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April 2017
Social Heart in Business Mind: An Interview with Alumnus Antony Pang
In the world of globalisation with intense competition, business interests always come first. In such business-driven environment, could our social value still survive? The BUddy Post interviewed alumnus Antony Pang Woon-kei, former CEO of Dialogue Experience and now the founder of The Dots Company, who shared with us his experience and wisdom about the sustainability of social value. Antony graduated from HKBU Department of Social Work and is now running his own consultant company to provide strategic branding service. His ultimate goal is not to make big profit for his own, but to help corporations to survive through the application of social value. Let’s see how Antony makes his best effort to strike the balance between business interests and social value in society.

Reporter: As a graduate of Social Work, why did you decide to establish a brand consultant company?

Antony: Frankly, when I was studying in HKBU, I did not want to limit myself to study in one professional subject, but rather to broaden my knowledge in other fields. So I also took other courses, like Marketing and Criminology, but I then had a feeling that the courses were seemingly irrelevant to one another. I was unable to link up what I have learnt together. Yet, I think it should not be like that. Knowledge can be and should be integrated and be able to apply in different aspects of our lives. In fact, I have worked as a social worker for a long time. Yet, during my time working in Tin Shui Wai, the idea to establish a social enterprise emerged.

When I started up my business, I realized that I was able to use both my knowledge of Marketing and Social Work to integrate the community and business elements in running the enterprise. This experience has given me confidence to turn a new page in my life. Thus, I made up my mind to set up a brand consultant company, hoping to bring social value to the business world. To be honest, I only adopt one and only one method to promote a brand - applying social value.

Reporter: How to build up the branding of a social enterprise?

Antony: I can share with you one of my previous projects when I acted as CEO of Dialogue Experience in Hong Kong. In the beginning, we thought it would be good to follow the market positioning strategy of our European counterpart, i.e. running the exhibition as a museum, but we soon realised that this idea did not work as only teachers and social workers came to our exhibition. The success of European counterpart owes to its culture and people’s enthusiasm in art and humanity. However, the cultural environment in Hong Kong is totally different, even offering free admission may not attract many visitors. We then decided to go with the tide in Hong Kong by operating Dialogue Experience like an entertainment company.

We organised a variety of activities, such as Birthday in the Dark and Concert in the Dark, which was of the biggest scale among all counterparts around the world, in which we invited mainstream artists as performers of the concert. This practice was not common compared with similar activities across countries, but it was very effective in Hong Kong. Of course, owing to the general perception on social enterprise, people thought that our events were simply performance done by visually impaired people; hence we had to make great effort to promote the event. As long as we can make people understand our mission and arouse their awareness, we will be successful.

Reporter: When you provide service to business corporations, there may be sometimes when you have to face conflicts between economic interest and social value. How do you make the choice at that moment?

Antony: I have a motto: “Social heart in business mind”. Social value must precede economic interests and integrity is of utmost importance. I gave up some purely business-oriented tasks when I noticed that the company was actually not willing to help the minority. They only treated this as a gimmick for promotion. It is fair enough for corporations to make money, yet it is crucial to strive for a balance between economic development and the needs of citizens. I would like to convey this message to the business world.

In fact, the concept of “Social Enterprise” needs not exist if companies are willing to contribute to the community. I hope my work is not only a branding service, but also a service to promote social mission to other organisations. I always ask the media not to interview me, but my visually impaired colleagues instead. Dialogue Experience do not treat staff as profit-making tools. We engage our staff in the event planning process, enabling them to recognise their own value. So I think the media should interview them, letting them share their experiences and thoughts.

Reporter: What is your future plan?

Antony: I want to network with more companies and to understand more about their business nature, in order to integrate different business sectors and instill social value into them. Besides, I am now teaching social entrepreneurship in The Chinese University of Hong Kong. I hope I can return to HKBU, sharing with HKBU’s students my knowledge and experience.

Reporter: Do you have any message for the Social Work students?

Antony: Today, our world changes in tremendous speed. We should not expect that we can find a life-long job. We have to be flexible or create our own career. We have to be a man of action, not a man of sweet talk. I have another motto, and that is “Never say die.” We cannot take everything for granted. Every ups and downs in our lives is a valuable experience and we should never say die. We may have to face many difficulties, yet we should put our utmost effort to perform the best in every situation, and only in this way can our dream come true one day.

Our society changes quickly, and social problems even more. Now, the only certainty is change, so we can only embrace it. Students of Social Work believe in social value, but we do not have sufficient training in public speaking to express our thoughts and this is what we have to improve. I learnt the concept of “Community” in the Department of Social Work. I hope students of Social Work can work with and work for the community, focusing on what people need and believe in the value of human kind.

Back to The BUddy Post April 2017

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