UNICEF: Get our children involved in novel projects

Chai Hua

UNICEF: Get our children involved in novel projects

HONG KONG - The Hong Kong Committee for the United Nations Children’s Fund, commonly known as UNICEF, has urged governments, corporations and private investors to “co-create” novel investment projects for children.

Judy Chen, chairperson of the organization, said the best investments would be in the health, education and caring sectors for our next generation, to be carried out together without boundaries.

“‘Doing good’ is good business and now we need to do ‘good’ better,” she said.

She made the remarks in an interview with China Daily during the 2019 Asian Financial Forum, which entered its second day on Tuesday.

Chen said people harbor the impression that UNICEF usually works with governments but, in fact, it now has a diversified pool of partners, including governments, corporations and private donors.

In 2017, three quarters of UNICEF Hong Kong’s revenue came from individual donations, while the percentage of corporate partnerships and annual fundraising events was about 15 percent.

Besides large enterprises, such as HSBC and Cathay Pacific, Chen said UNICEF is working with some startups to jointly launch innovative projects, such as cryptocurrency donations and crowd-funding programs, to raise funds.

For instance, the UNICEF Innovation (Venture) Fund helps to finance early stage startups of open-source technology that can help children. So far, the fund has raised about US$17.9 million.

When conducting charity works with innovative methods, Chen stressed that supervision plays a significant role.

She cited a project in which UNICEF and Montblanc co-designed a signature pen with a registered number on each product for donors. The code enables the owner to monitor the progress of the initiative and find out the many ways in which UNICEF is improving educational opportunities for children.

“Though we’re now using diversified tools, the ultimate goal for me is the same, which is to see a ‘zero’,” Chen said, explaining the “zero” refers to no children starving, suffering from AIDS or dropping out of school.

With a professional background in the banking industry, Chen has unique sensitivity for figures and offers insights from investment perspectives to provide better platforms for business partners.

A graduate of Menlo College and Harvard Business School, she was a former banker who had held senior positions in various multinational companies, including as president of global wealth management and investment at Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific).

While she was working in private wealth management, numbers were equal to profit or investment returns but now, for her, it means how many children her team has saved from all kinds of adversity.

Chen also urged Hong Kong to share its experiences and work in synergy with its Chinese mainland counterparts.

“Charity has become a trend on the mainland but it still needs time to improve, especially on organizational structure and related policies,” she said.