Yenching Social Innovation Forum 2017

The Yenching Social Innovation Forum (YSIF) is the flagship event hosted each fall by Yenching Academy of Peking University. It is designed to gather young and innovative minds to share their ideas and find solutions to some of the largest issues facing society. The forum was held for the second time this year, under the theme "Dynamic Solutions for a Sustainable Future."  The Forum had four focus areas: Citizen Science for Sustainability, Green Finance & Technology, Sustainable Business & Corporate Environmental Responsibility and Climate Governance & Policy. One of the most highly anticipated features of this year’s Forum was the two-part Innovative Solutions Hub, an “incubator” designed to allow participants with their own start-up projects or early-stage ideas to pitch and receive valuable feedback from judges with rich experience in business and environmental fields. In total, the Forum convened 34 delegates from more than 20 countries.


YSIF 2017 officially commenced with remarks from Professor David Moser from Yenching Academy, who warmly welcomed our delegates and introduced this year’s opening keynote speaker, Dr. Daniel Kammen. Dr. Kammen is a Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), and 2007 Noble Peace Prize Laureate. He gave an inspiring speech titled “International Partnerships to Advance Clean Energy Innovation and Action,” which underlined the importance of global partnerships in order to achieve clean energy goals.

After the opening ceremony, delegates proceeded to the panel sessions, which hosted speakers from a range of sectors: business (Rooftop Republic, MyH2O, SynTao Green Finance, and Lean In China); academia and think tanks (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Brookings-Tsinghua Center, Global Environmental Institute, International Institute of Green Finance, Innovation Center for Clean Air Solutions, Renmin University, West Virginia University, and the McMaster Institute); and non-profit organizations (UNWomen China, Beijing Energy Network, Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development, U.S. Environmental Defense Fund, and China Foundation Center). 


The first day concluded with a workshop titled “Sustainable Enterprises in China,” given by Andrew Tsui, Co-Founder of Rooftop Republic. Mr. Tsui shared his entrepreneurial experience in Hong Kong along with concepts in urban farming and food systems. At the same time, ten delegates pitched their original projects to three judges: Dr. Chen Dongmin (Dean of the PKU School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship), Mr. Charlie Müller (Co-Founder and Managing Director of Futury), and Mr. Mike Gropp (Partner and Facilitator at Lead With Words, a global communication training company).

On the final day, delegates attended workshops and visited Goldwind, one of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers and power companies. YSIF 2017 came to a close with keynote speeches and the final pitch presentations for the Innovative Solutions Hub. Dr. Chai Szu Kiang, Founding Dean of the College of Environmental Sciences of Peking University and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Foundation, opened the evening with a speech devoted to his global network of Innovation Incubation Centers. Dr. Kiang was followed by a keynote about environmental challenges and biodiversity by Dr. Zhou Jinfeng, Secretary General of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.


The second and final round of the Innovative Solutions Hub was the last official event of the Forum. Using feedback from Saturday’s practice session, ten delegates pitched improved versions of their sustainability projects. Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of Yenching Academy, opened the pitches by speaking eloquently about the role and power of youth for leading the world to a sustainable future, as well as how convening a global pool of talented delegates at YSIF aligned with the spirit of the Yenching Academy.

After her remarks, delegates pitched before an expanded expert panel of six judges: Dr. Chen Dongmin, Mr. Charlie Müller, Dr. Zhou Jinfeng, Mr. Wang Chaoyang (Founder and CEO of ChinaEquity Group), Ms. Virginia Tan (Co-Founder & President of Lean In China), and Mr. Biman Liyanage (Founder and CEO of CirQ Technologies).

Once delegates finished their presentations, every judge commented on the delegates’ performances and gave advice. Then Dr. David Moser, Associate Dean of Yenching Academy shared more details about the YCA program with the audience as judges deliberated. Finally, following deliberation, judges distributed four certificate awards: Most Investible Idea (Taranpreet Singh, India), Best Presentation (Madhav Datt, India), Most Innovative Idea (Tasneem Ava, Bangladesh), and Most Improved Presentation (Sophie Lei, China). All judges expressed their willingness to stay in contact with delegates to help develop their projects and ideas further. With this successful evening and the realization of bottom-up solutions for sustainability, YSIF 2017 finally came to a close.


By Anastasiia Matros, Roswitha Trappe, and Carl Hooks - YSIF Committee