We are half-way through our Social Lab! I’m amazed by all your team spirit and the determination to improve the Shan Shui Po community.

Folks have expressed your encounters and reflections with the elderly and homeless, as well as other stakeholders in the Social Lab and in Medium blogs. Let me share something about my observations in these few days.

Except The Good Lab teammates and Loretta, I haven’t known anyone before. A big thanks to Jos and Wieteke to arranging a time to mingle with newbies. From that time, I felt many of us looked forward to understanding Shum Shui Po and looked for ways to help the needed through storytelling and ethnography.

Most of us come with a social sciences or humanities background, while a few study science or design subjects. I know a number of us knew the event by MaD Facebook page or emails from universities.

Three most important things from our Dutch facilitators:

  1. No armchair policy-making. Always involve citizens, stakeholders, and the system (government departments, NGOs, district leaders).

2. Listen to locals’ stories. Generate ideas from stories, many many stories. Identify common threads.

3. Be open-minded.

Before we went to the street, some of us were worried about how to start conversations with strangers. But it seems to me that we quickly overcame the problem. And from your Medium, I realized that informants were more open and willing to share than I had expected, such us Uncle Cheung’s feeling a sense of loss in his later life.

Glanced around the posts about elderly, I think besides monetary help, keeping them in harmonious connection with others and the society is crucial for the well-being of the elderly. Jamie’s article is an example. Ms. Cheung is more lonely after the grandchildren gets older. And Uncle Wong grumbled about his difficulty in getting a job when he approaches sixty years old, and seemed to refuse help from other organizations after failure.

I followed the Urban Nomad team to Tung Chau Streeet flyover last Sunday. This was my first time to talk to streetsleepers. See Loretta and Henry’s experience and reflection for details.

Without stories, I never know how diverse the homeless’ past could be. Of course there are typical homeless: poor, unemployed or with odd jobs, addicted to drugs. But some are ‘occasional’ streetsleepers, and Tom, Mani and Rosonne even met an old lady who prefers sleeping outside to her public housing flat, because she likes to ‘hang out with her friends and connect with people’!

Thank Clarence the social worker for guiding us. He told us there are factions by race or by affinity, and the NGOs that provides service to the homeless. What struck me was that those streetsleepers have been used to being approached by youngsters. They naturally asked us, ‘Do you deliver meals?’. Free meal delivery have become their part of life. And it was not strange that they are asked by strangers. (Actually there were other groups talking to other homeless people not far away.)

I think free meal delivery may not be a good way to help the homeless, and sometimes it’s quite disempowering. However, the assistance from the government and NGOs is limited, I understand the importance and necessity of providing help from the society.

Sorry that I missed the discussion about common thread and jumped into evaluation with stakeholders and brainstorming solutions. I guess the idea to help the homeless, and the community as a whole, is heavily inspired by Tai Shing from the Open Class. Tai Shing and colleagues have strove for a grass-root flea market every Sunday in August. (It’s a pity that it was closed due to rain last Sunday T.T )We hope that this kind of markets and help residents shop and sell stuffs and necessities at low-cost, and organized by themsevles.

Other ideas like bike sharing and repair, local tours and community media are also good.

We’ve thought of ways to narrow the gaps between the reality and the ideal. We’re heading towards the prototyping stage. Add oil!