Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the Inaugural Sharing Forum of the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund (CIIF) today (October 9):
Prof Zhao, Dr Prakash, Ms Kunicka, Ms Hing, Dr Wu and members of the CIIF Committee, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to you all.
On behalf of the Government, I would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone who is able to attend this Forum today, especially those from other places. It is our honour to have you here today to share your experience and visions on social capital development from the national, regional and international perspectives.
On the local side, I wish to congratulate the 12 organisations that have made a tremendous effort to share their experience of implementing their projects funded by the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund (CIIF). Thanks are also due to the Creative Media students of the City University who have helped to prepare a short video of some of the project and to the CIIF partners who volunteered their consultancy and mentoring services to assist some of the applicant groups.
Charity and philanthropy work has a long history in Hong Kong. I would like to welcome: Mr Lam from the AIA Foundation, Mr Lavender from the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation and Mr Yiu from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, three very unique and significant funders of community development projects who have been persuaded by the Chairman of the CIIF to come and share their community involvement experience today. Last but not the least, I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the CIIF Committee under the strong leadership of the Chairman. The Committee has been working very hard in the last year, not in looking at how we should be funding projects, in terms of how the Fund should work. I remember that we had many long discussions relating to how we should proceed, what the focus should be, how we should be evaluating our projects, and what were our longer-term objectives. I am sure in the course of today, you will be able to realise some of the things that the Committee envisages in the future. Our members have visited the projects. They will share their observations and outline their expectations on the future partnership and directions of the Fund. They will be joined by Ms May Chan from Hong Kong Commercial Radio who will offer her comments on how the project achievements and the overall Fund objectives may be more effectively communicated to the wider public.
Now let me start this Forum by reflecting for a moment on why the CIIF was set up, the progress it has made and where it may be heading.
The CIIF was set up at a time when the Chief Executive Mr Tung (Chee Hwa) has been very concerned about the social development of Hong Kong as we went through a period of major social, economic and political transformation brought about by external and internal factors.
The Government is concerned about the well-being of individuals, families and especially the socially marginalised, and sectors of the communities particularly hard hit by economic restructuring and a very high unemployment rate.
Hand in hand with Government's efforts to promote economic growth and to provide enhanced services for addressing people's needs on different fronts, we also see the need to invigorate and revitalise the society.
The Government recognises obviously the families are the resource of the first resort to most individuals for their full development but they need to have to be embedded in a network of social contacts.
The Government is committed to its role in facilitating social development. Within this context, the CIIF was set up as one of the Administration's investment in the community. The Fund has a clear objective to encourage mutual concern and aid, promote community participation, and support cross-sectoral programmes. The aim is to enhance community participation, encourage mutual help and support, thereby strengthening community network to support individuals and enhance social solidarity.
Obviously, the objective of the Fund is to really to provide another focus or really focus in terms of the philanthropy that we see so prevalent in Hong Kong.
The CIIF Committee has exercised great care in selecting the 29 projects from the first two batches of applications with the aim of achieving these objectives.
The "means" is just as important as the end. It is clear that Government cannot build a caring community by decree, or do it on its own. The Government may take the first step, but neither should the Government continue to be in the driving seat once the engine is started.
The first steps taken by Government through the CIIF include:
* Providing the resources and a vehicle to promote community participation in supporting individuals and families, especially vulnerable groups;
* Changing values about "giving", "receiving", capacity building and mutual help;
* Promoting community participation, mutual concern, support and assistance, and social inclusion provided through strengthened community networks;
* Helping to engender a sense of community spirit and enhance social cohesion and inclusion;
* Enhancing the social networks of individuals and families;
* Broadening the support base available to assist them to resolve their problems and address common concerns;
* Encouraging and facilitating co-operation between organisations of different nature (such as NGOs, private sector and other philanthropic groups);
* Promoting cross-sectoral collaboration (such as that between welfare agencies and educational organisations), in social networking and community support projects; and
* Promoting joined-up efforts between community groups, corporate bodies or professional groups and the Government that contribute to the social well-being.
In short, the CIIF will support project initiatives that work towards achieving our common vision of strong, caring, resilient, supportive, vibrant and self-sustaining and communities being developed out of our metropolitan city.
The CIIF initiative corresponds to the vital role played by social capital in addressing social issues, a trend that is developing and actively encouraged in many countries. Social capital, according to the World Bank, refers to the institutions, relationships and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social interactions. Social capital plays an important role in building a stronger community and enhancing social cohesion, which is the development of a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal opportunities based on trust, hope and reciprocity among all its members. Its development is considered particularly important at a time when societies are undergoing social and economic transformations. We shall be hearing more about this from Dr Prakash today.
So how do we see the way forward for the CIIF?
The CIIF is not set up as a funding source to meet shortfall in other funding for ongoing services or to duplicate or substitute funding for services. This in fact is the greatest challenge of the work of the Committee in determining how we should be evaluating and selecting projects, how we should be proceeding in terms of developing this concept in the community and that the question of whether the CIIF would be a one-off phenomenon or whether it would continue. The success of the CIIF is not going to be measured by how quickly the Fund is being distributed. Instead, I expect it will be measured by:
* the level of collective and collaborative efforts established through the projects being supported
* the effectiveness and sustainability of the networks and partnerships established
* the level of community involvement and trust established amongst the different groups
* the type of community impacts generated
* the level of capacity built amongst the groups and communities, and
* their readiness to take ownership of their local issues and solutions
I can see continuous efforts being needed along several directions:
(a) To help the HKSAR communities to take control of social and economic transformation process, we must further promote and permeate the social capital concepts in the community. I hope the local project experience sharing today will inspire all of us together to design and propose projects which align with the objectives of the CIIF and place emphasis on expected outcome.
(b) Social capital will cumulate only through knowledge transfer and sharing. Hence we must develop the learning culture. Apart from planning seminars, site visits and annual sharing forums by the CIIF Committee and the CIIF Secretariat, we are encouraging successful applicant organisations to help promote the concepts or offer mentoring help to other potential applicant organisations so as to generate a snowball effect;
(c) Strengthen the evaluation front: There is strong potential for "Town and Gown" to work closer together. We are encouraging local academics to undertake research amongst themselves or evaluation in collaboration with us on the concepts and practices promulgated by the CIIF.
(d) Keep a broad perspective: We must build up our links with overseas and international bodies. As a start, the links that we have started with the Asian Development Bank, the European Foundation Network, and with our counterparts in the Mainland and countries in the Region such as Singapore is a very positive start.
(e) Building a broader base of interest: Sustainability of the CIIF impact hinges on the effectiveness of our collective strategies and efforts to mobilise broad support base for and secure ownership of the concept at the central level and the district level. Developing strategic partnership and engaging the sectors (Government, third sector, professional and business sector, and the community) are critical processes.
Obviously, I think with these successes of CIIF, the Government is going to commit future resources but that would very much depend on how one is able to achieve its objectives and in terms of the subsequent role that the Fund is going to play in Hong Kong. I see this Fund is a very worthwhile resource that is required for Hong Kong. If we achieve the objectives, it will serve our purposes of investing in our social capital and we see no reason for it not to be continued and funded if we are able to achieve the objectives that we set out.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the objectives promoted by the CIIF is key to building a strong community platform, in support of resilient families with the capabilities to protect and nurture both young and the old throughout our life phases, and particularly at times of need. We obviously need more joint-up efforts from all of you to be able to move forward.
End/Thursday, October 9, 2003