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This page is updated on 2006-07-27 12:04
Christian Service News

Issue 51 (April 2006)

Chief Executive's Column
Little Room for Innovation
Chief Exectuive NG Shui Lai

Government agencies and government funded projects usually have to go through a long and detailed planning process. While this is a more comprehensive approach, it cannot respond to emerging needs in a timely manner. The programs are also repetitive in patterns and lack of innovative ideas.

As social needs are constantly changing, the ability to be innovative is needed for services to be able to respond timely. Innovation has been a unique characteristic of voluntary social service agencies. This feature is one of the important factors that makes them play an essential role in social service development.

Unfortunately in recent years, voluntary agencies are facing great difficulties in performing its innovative role. This is mainly due to the social welfare-planning framework in Hong Kong and the funding model of most of the funding agencies.

In the past when an innovative project demonstrated its effectiveness and was needed, there was an established mechanism that it would be discussed and considered for inclusion in the 5-year social welfare plan. In which case it would receive government subvention and become a 'regular' program. Now that the 5-year plan mechanism no longer exists and there is no other planning framework in place, innovative projects become victims of their own success.

Experience shows that a 3-year period is more reasonable for innovative projects. However, in recent years, funding for innovative projects have been time limited to one or two years only. Once the pilot period ends and the regular subvention can no longer cover, innovation will not be able to sustain.

It is understandable that funding agencies may want to support more projects and shorten the supporting periods. But it only makes sense that an innovative project is given a reasonable period of time to implement.

Innovation is one of the corner stones of voluntary agencies. However, the reality is that voluntary agencies have very little room to be innovative.


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