The Fung Scholars Leadership Conference 2016 was successfully held on 29-30 October 2016 in Hong Kong. The theme this year was “Sustainability”. It was attended by over 100 Fung Scholars and Fung Fellows from different countries. The Conference was held at The University of Hong Kong-Kadoorie Centre.
The Conference began with Dr. Victor FUNG’s opening remarks which aptly kicked-off a day full of inspirational speakers. While centring around Sustainability, each speaker brought their unique perspectives to the table. As Dr. Cho-Nam NG, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, The University of Hong Kong, highlighted the equity issues resulting from Earth’s limited resources, Mr. Stephen WONG, Chairman of the Board of the Clean Air Network explained how Hong Kong’s air pollution has become a social justice issue and suggested solutions to address these challenges.
The afternoon’s speakers approached Sustainability with a business set of lens. Dr. Jeanne NG, Director – Group Sustainability, CLP Power Hong Kong, spoke to the challenges large corporations must face in an age where technology never waits to advance and change. For example, when a company plans to build long-term infrastructure, “how does one keep up with a moving goal post?” she had asked the audience. Dr. NG described how social media has changed the way companies report and communicate to the public about their sustainability practices.
While Dr. NG explained the ways in which social media has challenged companies to increase transparency, Ms. Jude WU, Managing Director from the global non-profit Conservational International, demonstrated the power of using social media as a tool to raise awareness and inspire change. In a video developed by Conservation International, water was personified to tug at the audience’s heartstrings. Facing a crowd of Fung Scholars and future leaders, Ms. WU emphasized the importance of collective leadership. She made clear that it was no longer enough for leaders to lead, but more importantly, for leaders to work together.
The collaboration Ms. WU described was well demonstrated at the afternoon’s interactive workshop led by Dr. Winnie LAW, Associate Director (Policy for Sustainability Lab), Principal Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong and Ms. Ivy WONG from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Given natural materials: mud, pigments, etc., teams of Fung scholars collaborated in small groups and gathered around canvases to create interesting and diverse pieces of artwork.
The first day of the Conference could not have ended on a more inspiring note. As one of the last few events of the day, entrepreneurs Mr. Simon SQUIBB, Founder of Nest, Ms. Sylvia LAI (FS2011-12, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University), co-founder of Mr. Photobooth, and Ms. Judith NGAN (FS2009-10, Hong Kong Baptist University), COO of WeUse, shared their experiences in the Entrepreneurship Seminar. While all three entrepreneurs had founded starkly different companies, they all shared a passion for their self-created businesses. Encouraging statements of ‘do what gives you purpose and meaning’, ‘carpe diem’, and ‘act as if you have nothing to lose’ were repeated to the curious students in the audience. However, they admitted that self-starting a business was not an easy job. They all agreed that entrepreneurship requires self-discipline and hard work. After a day full of inspirational speakers, Saturday ended with an evening of colourful cultural performances exhibited by the Fung scholars. From Cantonese duets to traditional Kung Fu exercises, the audience could not help but feel their minds, hearts, and smiles being stretched.
While Saturday’s speakers brought about an intellectual understanding of Sustainability, Sunday at the Mai Po Nature Reserve gave Conference participants a tangible understanding of the environment. In small groups, students were lead around the nature reserve by tour guides who explained the intricacies of the reserve and the surrounding environment. On the tour, it became clear how society must take responsibility for our Earth. Yet the challenges of maintaining sustainable habits while building economically viable businesses should certainly not be underestimated. However, strolling through Mai Po where the beauty of nature could be viscerally felt emphasized the reasons why all leaders and responsible citizens must make sustainability a priority.