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SLW: CIIF accumulates critical mass of social capital in Hong Kong

     Some 300,000 people from different age groups, social strata and cultural or ethnic backgrounds are participating in about 190 capacity-building, network- and community-building initiatives that reach out to all 18 districts in Hong Kong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, told an international conference this (December 15) morning.

     "This accumulated critical mass of social capital, which amounts to about 4% of the population, involves communities at different stages of development, including new towns, older and redeveloped communities where social and neighbourhood networks have to be built or rebuilt," he said.

     Speaking at the symposium on "Development of Social Capital in Hong Kong: Policy, Strategy and Practice" at the International Conference on Social Capital and Volunteering in Ageing Societies: Intergenerational Social Inclusion, Mr Cheung said that social capital fostered social harmony and created the necessary conditions for inter-generational social inclusion.  

     "It is regarded as the essential fourth capital, along with human, financial and infrastructural capital, to achieve enhanced social and economic outcomes. It does so by changing mindsets, building relationships and creating new opportunities through institutional collaboration," he said.

     Mr Cheung said that there was an urgent need for different types of competence, adaptability, resilience and entrepreneurship at the individual and community levels in the wake of the Asian financial crisis when new social and economic challenges suggested that traditional social welfare services alone were no longer adequate.
     The $300 million Community Investment and Inclusion Fund (CIIF), which seeks to promote the development of social capital in Hong Kong, was launched in 2003 against this backdrop.
     Since then, the CIIF has, through social capital development strategies, raised social and economic participation, especially among the disadvantaged through the 3,500 full-time or part-time, paid or volunteer jobs that have been created through cross-sector partnerships, Mr Cheung noted.  

     Over 4,000 partners, including businesses, NGOs, schools, professional groups, residents' associations, hospitals, district councils and government departments, are jointly implementing projects funded by the CIIF.

     Overall evaluation by academics and participants has affirmed the CIIFˇ¦s effectiveness in undoing negative labelling effects, transforming social roles, building the capacity of disadvantaged groups and empowering them to become self-reliant.

     Mr Cheung said, "Over 20,000 participants who may otherwise remain as passive recipients of welfare services and financial assistance have been transformed into volunteers and project organisers, serving others in need, contributing actively to the development of their respective communities and increasing their own employability.

     "Over 340 mutual help networks have been established, connecting people from different ages, social backgrounds, and ethnicities in support of some 20,000 families.  

     "Over 1,000 volunteer mentors from a variety of occupational backgrounds and corporate volunteers have become 'life navigators' for families in need and re-connected over 3,000 marginalised youth to mainstream society, reducing the risks of inter-generational poverty."  

     Mr Cheung said that social capital development and its strategic application were perhaps more relevant today when innovative solutions were needed to address the downstream impact of the financial tsunami than it was at the turn of the millennium when social capital development was first systematically introduced into Hong Kong.

     He congratulated the conference organisers on their foresight in choosing this topic at this time, with the participation of many prestigious local and international academics.

     The two-day conference is jointly organised by the City University of Hong Kong and the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

Ends/Monday, December 15, 2008
Issued at HKT 11:15


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