”

“The first time I made friends from around the world was at UNLEASH. More than 1,000 talented people from over 160 countries gathered to find ground-breaking solutions to various environmental and social issues,” Vivian Lai, 24, recalls. “I will never forget that wonderful journey.”

Vivian’s trip to the UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab (UNLEASH) was made possible thanks to The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s commitment to promoting sustainable development. In January 2018, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) joined hands to launch the Hong Kong chapter of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a United Nations (UN) initiative. It is formed by scientific and technical experts from academia, civil society and the private sector to implement the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local, national and global levels.

Apart from putting forward sustainable solutions to the 17 SDGs, SDSN Hong Kong provides an international platform for young people to develop their skills and experience through regular forums, talks and competitions. This includes supporting individuals with potential to participate in UNLEASH.

In 2019, Vivian, then a marketing major at the Hong Kong Baptist University, took part in UNLEASH with the support of the Club and SDSN Hong Kong. Each year, UNLEASH selects 1,000 participants from around the world. Working in teams, they are given a week to research and develop innovative solutions to specific SDGs, before presenting their work for critique. "I was the youngest of the participants and met many people from different countries. Regardless of age or social-economic status, everyone tried to look for innovative ways to support our communities,” says Vivian. “It was a really valuable opportunity to see how young people outside Hong Kong strive for social innovation.”

Vivian and her teammates were tasked with improving the livelihood of young people in Venezuela. She was much inspired by the experience. “Everyone, whatever their profession, can contribute to social innovation. Some solutions don’t even cost much.” After graduation, Vivian took an unorthodox path and launched her own social enterprise. Initially focused on improving the commute experience of persons with disabilities, it soon turned to helping local businesses implement the SDGs and corporate social responsibility projects.

“I would not have started my own enterprise and could never have imagined that I’d become an entrepreneur had it not been for the chance to join SDSN Hong Kong or UNLEASH,” says Vivian. The UNLEASH experience gave Vivian a real sense that she could turn her passion into a career, and she is glad that she is now working with like-minded people in social innovation and towards the sustainable development of Hong Kong every day.

Read Vivian's full story here.