Family Mask: “Open Seventeen – Supporting Next-Gen Leaders Innovate for a Sustainable Post-Pandemic World”


HONG KONG, Oct. 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Open Seventeen (“O17”) is a challenge-based, online interactive coaching programme to help young global innovators connect and shape good ideas into viable social innovations projects. O17 supports projects that enable grassroots public participation and citizen science through the use of open data and crowdsourcing. Family Mask, a United Nations Global Compact member, is delighted to publish this group Q&A interview series in support of StartmeupHK, of which Global Citizen Capital is an official supporting organization.

The Open Seventeen (“O17”) is a challenge-based, online interactive coaching programme to help young global innovators connect and shape good ideas into viable social innovations projects.
The Open Seventeen (“O17”) is a challenge-based, online interactive coaching programme to help young global innovators connect and shape good ideas into viable social innovations projects.


Jessie Chung and Kenneth Kwok with Family Mask team at Family Mask Academy (Hong Kong)
Jessie Chung and Kenneth Kwok with Family Mask team at Family Mask Academy (Hong Kong)

A total of 12 teams worked in close collaboration with international experts to make sure that the projects are concrete, achievable and relevant to the SDGs, whether at a local, regional or global level. Other stakeholders have contributed, from both the public and private sectors, civil society and academia.

The O17 Challenge was hosted by University of Geneva in partnership with Citizen Cyberlab, Citizen Science Center Zurich, GovLab and Tsinghua X Lab, and supported by Geneva Tsinghua Institute.

Q&A interview conversation as below:

KK: Francois, what an amazing O17 challenge for 2020. The program itself pivoted in light of COVID-19, and we are happy to see it moved forward. How did you make it happen?

Dr. Francois Grey (UNIGE): Well, we almost didn’t! All other summer schools at our University were simply cancelled. What helped us was that we’ve been running an online innovation programme every spring on Zoom, so we could adapt that online methodology to the much more intensive summer school format, which we normally do in person.

KK: Stephanie, this program would not have happened without your participation. Which aspect of the challenge did you find to be the most rewarding?

Stephanie Chuah (UNIGE): Thank you Kenneth! Definitely the opportunity to work with the students in the development of their projects and getting to know many of them personally through our workshops and Zoom calls! They worked tremendously hard and carried with them the passion to create change in their communities- very inspiring!

KK: Great. Now let us interview some of the teams which have scored the highest in the competition. Digital Water team, what is the one main highlight for Digital Water in the O17 Challenge?

Digital Water (O17 Team): We took a step back to look at our project and ask ourselves harder questions. In the process, we made the brave decision to shift directions. With the enormous knowledge and resourcefulness from the O17 Team, Digital Water got a mix of assistance, inspiration, growth and challenges from day one!

KK: Le Cat team, if you can take the competition again, what improvement would you make?

Le Cat (O17 Team): If we had to do everything all over again, Le Cat team wouldn’t change a thing! Having the members meet, the ideation process around accessibility for hearing impaired people, the fail and learn steps, all of it was very meaningful to our project, the hearing compass. The learning curve might’ve been steeper, the task management might’ve been more efficient,  and some electronics and design problems may’ve been avoided, but learning is a journey!

KK: Hybrid Thinkers team, what is something new you learned about yourself during the challenge?

Hybrid Thinkers (O17 Team): The challenge allowed us to learn about ourselves as well as others by interacting in a social hardware project. The program taught us collaboration values, team player spirit, and benefits from a multiculturalism team. Mostly, it shows us that perseverance leads to a meaningful and rewarding achievement, thus it brought us self-confidence and wisdom.

KK: 4Givers team, how would you encourage other teams, especially those in Asia, to join next year’s O17 Challenge?

4Givers (O17 Team): We are confident that our peers are as enthusiastic as we are. To encourage them to take part in the O17 Challenge, we would share with them not just our experiences, but also our product, namely an online nursing home comparison platform that will be launched in Hong Kong.

KK: And finally, Mind to Mine team, now that the challenge has completed, what will you do in your everyday like to further sustainability?

Mind to Mine (O17 Team): Over the course of this program we’ve been heavily impacted by how effectively the program went and how well we worked together on a completely digital landscape. To continue to be sustainable, we will continue to work digitally to avoid using excess paper based materials, lessening our own environmental impact.

KK. Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions. Next, let us turn to Tsinghua University and X-Lab. Dear Pearl, so good to work together again. Tsinghua and X-Lab is a strongly supportive partner of the O17 Challenge. How would you continue to encourage multi-national and multi-lateral dialogue between Tsinghua and UNIGE to empower the development of sustainability leaders?

Pearl Mao (Tsinghua University): Besides of the O17 Challenge, Tsinghua x-lab also has collaboration with UNIGE on SDG Innovation Boot camp, SDG Open Hack and Social Innovation X-Change Program. Next step, we will work together to spread SDG Open Hack to other universities in China and other countries so as to engage and empower many more students in sustainability innovation.

KK: Looking forward to 2020 SDG Open Hack. Ji, you have been a great mentor to many teams. If you have two general tips for next year’s teams, what would they be?

Ji Li (OpenFIESTA). For sure. Tip 1: Have the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) instead of a perfect design. Tip 2: Learn and build from other similar projects instead of reinventing the wheel.

KK: Short and concise. Finally, back to Dr. Grey, we know that Hong Kong looks forward to co-operating with the Open 17 Challenge in 2021. How can our ecosystem best support?

Dr. Francois Grey (UNIGE): One thing that Hong Kong, including the StartmeupHK eco-system, can support us on is how to get beyond a good idea and a nice pitch. Swiss investors are usually highly risk averse, focused on high-tech high-margin products. I think that in Hong Kong, you are great at spotting and shaping good investment possibilities in more frugal tech and lower margin start-ups, important skills for social innovation. That’s an area where I believe we can work together, and help more young people make a better world.

KK: That’s a wrap, everyone. Thank you for the great input and we look forward to O17 Challenge in 2021!

Global Citizen Capital is proud to work with the MXA Group, Better Together Foundation and Family Mask Academy on the #BackToSchool and #KIDsforSDGs initiatives. Jessie Chung, Founder of Family Mask and Family Mask Academy, supports youth empowerment in the impact and sustainability space, and pledges to support Open Seventeen and its future initiatives. “A side (and positive) effect of COVID-19 was the advancement in adaptation of technology and the internet. Today, we are more connected than ever before and with sustainability-oriented education, our youth have a deep connection with nature and humanity. Let us keep the momentum and give our next generation a chance to make a difference,” Jessie Chung adds.

About the Author:

Mr. Kenneth Kwok is the Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Capital, President of Better Together Foundation, Co-President of Asia World Anti-Aging and Well-Being Association and Co-Founder of the MXA Group and Family Mask.

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