How do young people cultivate their international outlook? Even though methods like studying at a bilingual school from an early age, going to an English cram school or watching CNN or BBC every day may be beneficial, language skills are just the first step in cultivating an international outlook. What is more important is to broaden one’s horizons and widen one’s ambition. In Taiwan, two local young people are using the social enterprise model to not only promote deep people-to-people diplomacy, but also to paint a different world map to textbooks in the hearts of Taiwanese students.
Google and Harvard experiences revealed! IOH has built a platform for sharing individual experiences
Before they graduate from university, Taiwanese students have no choice but to follow a predetermined path of education. Therefore, when they are approaching graduation, they tend to hesitate about their future. Can the time it takes them to overcome predicaments alone be shortened if, whenever they feel at a loss, young people can listen to shared experiences that transcend their immediate choices, exploring the world through the personal stories of overseas students?
Chih-Chao Chuang, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has continued to work there, believes that the biggest influence that MIT has had on him is “sharing”. Knowledge and experience should not be a weapon for leapfrogging others. Instead, it should be a tool you share with others to climb the ladder of success together.
At the end of 2011, Chih-Chao Chuang and his partners founded MimiOpen in the US, an interactive video platform that matches US high school and college students who pay to use the service with ex-students who work as “coaches”, sharing their experience of university. The website was officially launched in April 2014, charging US $60 for an hour-long online video consulting service. Coaches from prestigious universities, such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and Cornell University, are currently working as coaches on this platform. All users need to do is pay a small fee to learn about their dream school via consulting, which can help them choose the right place to continue their education without being restricted by their family background or interpersonal network.
While building MimiOpen, Chih-Chao Chuang realised that Taiwanese students also need a platform which can connect them to the global village. Therefore, in 2012, he and 30 other volunteers jointly established a platform called Innovation Open House (IOH). Through this website, they hoped to create a personal experience video library that transcends national borders and disciplinary boundaries. They invited Taiwanese people who have studied or worked overseas to share their experiences abroad via videos. IOH plays the role of “building bridges and paving roads”, allowing someone to be another’s international eyes and ears so that they can explore this huge world together.
In May 2013, Chih-Chao Chuang was a recipient of the 9th Keep Walking Fund. He invested this grant back into IOH, hoping to inspire more young people who feel ambivalent about their future. He also hopes to be able to use the income generated by MimiOpen to support the operations of IOH. Although his work is still in its early stages, Chih-Chao Chuang, who sleeps less than five hours a day, is happy to continue with his passion whenever he remembers that this platform can give coming generations a different perspective of the world.
Transcending Taiwan, ELIV takes you to the ends of the Earth
ELIV is a social enterprise based in Taiwan. Every year, it takes hundreds of volunteers to the ends of the Earth. They build houses, plough paddy fields and plant trees with locals in Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Inner Mongolia, Nepal, Thailand, Yunnan and Taitung, showing the Taiwanese zeal for helping the world.
ELIV’s founder, Kevin Chen, was not an obedient student back at school and his world view has never been based on geography textbooks. Instead, he has gradually constructed his understanding of the real world via experiences like moving bricks in the Philippines, building a piggery in Vietnam and building an orphanage in Cambodia. In 2010, he founded Empowering Life through Innovative Volunteerism (ELIV), hoping that an international volunteering model characteristic of the innovative “relay race” style would encourage Taiwanese people to visit parts of the world with which they are not familiar. The model has not only created new experiences and made breakthroughs in many fields, but has also directed even more resources to local development and brought significant changes to local communities.
In order to bring about real volunteering outcomes, ELIV has also invested many resources into exploration and research in local communities. Meanwhile, it has collaborated with professional technical organisations in leading participants to understand and work on the needs of local communities. Apart from air tickets and accommodation, the fees that volunteers pay to join the programme are also used for programme delivery, including the costs of building materials used to support local construction, exploration-related costs and company operating costs. This model helps ELIV operate sustainably and continue to take its volunteers to all parts of the world to make positive change.
What does your version of the world map look like? IOH and ELIV have respectively opened two different windows for Taiwan. Through their two business models, one sharing interdisciplinary experiences and the other using relay-race style international volunteering, these two enterprises are helping Taiwanese youth construct an international outlook that goes far beyond what can be learned from lifeless words in newspapers and textbooks. With the help of these two enterprises, the “world” is vividly presented!