Newsletter No. 539

03 # 5 3 9 | 0 4 . 0 6 . 2 0 1 9 p GIA評估項目之一:香港社會服務聯會「落得樓」服務的樓梯機裝置 A ‘stair climber’ installation in a HKCSS-led service initiative assessed by GIA p 學生與街坊配對在樂富街市訪問商戶 Students team up with the neighbourhood residents to interview tenants at Lok Fu Market Continuing this line of thought, Professor Wong pinned his hopes on GIA becoming a platform to groom a new generation of public intellectuals, using its intimate and cumulative knowledge of neighbourhood residents, civic groups, NGOs, the government and other different stakeholders to further the social reach of research projects. As the interview drew to a close, Professor Wong said with a tinge of melancholy: ‘Nowadays, many of the Hong Kong young people are feeling hopeless and dispirited. Sometimes I feel the same way too. Working at GIA enables us to get more young people to be involved in our work and this, in fact, is a good way to handle our agony and create as much impact as we can.’ Yan L. hence enhancing their overall being. The second phase is ‘Manage’. GIA doesn’t stop at providing assessment reports but goes a step further in helping organizations improve the efficiency at using their resources through preliminary assessment. Professor Wong explained, ‘We’ve seen many organizations struggling with their daily operational routines, given the little resources at their disposal. This gives them more reason to learn how to allocate resources, establish priorities and conduct business with a well-defined objective in mind.’ The third step to take is ‘Maximize’ their influence. Take for instance the HKCSS ‘stair climber’ project again. If proven that its impact on target clients and the community was far-reaching and positive, GIA would share the case and implement it more extensively. The step of ‘Maximize’ reveals GIA’s uniqueness. GIA’s vision is ‘to promote the social impacts of innovative projects in building a sustainable and just society through the provision of social impact assessment and consultation.’ Therefore, the institute will screen its customers, instead of accepting all business offers with no questions asked. Professor Wong’s so-called ‘customer selection’ criteria take into account of whether GIA identifies with the vision of the organization requesting assessment, whether it will genuinely listen to and accept GIA’s suggestions and be willing to cooperate to reap greater social benefits. He disclosed that his team is negotiating for an assignment to assess a group that screens documentary films in the community. Its vision and goals resonate with GIA. Although there exist no assessments and research studies of a similar kind, Professor Wong is willing to give it a try. ‘Rating scales are readily available for the majority of conventional assessments, as with family services projects done to improve parent-child relationships, for example. There’s also no lack of agencies doing such assessment work. But evaluating how documentary viewing can change audience awareness has not been undertaken before. There are no earlier references to draw on. Given the complexities and novelty the project offers, GIA is doubly determined to rise to the challenge.’ Platform for Public Intellectuals It is not uncommon for academics to participate in social activities. This is particularly true for scholars with a social work background. In Professor Wong’s opinion, GIA embodies the self-expectations of public intellectuals. ‘A public university has its own social responsibilities to fulfil. Intellectuals employed at these institutions should use their academic knowledge and research work to drive social progress. There’s a necessity for some of them to command on-the-ground knowledge of society’s operation. Otherwise, the assessments they turn in hold only superficial value and fail to raise real insights and practical improvement recommendations.’ A ssociate professor Wong Hung of CUHK’s Department of Social Work was invited to an interview to discuss ‘social enterprises’. Shortly after sitting down, he clarified, ‘We prefer not to use the term “social enterprises”. What we do is social business.’ Social Benefits Above All ‘Social business’, coined by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus , differentiates from ‘social enterprise’ that pursues optimization of both profit and social benefits. ‘Social business’ maintains social benefits as its highest end. Rather than aiming for profit, it operates to remain financially viable. Professor Wong highlighted that many social enterprises he came across in Hong Kong are fettered by a profit- making goal with little time to deliver social benefits. ‘Worst of all, these social enterprises would become a conduct through which a purely business mind-set and model infiltrate NGOs and the community economy insidiously,’ he said. Professor Wong’s team filed an application for the ‘Sustainable Knowledge Transfer Project Fund’ and successfully secured funding in March 2018 to set up the Good Impact Assessment Institute (GIA) two months later. Most of the social service organizations and NGOs in Hong Kong count on external funding—public or private—for survival. As funders want to know if their money has been put to good use, there is an increasing demand to reveal how the funded organizations fare. GIA’s emergence has partially answered this need, as it provides assessments of different funding recipients through scientific methods including questionnaire, interview and case study. Before GIA’s inception, Professor Wong and his team secured financial backing from the ‘Knowledge Transfer Fund’ to assess small-scale projects with the aim of promoting inclusive community. Assisting with the work was Latvia Ng , a GIA project manager. She explained how social benefits were given more gravity in their assessments even then. ‘When we were previously doing a community survey on a surplus food collection programme at a wet market, every CUHK student administering questionnaire surveys was paired with a neighbourhood resident to interview the shop tenants. Local residents knew how to get around the market and were on familiar terms with everybody there. Our university students seldom visited wet markets and were apprehensive of striking up conversations, though they were very clear of the survey content and goals. The cost of assigning one person to handle the surveys might be the lowest, but our goal of pairing interviewers was to promote cooperation and communication between groups.’ Assessment Protocol GIA currently follows a ‘3 M’ operation model. The first M stands for ‘Measure’. A case in point is the institute’s assessment of the ‘stair climber’ service initiated by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) to help residents with mobility problems easily navigate the stairs of the old tenement buildings they live in. GIA evaluated the results of this initiative on whether it had given the target clients greater living convenience and whether they had been able to enjoy a broadened scope of activities,