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USRN Pioneering Virtual Boot Camp Launched, Advancing Social Innovations for a Sustainable Future

The first ever USRN Virtual Boot Camp was kicked off on 5 July 2022, calling for students over the world to decode complex global challenges under the COVID new normal and aiming high to apply innovative and impactful solutions for an inclusive and sustainable future.

USRN Virtual Boot Camp themed “Innovating for the COVID New Normal” is a new initiative of the University Social Responsibility Network (USRN) in collaboration with Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation (JCDISI) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The Virtual Boot Camp received overwhelming responses from students of USRN member institutions. Student applicants were requested to present in their applications existing solutions or ideas that emerged out of the COVID pandemic which they believed to be promising to create social good.

Upon careful evaluation, 45 outstanding students from Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Mainland China, South Africa, South Korea and the Philippines were shortlisted to join. They participate in teams throughout July 2022 in workshops and specific sessions for further idea exploration and adoption.

“The emergence of ‘COVID New Normal’ gives rise to numerous social innovations and practices across different communities, countries and continents, serving the unique contextual social requirements. All these creativities nurture the soil for this USRN Boot Camp,” said Professor Ben Young, USRN Co-Chair and Vice President (Student and Global Affairs) of PolyU, in the welcome remarks in the online briefing session of the Virtual Boot Camp.

Professor Ben Young, USRN Co-Chair and Vice President (Student and Global Affairs) of PolyU gave a welcome remarks in the online briefing session of the USRN Virtual Boot Camp

He added that with most universities having enhancement in the infrastructures of digital education and communication, USRN students were increasingly equipped to have confident exchange with others online. “’Online Communication, Virtual Studying’ is a new education model which is anticipated to stay upon the pandemic. Bundling with AI technology, our life style will be re-defined through the integration of physical mobility and virtual interaction,” he remarked.

Professor Young explained the multiple purposes of the Virtual Boot Camp in this new era – to address social issues, to drive social innovations for the unmet social needs, to facilitate a global exchange of ideas and practices, and to inspire the young generation to innovate for a better future. He encouraged students to make full use of the precious opportunities in the Virtual Boot Camp, to stretch the creative horizons and address the societal challenges in common.

Mr. Ling Kar-kan, Director of JCDISI, also invited student participants of the Virtual Boot Camp to be courageous and creative to make solutions, “Only when you can be creative and innovative can the world’s future become bright and shining.”

Mr. Ling Kar-kan, Director of JCDISI, invited student participants of the Virtual Boot Camp to be courageous and creative to make solutions.

While at times disruptive under COVID, innovations bring the potential to challenge existing social norms and drive forward a sustainable future. “You may share your unique experience on the disruption caused by COVID and innovate solutions to help your people overcome various problems. We believe there is much opportunity for us to learn from each other’s experiences and insights,” added Mr. Ling, who advocated for the transformation of inconvenience caused by COVID into opportunities, in the same briefing session.

Apart from student participants, the Virtual Boot Camp also has 11 Expert Speakers and 7 Specialist Mentors from USRN member institutions from Australia, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Mainland China, South Africa, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the Philippines, to share insights on innovations for life in the COVID New Normal. These experienced social innovators guide students to explore and adopt ideas, and design the prototypes for social good.

Students are expected to showcase their idea adoption projects on the last day of the Virtual Boot Camp, which is going to be rounded up on 30 July 2022. Innovative social ideas which can address the needs of the identified users, present originality and potential for scalable adoption, and show promise in enhancing inclusivity in the community will be awarded with a Seed Fund to further develop and bring the ideas into actions. They will be further given an opportunity to showcase their solution development journey at the Social Innovation Regional Forum 2022 organised by JCDISI later this year.

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