by Stacey Choe
APC attended the World Philanthropy Forum on 5 September 2019 in Shenzhen on the invitation of Give2Asia, who organised a roundtable session inviting several philanthropists from around the world.
Even though the event was moved from Hong Kong to Shenzhen a month before, the theme centred itself around the social impact of the “Greater Bay Area” – defined as Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. Speakers discussed the long cultural history of giving from overseas Chinese, especially Hong Kong, as a reference point for new Chinese philanthropists to follow. Philanthropy here is seen as a way to unite and bring together the Chinese people across these territories, who all speak Cantonese, and could potentially find more points of similarity together.
But can they? The divide between mainland China and Hong Kong seems even more stark against the context of the unrest on the island during recent times.
The co-organisers of the main event were Tsinghua University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University, China People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and everyone tried to speak of commonality.
At the Give2Asia roundtable on family philanthropy, there were philanthropists from the United States, us from Singapore, and a Chinese philanthropist. The conversation focused on generational wealth and how philanthropy helps to transmit values through generations and to bring the family together. Interesting ideas raised include having Junior Boards (for teens) to give grants, and introducing nonvoting board and committee membership (for young adults).
On a more exciting note, Elliott Donnelley of White Sands also reminded those present to think about the future and what philanthropy could do for people disrupted by technology and artificial intelligence. He stressed the importance to consider how we can work effectively on systems change, and how we can work together to find a more hopeful, constructive future for this region.
Prior to the conference, APC also organised an intimate dinner session with members and guests in Hong Kong. Discussion on what everyone was focused on for philanthropy varied and even their perspectives on the situation in Hong Kong differed.
In this era of polarity, finding common ground has become more critical than ever.