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How to meet aging challenges with social innovation?

Given the inherent characteristics of social innovation as an emerging subject, it is necessary to leverage the power of social innovation on elderly services as life expectancy increases, as well as the aging population, along with the challenges and demands. According to the United Nations (2009), the estimated aging rate is 2.6% per year, this trend of aging brings tremendous changes in society. At the same time, so many countries are struggling to manage the increasing number of service requirements for the elderly. Improving elders’ lifestyle quality and increasing the benefits of relevant stakeholders, as well as the public policies that are the cornerstone of social security of many governments.

Elderly services and social innovation

According to the United Nations (2019), there were 703 million people aged 65 years or over in the world in 2019. The number of older people is projected to double to 1.5 billion in 2050. Globally, the share of the population aged 65 years or over increased from 6 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2019. The elderly live longer and healthier, and elderly services or eldercare has been shifted dramatically due to demographic change and those services or policies could have fundamental impacts on society as well. Researchers have anticipated those changes and are studying how to meet these upcoming challenges.

Image source: World Health Organization

There are three major areas on elder services and social innovation:

  • (1) Definition and framework. Faridah and Faïz (2006) have proposed a definition of care services for the elderly that draws on the economics of services and provides a simple framework for analyzing innovation in terms of economic categories. Later in 2016, Katrien and Paul made an explicit point of innovation in the elderly care sector and developed a framework to capture innovation and explain the capacity for innovation in the elderly care sector.
  • (2) Innovation strategy in elderly care services. Davies and Ferlie developed measures of efficiency as early as 1982, and then produced scores to measure. They concluded that the most successful approach to the study of the improvement of efficiency through innovation sees such behaviour as largely motivated by the search for external finance. Beate, Endre and Joseph (2016) highlighted that innovation strategies in formal innovation training, workforce recruitment, and knowledge-sharing networks between communities are the current strategic direction based on the eldercare theory.
  • (3) Innovation case study. Researchers used elderly services as a case to find out how innovation is formed and what factors contribute to the success or failure of innovation, the key point here is the relationship between practice-based and human-centric approaches. Ali and Anna (2012) used the case of elderly home care and delivery to suggest that creative action emerges in our bodily expressive-responsive skillful coping mode. The same as Lars Fuglsang (2019), discussed how human-centric service innovation integrates with co-production in public services, defining how a practice-based model treats knowledge and learning, and the advantages of the practice-based model from a managerial, an employee, and a societal perspective.

Public sector innovation is hard, and social innovation provides a specific window of opportunity for future elderly wellbeing and welfare, utilizing innovative interventions. Given that innovations create social value, especially social innovation (Robert and Luis, 2016).

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Insight

Unveil the mysterious veil of social innovation

Driven by the trend of social innovation as the engagement of citizens and organizations in policy and management practice, the adoption of social innovation has been rapidly spurred in scholarly research, despite its conceptual ambiguity and diversity of definitions and research settings. However, as an increase in social innovation has the potential to alter the structure of innovation systems, corporate identities and strategies, employee motivation, as well as public and private governance (Robert and Luis, 2016), it can dramatically change the organization’s operation and the services, then ultimately deliver social impact.

Researchers and scholars have had a rising interest in social innovation in recent years, but the definition of it still remains debated and yet to be solved. Much of the discussion of social innovation is vague, and there are many competing definitions of social innovation that attempt to delineate a field of study (Jenson and Harrison, 2013).

Image source: Google trend

Up to date, the research literature that focuses on social innovation specifically is limited, albeit growing (Nicholls et al., 2015). The main focus of this study could be listed as follows from 1990 till now:

  • Community psychology: This approach demonstrates how to leverage the power of innovative interaction to achieve social change and solve social problems. Robert and Luis (2016) looked at the community psychology literature discussing the Experimental Social Innovation and Dissemination (ESID) model to promote innovative social and behavioural change. A key issue here for innovation research is how widespread changes manifest in society.
  • Innovation policy: From an economic perspective, innovation policy requires different agents’ adaptation to new innovative demands to capture economic growth. It mainly focuses on the relationship of social innovation and policy implementation, from bottom to up, analyzing the behaviour facing the societal challenges as an innovation driver, together with other stakeholders to build innovative policies. Slavo Radosevic (2020) developed the Innovation Policy Index (IPI) as both a monitoring tool and an instrument to facilitate policy dialogue, programme coordination and promotion of good innovation policy practices.
  • Public sector innovation: Public innovation is more focused on developing innovation model theory and enhancing its ability. Jason and Tim (2010) have proposed a practical model of public sector innovation that is more cognizant of the scientific method of randomized controlled experiments. Later, Hanna, Victor and Lars (2016) developed an empirically based framework of potentially important antecedents and effects of public sector innovation. Moreover, Jacob (2018) suggested that public innovation could be enhanced by multi-actor collaboration.
  • Social challenges: Social innovation as a means of innovative solutions to social problems, so that some research papers focus on public management and cross-sector partnerships (e.g., non-profit collaborations) to ensure its sustainability (Robert and Luis, 2016). Weerawardena and Mort (2012) also show a clear relationship between social entrepreneurship and social innovation.
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

The definition of social innovation often applies to innovative practice or intervention with social change and social impact, and yet the relationship between them is undefined, which poses a challenge and opportunity for researchers. Overall, there is no established paradigm of social innovation (Nicholls, 2010). But as simplistic it could be, social innovation is perceived as novel ideas that resolve social problems and meet social needs, finally creating social impact.

In practice, social innovations can take the form of specific ideas, actions, frames, models, systems, processes, services, rules, and regulations as well as new organizational forms (Nicholls et al., 2015). As far as we can see that social innovation relies on innovative ideas, social processes, and social outcomes. Interestingly, according to Daniela Papi Thornton, she claimed that social innovation or social entrepreneurship is beyond generating new ideas and putting them into practice, it is to finally create a social systematic change that relevant stakeholders will benefit and long-lasting change is foreseeable.

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Insight

The best example to find the truth through omnipresence info – Bellingcat

In 2016, Bellingcat published a report showing that Russia was supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, also attacked the Ukrainian government troops.

In 2017, the British Secret Intelligence Service cited Bellingcat’s report that it is reasonable to believe Russia shot down the MH17 while it was flying over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Route of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on 17 July 2014 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellingcat

In 2017, for the Syrian Civil War which happened in 2011, Bellingcat published an investigative report on the bombing of a mosque in Aleppo, that the bomb pieces were related to the US military.

In 2018, Bellingcat assisted the BBC’s Africa Eye investigation and found the Cameroon government faked the news of soldiers have been arrested for killing women and children. As a result, the US withdrew $17 million in funding for the Cameroonian Armed Forces.

BBC Africa Eye. Image source: BBC

And there is much more truth Bellingcat has discovered, so how? Bellingcat has been using leaked Internet video, Google Maps photos, and satellite imagery to support its investigation, along with thousands of human resources from 20 different countries.

Recently, Bellingcat has conducted an investigation into the border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan crisis in April 2021 and found that the crisis may be related to the harsh environmental situation due to climate change from satellite imagery. In terms of COVID-19, Bellingcat specifically looked at and studied patterns in Twitter data using Twitter API and Python, to show the severity and speed of escalation of the coronavirus crisis in India last year.

The map shows Twitter posts containing the words “help” or “urgent” in India. The color shows what percentage of these posts also contain the keyword “oxygen.” Image source: Bellingcat

Now, Bellingcat is an independent open-source platform that brings together researchers, investigators, and citizen journalists to conduct investigations into war, human rights abuses, and the criminal underworld to achieve greater transparency and accountability. Their work also has been recognized by the general Press industry and receives awards each year for their incredible work.

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For any social innovation, social business, innovation, social analysis press release, or advertising cooperation, please email to socialinnovationinsight@gmail.com.

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Insight

One biggest takeaway from the Facebook whistleblower, for all of us!

The former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen has come forward accusing Facebook of creating more hate speech and violence online, which will also harm the young generation and democracy on Oct. 4, 2021. This brought her under the light also made people think of this issue seriously. Similarly, in 2020, Sophie Zhang also reported about the Facebook fake-engagement and the political manipulations. She argues that Facebook is not acting out of malice, but rather slapdash, haphazard and concerned with self-preservation and public relations, according to Wikipedia.

As one of the biggest social media platforms, Facebook has its own uniformed army and huge user base, with nearly 2 billion active users monthly, let alone the big influence it creates over the world, and all of us could be involved in this, also our young generation. Then why do other Facebook staff haven’t shown their concern about those issues earlier, then we can fix it before it’s too big? And why do they simply accept it and “work in the dark?” Huge pay could be a reason and also worry about the lawsuit, but one of the biggest reasons we can find out in one murder case which happened in 1964.

On March 13, 1964, a 28-year-old bar manager Kitty was attacked on her way back to her apartment at 3 am, she was screaming for help loudly, her neighbours, 37 of them have woke up and seen the attacker stab her to death, while none of them has come to help nor called the police. This phenomenon inspired some researchers to study why people were so cruel and didn’t act apathetic and indifferent, which leads them to the ‘Bystander effect’.

reference to https://www.ft.lk/columns/Bystander-effect-in-Sri-Lankan-society-perils-and-pitfalls/4-668468

The bystander effect, is a social psychological theory that states individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when there are other people. Social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley conducted several experiments to compare help given by bystanders who are either alone or with others, they found out that victims are less likely to get help if there are too many people around, and they are more likely to get help if there’s less person. In a nutshell, they summarized that as the number of bystanders increases, they are less likely to identify the accident, less likely to care about it, and less likely to take any actions.

Then how to reduce this effect? Arthur Beaman and his colleagues revealed that if we understand why the presence of bystanders inhibits helping, then they become more likely to help in a group situation. That’s the reason why researchers inform their students about the bystander effect and hope to let more people know, hence, change can happen.

You know it now, so you can also change and offer help no matter how many bystanders are beside you. But it does not only stop here, as we talked about the Facebook whistleblower, so imagine if there are more people who get to know about this within themselves, then maybe more whistleblowers would show up and they can start to make changes. More importantly, as a social innovator, changemaker, social entrepreneur, or simply a citizen, a human, if you witness any social problems around you, then don’t wait for others to take any actions for you, try to avoid the bystander effect and take your own actions to make changes and ‘offer help’.

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Social problems

Social protection scheme around the world in covid-19 and actions for uncertain future

Globally, social protection is not agreed on one definition and clear on its coverage, while the common type of protections includes: old-age income protection AKA pensions, unemployment support, health-care protection, and other schemes that include maternity protection and employment injury (WHO, 2010). Regrading to WHO, they reported that only about 20 percent of the global working-age population and their families have access to some range of social protections. During the time of Covid-19, social protections are brought to the front-line while undergoing an unprecedented trial.

In the early stage of Covid-19, 45 countries have launched social protection programmes in response to Covid-19 in March 2020, later increasing to 84 countries, with a total of 283 programs currently in place, 21 of which programs are unemployment benefits (Ugo Gentilini, Mohamed Almenfi and Ian Orton, 2020). Even before some countries began their social protection schemes, job loss is already a common scenario worldwide no matter it’s a poor or rich country. Losing a job in a pandemic is scrying without knowing what could happen afterward, enough saving could help but it is uncertain for how long it could sustain. Moreover, it is more frightening when there’s only one earner to feed the family, and in the long run, it will become a matter of social stability. Up to date, the International Labour Organization expected 195 million job losses worldwide due to the Covid-19. So how many of them are eligible for the unemployment benefits and how much support they can receive and to what extent?

OECD unemployment rate falls to 7.4% in August 2020 but remains 2.2 percentage points above February 2020

According to the Investopedia that the world’s highest unemployment rates at the end of 2019 were in Sub-Saharan Africa and occupied Palestine: Lesotho: 28.2%; Eswatini: 26.5%; South Africa: 28.5%; Occupied Palestinian Territories: 26.4%; Mozambique: 24.8%, and the lowerest are: Qatar: 0.1%; Cambodia: 0.3%; Belarus: 0.5%; Lao People’s Democratic Republic: 0.7% and Myanmar: 0.8%. It is interesting to note that the lowerest unemployment rate does not represent a strong economy because some of the economies rely heavily on subsistence farming, which is labor-intensive but seasonal. Except for Qatar, the country is driven by oil and natural gas. More or less, the world is suffering from unemployment and the economic downturn. So how does the current government social protection scheme can help? Below I will list some countries around the world and give you a glimpse into the unemployment situation and the related policy in Covid-19.

CountryUnemployment rateUnemployment benefits or related in Covid-19CoverageVirus case
Lesotho28.2%1.2 billion for emergency assistance and expanding social protection.N/A6,371
South Africa28.5%Issued Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and workers with an income below a certain threshold received a small tax subsidy for four months.N/A1,346,936
Niger7.8% (2017)Approved a supplementary budget with 1.3 percent of GDP toward health, security and social assistance.N/A4,204
Egypt9.8% (2018)Initiative for irregular workers in most severely hit sectors, which will entail EGP 500 in monthly grants for 3 months.1.6 million157,275
Brazil11.9%Employment support (partial compensation to workers which are temporarily suspended or have a cut in working hours, as well as temporary tax breaks).1 million 8,488,099
Argentina9.8%Totaling about 6.0 percent of GDP, 3.9 percent in the budget and 2 percent off-budget on various protection.N/A1,799,243
Peru3.0%The government authorized withdrawals of up to S/2,000 from private pension fund accounts by members who had not contributed for six consecutive months or employees on furlough in April under emergency decrees.N/A1,064,909
Mexico3.5%Provid subsidized  unemployment insurance for 3 months to workers that hold a mortgage with the Housing Institute (5.9 billion pesos).N/A1,641,428
USA3.7%Signed a US $ 877bn (about 4½ percent of GDP) funding bill which includes enhanced unemployment benefits of US $ 300 weekly federal enhancement in benefits; Using $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to provide extra unemployment benefits; US $ 268 billion to expand unemployment benefits.N/A23,556,676
Canada5.7%Around $249 billion (11.6 percent of GDP) in direct aid to employment insurance and others.N/A708,619
Austraila5.2%The stimulus includes the multiyear JobMaker program(A$73 billion) and overall stimulus includes other announced JobKeeperwage subsidies(4.6 percent of GDP).N/A28,721
Sweden6.8%Guarantees amount to SEK 803 billion (16.0 percent of 2019 GDP depending on uptake.N/A523,486
U.K3.7%£8 billion on social security and others, also subsidy for self-employed and paying the minimum wage for 25 hours per week for six month for young worlers of unemployment.N/A3,433,498
France8.4%Public guarantees of €327 billion (close to 15 percent of GDP), including €315 billion in guarantees for bank loans and credit reinsurance schemes.N/A2,866,665
Italy10.0%Measures to preserve jobs and support income of laid-off workers and self-employed (Aroud €22.3 billion).N/A2,390,102
Turkey13.7%Issued a short-term work scheme (0.4 percent of GDP), and a nationwide ban on employee layoffs is in force until January 2021.N/A1,578,625
Ukraine8.2%UAH 10.7 billion has been disbursed to fund unemployment and furlough benefits as of the end of 2020.N/A1,167,655
Israel3.8%Supports the social safety net (NIS 20bn), funding a relaxation in the requirements for unemployment benefits and grants for self-employed workers.N/A550,465
Iran11.1%Support to the unemployment insurance fund (0.3 percent of GDP).N/A1,336,217
Afghan11.2% (2017)Social package, including the now concluded bread distribution program of Af 2.8 billion and the World Bank-supported social distribution program in the amount of Af 20.8 billion. 1.5 million54,141
India5.3% (2018)Wage support and employment provision to low-wage workers (0.5 percent of GDP).N/A10,581,837
Russia4.5%Standard unemployment benefit to equal the minimum wage for five months; the minimum unemployment benefit to be tripled until end-August; and eligibility to be extended by 3 months.N/A3,612,800
Kazakhstan4.8%KZT 1.8 trillion is allocated to support employment under an “Employment Roadmap” program.N/A215,947
China5.2%An estimated RMB 4.8 trillion (or 4.7 percent of GDP) of discretionary fiscal measures have been announced for all.N/A99,026
Thailand0.7%At least 9.6 percent of GDP or THB 1.5 trillion approved for all effected party.N/A12,594
Singapore3.1%Amount of about $100 billion issued for all and The support of up to $700 per month for three months in2021 will be provided to individuals who lost jobs.N/A59,127
Qatar0.1% (2018)The fiscal support package for all is expected to reach QR2.1billion (0.4 percent of GDP) in 2020. N/A147,504
Philippines2.2%PHP 205 billion cash aid program (1.1 percent of 2019 GDP) for low-income households and almost PHP 57 billion social protection measures for vulnerable workers (0.3 percent of 2019 GDP).More than 18 million502,736
South Korea3.7%Employment support (1.5 trillion), support for low income households (0.4 trillion).N/A73,115
Japan2.4%Protect employment and businesses (15.8 percent of 2019 GDP) and later expaned the work subsidies.N/A334,328
New zealand4.1%Announced income relief payments to support people who lost their jobs (NZ$0.6 billion or 0.2 percent of GDP).N/A1,906
Hong Kong3.0%Employment subsidy scheme (HK$80 billion or 2.9 percent of GDP) and temporary job creation (HK$6 billion or 0.2 percent of GDP).N/A9,721

In total, about 5.7% of the total workers have access to unemployment insurance during this pandemic across those countries. Based on the analysis, cash aid is the direct method of supporting the unemployed, while simple, flexible incentives for the employer to keep its employees seems to be the best way to prevent mass unemployment according to Jonathan Rothwell.

So we wondering that is there a better way to prevent such mass disaster in the next round (and I wish the next round will never come)? From the government side, it needs to build a more resilient system to overcome such situations that it is not only acted upon timely but also allocates resources strategically. First, the government should be open and transparent to build trust with its own people, so that people can cooperate with the government and achieve the maximum impact. Monetary and non-monetary support is necessary to reach the needy people and businesses so that resources are aligned with the needs. On the other hand, industry, business and company should build their ability to adapt to changes quickly and the employee should alter their attitudes toward employment and also have a sense of self-protection in terms of losing jobs.

Ideal advice could sum up above, but what if we could set up a ‘Universal Fund’ for emergencies worldwide, each country would contribute their certain amount of GDP based on their economy, and the citizens of any country could apply for the subsidy according to the state of emergency. Does this ‘Universal Fund’ feel more like WHO or UN? Yes, but both of them are not inclusive enough for all countries on the earth because of certain politics. In a nutshell, this pandemic has hit so many places in our human history and it will never recover easily, so we should be prepared and alert in the future.

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Insight

Does technology make society exclusive or inclusive?

Technology has been well developed in many sectors and we all have been using it in our daily life, such as mobile phones, computers and even in the counter payment process. When technology is more and more advanced, then does it mean our life is getting more and more convenient or it’s another way around, especially during covid-19?

Krugman once said that the inrush of technology in today’s society, which is increasingly moving towards digitization in its numerous spheres (information, communication, social relations, leisure, education, and economy, etc.) is producing what several authors have called “a new industrial revolution”. In our human history, we have been through the twice industrial revolution, the time we are living now could be the third, which is the technology-driven digitization revolution. Based on history, there are always dramatic changes along with revolution, changes in the production, merchandise, working style, daily life, communication etc. Right now, we can feel the changes most evident especially during this pandemic time, where people’s life has been restricted but rely on technology and digitization.

Since the pandemic started, the school has been shut down for safety reasons, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom, and students begin to have classes at their homes through the internet and computers. Then how about those students who cannot afford to buy computers and pay for internet fees? The answer is clear that the help is limited even after the government has distributed the subsidy. According to a questionnaire of 597 families conducted by the Society for Community Organization in Hong Kong in August 2020, 40.2% of the children said that they lacked internet computers at home and needed to rely on their parents’ mobile phones for class. About 47% of the children said they had no printers and therefore could not print their assignments. In addition to hardware, the network is also a major problem-about 36% of the respondents said that there is no broadband installed at home or insufficient data and Internet speed to attend classes. Similarly, in America, about one in four eighth-graders who are poor do not have a desktop computer or laptop (23.7%), and almost one in three (29.4%) do not have a tablet—which are essential if students are to be able to follow instruction online. Indeed, 7.0% of eighth-graders who are poor do not have home internet, the other essential instrument for remote study. In contrast, only 7.7% of non-poor students lack a desktop or laptop computer, and only a tiny fraction of non-poor students (1.6%) are without internet access, reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2017. In this year, a Los Angeles Times survey of 45 Southern California school districts found profound differences in distance learning among children attending school districts in high-poverty communities.

The significant gap between those from privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds can be found in so many other countries, especially in the poor and developing countries where the resources are scarce. As a result, education has been changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning caused by the pandemic. It has distracted students’ school life forever and it will shape future education differently.

A similar situation can be found in the elderly, who are less technology-focused and lack digitization knowledge no matter before, during, or after covid-19. In China, since the pandemic spread all over China, the government has issued a health OR code to track each and every one. Refer to Wikipedia, the health code is an application used as a personal electronic pass. Applicants can automatically generate a QR code by filling in personal information, health status, travel history, place of residence, and whether they have been in contact with suspected or diagnosed pneumonia patients, etc., to automatically generate a QR code with three colors of red, yellow, and green, and dynamically display the personal epidemic risk level. As of April 2020, more than 200 cities in mainland China have launched the “health code” based on the Alipay platform, and the epidemic prevention health code based on the Tencent platform has landed in nearly 20 provincial administrative regions, covering more than 300 cities and counties.

For the elderly, they often rely on their children to generate the code for them, but some still don’t have one. In August 2020, an elderly man in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, was rejected by a bus driver because he did not have a smartphone and could not scan his health code. Similarly, Wu Xianzhi, who lives in Guojiapu Street, Changde, Hunan, has been suffering from bronchitis for more than ten years, but he has postponed the plan for medical treatment because he heard that the hospital was strictly managed by accessing through the health OR code during the epidemic but he did not have such code.

There’s no much space for the elderly in digitization. One video went viral recently in China in November 2020, an elderly woman went to pay medical insurance under heavy rain, but when she reached there, the staff told her that ”we do not accept cash and you can either call a relative or pay on your mobile phone”, and the video caught the elderly being at a loss. Imagine if you were that old lady and how you would feel. Chinese people are now getting used to paying with their phones, virtual money, and are leading the way in this field, with many other countries likely to follow. But as the nation goes cashless, tens of millions of older people are being left behind, with state media repeatedly reporting on the nightmarish experiences they face because of their difficulties navigating a smartphone from the SCMP. The world is aging and if we design things that leave the elderly behind, then we will be left behind as well when we are old. Technology and digitization is the breakthrough and truly make our lives convenient, but we should also not erase the old way of interacting and communicating.

If the world and each and everyone has the same level of technology or digitization literacy and access, then it is definitely making the world inclusive and equal, but we are not living in the perfect world. In a nutshell, technology has separated people into different categories and levels, while this pandemic is a magnifier that magnifies the existing problems with technology so that we can see the extremes. Hence, technology alone cannot make society inclusive, but to design for different people with different backgrounds, and embrace different approaches.

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Why do people not prefer free masks in Hong Kong?

With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading all over the world in late December 2019 according to some sources, we humans began to fight it out with disposable face masks – some even wearing homemade and other kinds of masks. People have started to wear face masks every day when they are out and the mask market, of course, has surged and is now playing the role of a necessity. Gathered by Wikipedia, about 95% of the world’s population lived in countries that recommend or mandate the use of masks in public during the pandemic, which means the biggest ever market for face masks and face mask shortages also occurred at the same time, especially in poor countries, where resources are limited.

However, in Hong Kong, this rich region, also underwent a serious shortage of face masks at the beginning of 2020, which led critics to blame the government’s inaction on its inability to meet its own people’s needs. Later, in May 2020, the government announced that it would be sending over to citizens free reusable face masks led by the Bureau of Innovation and Technology, and the first round of epidemic prevention and anti-epidemic funding has amounted to approximately US$800 million. The mask is made of copper, known as the “copper core anti-epidemic mask”, the English name is CuMask, and every resident with a Hong Kong ID card is eligible for this mask. What else? The mask has two layers of copper cores to protect against bacteria and meet the ASTM F2100 level of protection. After cleaning, the mask can be used continuously for 60 times.

創科局聯同香港紡織及成衣研發中心介紹向市民派發「CU Mask」可重用口罩。 李睿哲攝(Pix By : Eugene Lee) 2020/05/05 港聞

Apparently, this mask combines with high-tech and also fills the gap in mask shortages, especially for those underprivileged households since it’s free. In the first round, the government has prepared 30 million masks for all Hong Kong citizens, and indeed finally the online registration system of “Copper Core Anti-epidemic Mask+™” received more than 830,000 registrations, covering a total of nearly 2.29 million people according to Mingpao news. For the second round in mid-September 2020, these masks covered the recipients from the first round and also those who weren’t registered in the first round, and the relevant department clarified specifically that there was no release of copper-containing substances in this round. However, none of the sources mentioned how many masks had been issued for the second round till now.

It seems that the Hong Kong people are supportive of these masks, even though the ratio is rather small overall. However, we can see only a few people wearing it on the street, approximately 1 out of 1000 people wearing it, and normally elderly and domestic helpers wearing it. So what happened? This phenomenon leads to my research question: why were so many people registered for it but not wearing it at all, and what are the reasons behind this?

Credit to https://twitter.com/healthconnecthk/status/1257779980987174912

Based on multiple sources of data and combined with qualitative interviews online, we gathered opinions from 30 different people in the Facebook group and also messages from the people who shared their opinions. We have summarized the possible reasons below for your reference:

1. The hidden reason could be politics and distrust with the government, since HK has witnessed the biggest social movement in 2019 and has aroused people’s hatred when it comes to the government, so people rarely trust the government since then. There are several points that the public has listed on this issue: (1) The timing of this mask was wrong, they argued that the government should have acted upon it sooner and quicker and they blamed this on the government’s inaction. (2) The entire process for CuMask production was not open and clear, and the expenditure was not trustworthy. The public blamed it on a waste of money from taxpayers. (3) People have doubts about the copper material, since it’s not a mature technology and it may cause some health problems, and also the efficiency in preventing the virus. (4) The logistics of this delivery may increase the burden for the deliveryman of the post office, and there are better and alternative ways to arrange the logistics. (5) Privacy concerns are always the biggest concern for HK people, since they have to put their phone numbers and addresses in registrations that they don’t know how the government will use their information for. Interestingly, based on my research, I also found that people symbolize these masks as a sign of support for the government, so people don’t wear them as a sign of dissatisfaction with the government. Then this mask has become a battle symbol that lies with the government and its own people.

Credit to https://medium.com/@lindennui/how-art-makes-the-social-movement-in-hong-kong-leaderless-7c8c0e5e2685

2. The size of the mask is either too big or too small, especially for women. The government prepared three different sizes for this mask, but it’s based on age, not personal preference, so most people have no choice but to get the default one. This is for usability reasons (whether they’re suitable or usable for them), and people will not choose clothes that are too big or small either, let alone to wear them, so it applies to masks as well.

Credit to https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202005/05/P2020050500692.htm

3. Breathing problem: This mask is made of six layers of functional materials, two of which are specially made with small quantities of copper, together with the multi-layer structure. With as many as six layers, it actually causes breathing problems, especially in the summer. The outside temperature was 35 °C (95 °F) in May 2020 in HK, so people would rather choose to wear the disposable surgical masks to keep their faces cool. And since the size is a problem, breathing can be even harder when it is too big or too small.

Credit to https://www.qmask.gov.hk/en/about/

4. Last but not least, people dislike the design of this mask, and surprisingly, this is the one that people have mentioned the most. Most people think this design is too ugly that they refuse to wear it outside; how so? The appearance of this mask looks like either underwear or a bra, and I doubt that the relevant departments have ever taken this into consideration. There are sacrifices when it comes to the free stuff, but considering this wide operation that could cover several million people, the look and design should be a major concern. Comparatively, there are several local mask companies who put design and beauty into their masks and produce nice-looking and fashionable masks, so people don’t want to wear the ugly ones when there are other options. You may refer it below.

CuMask image Credit to online
Credit to masklab website

Those are the major reasons why people do not prefer wearing the free masks in HK, and there’s one person who has also mentioned that some places won’t let people in if they are wearing the gov’t mask or any other masks aside from surgical, which we cannot find any evidence or reports on this, so please notify me if you have any. We can see that the reasons vary from ideology to usability issues, and that this is not just a one-factor result, but all other factors intertwined. I have to say that this reusable idea is good, and it’s adored by a few people as well, but the government could do much more to better meet the needs of the people who are using it.

Overall, aside from the government side, we can resolve these issues with a design thinking approach, where we make the most use of the materials and produce the most desirable masks for the public. The whole process can be slow and fast, and it all depends on the actor’s attitude and willingness to take on the role. If there’s a third or fourth batch after that the government has distributed the second batch of the same masks, which remains the same problem, then we hope the government can take those above factors into consideration, listen to the people, design for them and serve them well.

Moreover, the limitation of this research is that the sample size is small and the source of the sample size is single (not diverse), so a further study could improve on this point from a more academic perspective. Lastly, we thank those who generously and openly shared their opinions on this research question and contributed their thoughts to this discussion.

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Categories
Insight

We need to rethink ‘jobs’ in the social organization now!

It has to clarify that here by quoting social organizations are those entities that run their ‘business’ with a clear social mission and social impact, which includes not-for-profit organizations and also social businesses. It is not difficult to understand that jobs in social organizations are like any other jobs out there, with strict organizational rules, a hierarchy of organizational structure, job competition, and also responsibilities and duties alongside. But have you ever wondered if jobs should be done differently in social organizations? and if so then how can we do it differently?

Some of the reasons why should we rethinking jobs in social organizations are listed below:

  1. Higher turnover also exists in social organizations, which has more potentially negative implications for organizational effectiveness and overall well-being than its counterparts. According to Whelan (2002) on a survey where 42 phone interviews with Executive Directors was conducted, and the result showed that 8% of positions were vacant, and 30% were vacant four months or longer, with 24% of the vacancies being management positions. The study also found that 26% of the non-profits held on to underperforming staff and 22% postponed or canceled programs because of vacant positions. And Stefanie Gause, Altus Dynamics found in Child Welfare Services alone, the turnover was 24.26% in 2016 in America. 
  2. Huge gaps in wages and benefits can be identified between social organizations and others. It is understandable that employees earn less money than other sectors do as the organization has to prioritize money over ‘helping people’, otherwise, the public would criticize the hidden agenda of one social organization. One essay reported that compared to private sector employees, public sector employees, they indeed, attach less importance to career development opportunities and financial rewards promises in their concerned psychological contracts, and perceive these promises as less achieved.
  3. Employees in social organizations are motivated by other inducements analyzed from several studies of employees. It is reasonable to argue that people come with a strong social mission and vision to work in a social organization, and thus salary or other benefits are not their main concern. But this is totally different than it is in the private sector, where people chase after money and indeed their salary numbers can be much higher along with other benefits.
  4. Working at unusual times is the norm in social organizations, at least in Asia. There is no data showing the percentage of irregular working hours in social organizations, but based on our findings after checking up the job description, we found out that at least 40% of organizations require work at unusual times, and none of them have mentioned compensation for overtime. Another study shows that roughly 10 percent of the workforce is assigned to irregular and on-call work shift times in private sectors and 30% of them get paid, let alone in social organizations. After all, social organizations have to provide services during public holidays, usually weekends and other holidays, especially for those organizations dealing with children and family issues.

Humans are a crucial asset to social organizations, as are many other sectors. Given the hard facts shown above, we firmly believe we should rethink jobs in social organizations, to compensate for the fact that high turnover rates can lead to severe consequences, lower rates of salary and other benefits, usually working at irregular times and etc. Rethinking employment is not only about giving you a better reason to choose and to stay but also about long-lasting change both individually and systematically.

I have listed the following feasible constructive suggestions for rethinking::

  1. The system decides the structure. We should change the workplace structure from a hierarchy to a flat one. One guide clearly lists eight disadvantages of hierarchy structures, and two of them are the disconnect of employees from top-level management and the lack of autonomy that can cause strain on employee management relationships. The relationship is more desirable in social organizations, hierarchy structures impede it internally. However, a flat structure is constructed in a way that employees have a right to say and can be involved in the decision-making process to make changes. It removes excess layers of management and unnecessary procedures to improve the coordination and speed of communication between employees. Except for a flat structure, Holacracy is a more innovative structure, find out more here.
  2. Rethinking jobs/employment as apprenticeship/mentorship. We can tell there are differences between jobs/employment and apprenticeship/mentorship, even though both terms state that you work in a place and learn, and yet the mindset is significantly different among them. When it comes to apprenticeship/mentorship, there is one more layer of the relationship between two people, and work is not only about tasks and getting the job done, but also human connections to make each other a better person, while relationships are a missing part inside the term of ’employment/jobs’. Change mindsets and make jobs more humane, at least begin with social organizations.
  3. Leadership should combine with empathy. As we demonstrated in our study, employees receive less monetary benefits and work at unusual times in social organizations. So it is necessary for leaders to be more empathetic and foster a more genuine relationship, to fill the hole of monetary benefits, and turn the relationship into one of the nonmonetary benefits. It is assumed that employees are much more emotional and touchable as they choose to work in a workplace with a strong social mission, hence we should have tapped into their emotional layers to help them achieve their goals. Moreover, humans are emotional animals that need social recognition and social interaction, by giving employees more emotional properties since they choose mission over money. Otherwise, it will take them no more than a second to leave when they have to deal with ‘evil managers’.
  4. Nurturing entrepreneurship in the workplace is important in social organization. Personal development and professional development are both critical to the success of a social organization, unlike in the private sector where professional development is a major focus for the organization. Entrepreneurship is about having a systematic perspective, initiating changes, taking control of your work, engaging with the system actively, innovating ideas and etc, and most importantly, self-growth and change from inside out. Adopting entrepreneurship is an obligation and responsibility of an organization, one that changes from top to bottom and ultimately ensures that the social mission is aligned and achieved among employees.

Those are the major changes we want to see in social organizations, and these changes could also be taken as ways to retain employees. Social organizations are struggling to survive, just like their own employees. So we should create a workplace, where people are willing to work, contribute and enjoy a better life regardless of their salary and irregular work time; where people can achieve their goals and aims, no matter what obstacles they may face; where people can devote themselves and receive a better self years later; where people’s lives are meaningful and are productive in their own lives.

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Categories
Insight

Our future is poorly designed, so we need to redesign

What is our human future? and what can we do to make our future brighter? As an individual, we all longing for a successful life in the near future and it is a universal truth, while then how about as human beings? have you thought about future life for the whole human beings? If you have not, then you should start to think now and join this movement of designing for yours and our future as a human.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Nature&environment is the essential substance for us to breath, live and survive, and yet our human has done vicious damage to our only one nature, the damage that cannot recover in a short time, the damage that is constantly evolving and no widely accepted solutions, the damage that will harm ourself eventually in return. The good news is that there are some activists and environmental scientists have initiated the environmental sustainability movement to promote an environment-friendly approach, especially in the business and NGO areas.

Nature and environment is a big topic, and as complex as any systems. To better understand all of the forces in the system-including people, social norms, trends, institutions, laws, politics and natural resources itself, you need a system thinking or system practice first. The most important thing is for any kind of business, embrace the system thinking, start with listening actively to your beneficiaries and gain insights from. To further this approach, we need to analyze the factors that enable and inhabit environmental sustainability development, and what are the causes and what results those factors have lead to? A thorough understanding and analysis are needed for this part, within those factors, identify the loop in between, which they are intertwined and interacted. The loop could be vicious, virtuous and stabilizing, in order for you to find a leverage point where a modest intervention can create an outsized impact on the environment.

Credit to Ellen Macarthur Foundation Youtube channel

As guided by Acumen, a small action in one system can produce big changes in the end, and those small actions contain subsidies, taxes, incentives, punishment and constrain, where you could leverage the system to change. However, you should be careful when you apply any interventions, in case some may cause another problem which makes it even worse.

If your business does care about environmental sustainability, and we invoke more and more business to care, then there are some tips for you quoted by the ‘Circular Economy’. 1. If you have successfully implemented small actions to make your business environmentally-friendly, then you could rent or lease access to your solutions, instead of selling it as a product, this is a way to maximize your impact on the business and the environment as well; 2. When you design a product, try to extend the product’s life to reduce the waste and make the most use of your product; 3. Choose inputs that are recyclable or biodegradable or use waste materials to design your product; 4. Close the loop. We all familiar with the ‘take-make-dispose’ pattern of resource consumption, which causes uncountable waste around the world, while your business should break the loop and apply the ‘take-back’ pattern; 5. Think locally to reduce the waste associated with transportation, start from finding your materials locally and making your product closer to your customers.

Credit to Ellen Macarthur Foundation Youtube channel

Our future was poorly designed, and it needs a redesign from you and us, not only for ourselves but also for our next generations and the beautiful nature. And yet business holds the power of change, and so does to social business. The environment has associated with so many aspects of our life, the breathing air, the drinking water, the burning energy and so on, so design for the environment is design for our future. This article was edited by the original author without their consent, and should not be reproduced.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com
Categories
Social problems

The overall status of elderly poverty

Have you ever seen an elderly walking on the street without a proper dress and even doing labor work dragging their heavy body, this is the true portrayal of a poor elderly in our society, which should not happen to them when they are old. In Chinese, we say ‘老有所養,老有所依,老有所樂,老有所為’, which literally mean providing the elderly with a sense of security, a sense of belonging, a sense of worthiness and enable the elder to enjoy their life, which is our tradition mindset from our ancestors but the elderly are suffering from their daily life nowadays, let alone enjoying their life, unfortunately, the number of poor elderly is increasing worldwide. Overall, That’s why I concern this issue and want to create a system to mitigate their sorrow. If you also wish to change the situation then please share with me your insights.

Poverty is a major threat to the well-being of older persons

extracted from the UNDESA

In most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age. UNDESA study reported that on average, the poverty level for persons among the over-75 years of age, across OECD countries is 14.7 percent, which is 3.5 percent higher than the poverty level among 66 to 75 year-olds. The “oldest-old”, aged 80 years or over, are less able to work than younger older persons; are more likely to have spent their savings, and are most in need of age-appropriate health and long-term personal care services. Globally, the number of the “oldest-old” is growing even faster than the numbers of older persons overall. As a result, the share of people aged 80 years or over is increasing virtually everywhere and is projected to more than triple to 434 million by 2050, when two out of three oldest-old persons will live in developing regions. And the older women are at much greater risk than older men worldwide.

Credit to World Social Protection Report

We can see that the two-thirds of the world’s older persons live in developing regions where the informal economy accounts for a large proportion of their employment according to the report, while workers suffering from the bad working conditions and insufficient labor and social protection. Hence, the trend is showing to us that the majority of workers in the informal sector will face income insecurity in their old age. Globally only 42 percent of future pensioners can expect to receive a social security pension from Ibid.

When I was doing the literature review about Ugandan poor elderly, I found that older people have always lost out when it comes to government policies on social protection and are barely mentioned in Uganda’s national Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) according to Helping the aged in Uganda. And in HK, I also found that one in three elderly Hongkongers living in poverty, and their condition is worse due to limited space, high living expenditure and limited support from their children and the government.

Poverty is a complicated issue, it connects with the economy, population structure, the education, the gender issue and even the public policy. There are so many local or international organizations that intend to battle poverty and I have listed some of them I know personally. World bank is the international organization aimed to tackle poverty worldwide, they work in every major area of development by providing a wide array of financial products and technical assistance, and they help countries share and apply innovative knowledge and solutions to the challenges they face. Oxfam works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. By supporting schools, to helping farmers sell their crops for a fair price, to improving access to people with HIV/AIDS to health care – their long-term development projects are transforming lives. Acumen tends to change the way the world tackle poverty, mainly by impact investing in promising projects and promoting entrepreneurs bringing sustainable solutions to big problems of poverty. World Vision, they are a Christian humanitarian organization helping children, families, and their communities overcome poverty and injustice.

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Nelson Mandela

Elderly poverty is the same as complex as poverty itself and even more, however, when it comes to an increasing population of low-to-no-income seniors, many preventative measures come too late.  Education and retraining initiatives, savings plans, and job creation programs won’t help someone in her 70s or 80s who are struggling just to cover room and board after a lifetime of low-wage labor based on Talk Poverty. We have to take different approaches to deal with elderly poverty, and mainly I think the responsibility relay on the government, to level up the social security net of senior citizens and encourage the pension security, to increase the availability of programs that provide assistance with healthcare and long-term care costs and also reconsider the population policy etc.

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

Organizations are the force to push relevant changes to happen at the policy level. In HK, there are a few organizations focus on elderly poverty, the one is 拾易紙長, it hopes to increase the income of the senior scavengers and enable them to live a more dignified life and raise their social concerns to the government. The operation of the project is to acquire the discarded cartons collected by the scavengers at a price higher than the market price, and then renovate the resources into small cartons, display boards or cards, and then sell the products to different industries such as Chinese pharmacies or event planning companies. Another one is Retired not. They are on a mission to re-invent retirement by connecting seniors with roles that make the most of their experience, training them to enhance their employability and working with retiring talent to enable them to have a successful shot at a second career.

It is delightful to see different movements on tackling elderly poverty, and hope there will be more and more organizations to cover senior’s difficulties, to force the government to make changes that favor those low-income elderly. We all will get old someday, and what situation is for them now could happen to us when we get old if things haven’t changed at all, so we should take actions to benefit our seniors and also the future ourselves.

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