Operation Santa Claus

Hong Kong leadership course helps get corporate knowledge into NGO world

In addition to training in management and communications skills, the NGO Leadership Programme gives participants valuable networking opportunities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 2:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 9:16pm

Victoria Wisniewski Otero, founder and CEO of non-profit organisation Resolve Foundation, never gave any thought to starting her own initiative before enrolling on a course to hone her leadership skills.

“I never had it on my bucket list to found an NGO, but it has always been my life mission to want to do work that is meaningful and purposeful,” she said.

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The start-up idea took shape as she continued to talk to instructors from the corporate and academic worlds and like-minded predecessors she met on the programme.

To apply what she had learned from the course, last October she founded Resolve Foundation – a non-profit initiative that aimed to empower future community leaders for an inclusive Hong Kong.

I never had it on my bucket list to found an NGO, but it has always been my life mission to want to do work that is meaningful and purposeful
Victoria Wisniewski Otero

The alumnus of 2016 was appreciative of the advice and support she gained from the programme.

“The programme has a knock-on effect, a long-term horizon sometimes,” Otero said.

She was one of many young leaders who had benefited from the NGO Leadership Programme. The course is sponsored by Operation Santa Claus, the annual fundraising campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Since its launch in 2015, some 75 individuals from 65 organisations, including NGOs, social enterprises, charitable foundations and certain for-profit organisations looking into social service opportunities, had taken part in the NGO Leadership Programme.

In addition to training in management and communications skills, participants were paired with mentors from UBS and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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UBS Asia-Pacific chief communication officer Rob Stewart, who helped set up the programme, said the aim of the course at the beginning was to bring best practice and a degree of conformity into the NGO world, while creating better links with the corporate world and connecting with the relevant government services.

“We wanted to create a practical programme that also had an academic underlay to it,” he said.

“Once we got the course set up, one thing became very apparent – we wanted to get corporate knowledge into the NGO world. That’s why we set up the mentoring programme.”

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As a mentor, he had worked with about 10 people so far.

“[The programme] is an informal network where people swap ideas, share best practice and talk to each other on a regular basis.”

Programme participants came from all over the world, and included Hongkongers, people from the UK, US and Australia, and some locals who had returned having studied overseas.

“Often you see the mentors and particular mentees or particular charities really hit it off together so that the relationship continues beyond just the length of the programme,” Stewart said.

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“There are a range of practical and academic skills on offer that can really make a difference to the running of an NGO on a daily basis.

“It’s really satisfying when you see your mentees stand up for the final presentation and nail it – really do it perfectly. They put the message across in a very nice way. You can see the pleasure and the satisfaction on their faces.”

Otero believed anyone in leadership, including those from NGOs, should strive to find mentors, do self-awareness checks, upskill and learn from others in this ever-changing world.

For those considering enrolling in the leadership programme, she advised: “Do it because you see your involvement in the NGO sector not as a job but as a lifelong vocation in social purpose work.”