Joint Humanitarian Entrepreneurship Summer and Winter Academy: Lingnan’s Global Service Commitment
How can students make a sustainable impact in communities while learning valuable skills in human-centered design, humanitarian technology, and social entrepreneurship? Lingnan's Joint Humanitarian Entrepreneurship Academy, a series of education outreach activities beyond campus, makes this possible by offering exciting overseas Service-Learning projects. The Winter Academy 2020 will continue the work done in Summer Academy 2019 to maximize impact through long-term overseas Service-Learning projects. The Winter Academy is accepting applications for the 2020 session. All Lingnan students are welcome to apply. For more information, please click here.
In summer 2019, the Office of Service-Learning (OSL) and the Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI) hosted the 2nd Joint Humanitarian Entrepreneurship Summer Academy (SA), a one-of-its-kind intensive programme that empowers students to tackle social issues affecting vulnerable communities worldwide. 23 students from Lingnan University teamed up with 17 peers from the USA, Kazakhstan, France, and India for a rigorous 2-week course in Hong Kong. Then, different student cohorts, accompanied by experienced mentors, travelled to Uganda, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, and Nepal to conduct fieldwork for another 2 weeks. They gained critical insights into socioeconomic issues to co-create solutions.
The SA is rooted in Lingnan’s motto “Education for Service”. While students worked to manifest changes in the world around them, they also accomplished interpersonal growth. According to OSL’s Dr. Aloysius Wilfred Raj Arokiaraj, the programme helped students flourish as creative thinkers dedicated to meaningful work. He said, “We aimed to inculcate not just skills, but also mindsets, challenging students to change how they perceive global and local crises.” To achieve this, the SA integrated the framework of the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. These are common global objectives that necessitate international cooperation. Students conducted field research in developing regions, collaborated with local NGOs, and proposed sustainable solutions to challenges concerning the SDGs.
In Hong Kong, with the guidance of facilitators from Lingnan University, Rutgers University, Oberlin College, and other organizations, students honed their research and writing skills, experimented with innovative technology, and put learning into practice in a multicultural setting. Sessions on topics like SDGs and their evolution, Humanitarian Challenges, Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking, and Research Methodologies, changed how they conceptualized social issues. 3rd Year student Claire shared: “Most of us associate ‘Innovation’ and ‘Entrepreneurship’ with purely business-driven ideas. But as Dr. Albert Ko (Director of OSL) said, ‘Entrepreneurship is about creating opportunities, envisioning change, and empowering others.’ This really inspired me.” Hands-on trainings in Arduino, underwater robotics, solar energy, and more, introduced students to tools for designing sustainable solutions. Students also participated in design challenges which required them to actively engage with community issues around Hong Kong. Following this, 4 student groups travelled to their respective overseas locations where they worked on local issues. In Nepal, the group mentored secondary school students, helping them design socially conscious business plans. They also researched the socioeconomic conditions of local farmers, and devised solutions for generating additional income through mushroom cultivation and low-tech hydroponic systems. In Cambodia, students also consulted with farmers, identifying a lack of knowledge sharing resources among them. To enable productive communication, students designed social media platforms.
The Uganda cohort focused on 4 major areas in local communities: water, energy, education, and waste. For example, one student group proposed improvements to a village-wide waste collection system by drafting a business plan for a cost-effective waste incinerator. The Kazakhstan group studied renewable energy, biogas, eco-tourism, waste management, and urban planning. They worked on a solar light stand and a solar-wind energy generator for agricultural use, amongst other projects. Participants at the different locations were impressed by the communities they encountered. “Despite the challenges that the local school students faced, they were smart and progressive,” said 4th-year Aljon who travelled to Nepal. He continued, “They didn’t think that their struggles were a part of reality as it should be, and they challenged the status quo.”
Building on the summer’s momentum, OSL and LEI are preparing for a busier academic year and Winter Academy. This semester, 6 prototypes and ideas from SA are being refined in CLA9021 Innovation & Entrepreneurship for Global Grand Challenges. Dr. Jasper Van Holsteijn, a course instructor from OSL, describes it as an opportunity for the SA alums to hand over their work to new students with fresh perspectives: “We’re at the service sites briefly over the summer. This course can turn the groundwork laid during the SA into long-term projects with continuous impact.” The organizers will also strengthen the legacy of the projects through the Joint Humanitarian Winter Academy in January 2020, in Nepal and Uganda. Students will test the improved versions of the projects in the same communities from summer continuously in this immersive off-campus learning environment.
OSL, LEI, and the many partners who made the SA possible are determined to ensure that the work continues. If you would like to be a part of this, consider applying for the Winter Academy 2020 here. For University professors and NGO partners, you are also welcome to contact Dr AROKIARAJ Aloysius Wilfred Raj (firstname.lastname@example.org) for potential collaboration.