People speaking at SPRC workshop in Beijing

As the second part of the project on Technology and Social Policy, the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at UNSW Sydney and the China Centre for International Knowledge on Development (CIKD) collaboratively organised a workshop on Wednesday 20 June 2018. The Beijing workshop was designed to showcase how Chinese entrepreneurs conduct social innovations to address social challenges in China: poverty, employment, governance in an age of radical technological changes. The project and event were supported by the Australian China Council (ACC) and SHARP research project at SPRC, UNSW.

The workshop brought together researchers from the leading thinktanks in China: Development Research Centre of the State Council, China Centre for International Knowledge on Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and researchers from SPRC and Faculty of the Built Environment at UNSW and Duke University, USA. Representatives from the Development and Cooperation Department of Australian Embassy in Beijing and the United Nations Development Programme also attended the conference and commented on the cases presented at the workshop.

The company presenters include two large real estate companies, Country Garden and Evergrande, and two important companies in digital economy, Tencent and The executives from two non-profit organisations, Youchange Foundation and Shanghai Information Services Association also presented at the workshop.

Panel of speakers discussing and collaborating at the ACC in Beijing

In the one-day workshop, the attendees held in-depth discussions on how technology can be used to facilitate social innovation and produce social benefits.

The workshop’s theme, as set by the co-organisers of the workshop, was to go beyond the conventional themes of corporate social responsibilities and philanthropic donation by enterprises. The workshop explored the new possibilities that enterprises can generate using their core businesses with the help of new technologies. The businesses attending presented their efforts, successes, and challenges.

International agencies raised questions and commented on these activities, with representatives from the non-profit sector discussing how to liaise with both governments and corporations to conduct social innovations. Scholars and policy researchers led a discussion on the implications for policies and research on social impact in the context of technological revolution.

The emerging themes from the workshop included:

  1. What are the driving factors behind an enterprises’ efforts to deal with social issues? 
  2. In what ways are an enterprises’ experiments “new”? 
  3. Are these practices sustainable? 
  4. How do users react to these new initiatives? and 
  5. Are these practices “unique” to the Chinese context?
People speaking at SPRC workshop in Beijing

The workshop offered a good opportunity for attendees to gain updated information on one of the most active fields of social innovation in China and explore future exchange, collaboration, and research opportunities. During the workshop, new research and business ideas arose and attendees agreed that this kind of dialogue and collaboration is necessary to understand and respond to the opportunities and challenges caused by the new “technology revolution”.

As a second part of the event, the UNSW participants also visited Youchange Foundation and Tsinghua University to discuss future research collaborations.

The two workshops, one in Sydney in February 2018, and one in Beijing in June 2018, help to enhance the mutual understanding of Australia and China in some of the most cutting-edge topics which not only inform social policy research at SPRC, but also the efforts made by the Chinese Social Policy Program at UNSW to bring in industry partners, NGOs, academic researchers, policy advisors and international organisations helps to bridge conversations across boundaries. We hope the conversations will continue after the events and the inspirations and lessons learnt through this event can have long-term effects both academically and in practice.