PolyU Global Youth Leaders Summit

The Global Youth Leaders Summit is a ground-breaking student leader international conference, bringing together student leaders worldwide to debate and discuss how young leaders, inspired by the spirit of social entrepreneurship, can make a difference in the world. The diversity of student presenters from universities around the globe made the past events truly mind-opening with exciting ideas and projects of community engagement for addressing some of the world’s grand challenges.

24 October 2020

PolyU Global Youth Leaders Summit 2020

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) organised the “Global Youth Leaders Summit 2020” (“the Summit”) online with the overarching theme of “Transforming Crisis into Re-connection” on 24 October. The Summit attracted an audience of over 350 participants from over 10 countries and regions, including Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Japan, Mainland China, Rwanda, South Korea, Sweden, Tanzania, the US and the UK, etc. It was followed by two interactive virtual platforms: a 24-hour “Global Re-connection Hackathon” and a “Global Reflection Workshop”, which were attended by 80 students nominated by over 10 institutions, who displayed innovation and creativity in their responses to the current pressing global challenges.

This is the fourth year PolyU has organised the Summit. This year, the Summit hosted online presentations and a panel discussion around the central theme of “A New Global Landscape”. Three world-renowned speakers and practitioners shared their work and experience on social betterment, and the impact of their work on the community, especially in the context of the challenges presented by COVID-19. Presenting at the Summit were Dato Dr Kim Tan, Founder and Chairman of SpringHill Management Limited; Ms Jennifer Neelsen, Global Response Director on COVID-19 of World Vision International; and Mr Jeffrey Andrews, the first ethnic minority registered social worker in Hong Kong, from Christian Action.

Professor Jin-Guang Teng, President of PolyU, officiated at the Summit. In his opening remarks, he encouraged our young leaders, saying that “the current COVID-19 crisis is massive, and what comes next is profoundly unclear. But as the Chinese saying goes, ‘In every crisis, there is an opportunity’. We hope our young leaders will learn to become more resilient through this challenge and understand better how they should contribute in order to fulfil their social responsibility”.

The panel discussion was followed by the “Global Re-connection Hackathon” and the “Global Reflection Workshop”. The 24-hour Hackathon served as a unique platform for students from four universities in different parts of the world and different time zones to work together despite physical boundaries and foster international collaboration and understanding. The students participated in a number of preparation training workshops on design thinking and empathy. They then produced a short video proposal on a product or a service which addressed and tackled two of the major challenges brought about by the global health crisis – education and social distancing.

The proposals were judged by a global panel of judges from Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Africa and the US based on the potential impacts, originality and viability of their ideas. The championship in the “Education” track was won by a cross-institutional team of students from PolyU and the University of Maryland in the US, with their “Uni-therapy” platform that connects students, and helps sustain their mental health and alleviate stress during this challenging time. The champion in the “Social Distancing” track was won by “Friend-in-a-box”, proposed by students from PolyU and the University of Pretoria in South Africa, connecting children from different cultures through an innovative boxset of games and crafts and stories.

The “People’s Choice Award”, voted for by the participants themselves, went to the “Kiddo Workout App”, proposed by students from PolyU and the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, which connects children while training them to exercise via a workout app powered by computer vision and machine learning. The Hackathon also included inspiration sessions spaced over the 24 hours, hosted by various exceptional speakers from different continents.

In the “Global Reflection Workshop”, students were guided to complete a preparation social research study investigating the impact of COVID-19 in their own context. They were facilitated to reflect on their experience under the pandemic, and to cultivate empathy and understanding across borders. The students also designed collaborative empathy games for the pandemic which will be prototyped online for public experience.

Dr Grace Ngai, Head of the Service-Learning and Leadership Office at PolyU and convenor of the Summit, concluded that, “COVID-19 has disrupted our lives majorly, but at the same time, these disruptions can be our new opportunities. The whole world is now very familiar with this new mode of working together, we hope that our younger generation will make use of this experience, and take this to greater heights.”