Hong Kong | 5-10 & 25-28 September 2016

In September 2016, the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT) ran the second Hong Kong Young Leaders Programme (HKYLP) in collaboration with the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation. This followed the success of its inaugural HKYLP, held in August 2015.

Twenty-one young professionals and managers from business, government and civil society contributed to the HKYLP, which acts as GIFT's platform for cross-sector engagement and collaboration to resolve some of Hong Kong's most topical issues. In 2016, participants were asked to create a structure that would facilitate the revitalisation of Hong Kong's rural villages; after two weeks of classes, site visits, and intense work, the participants recommended a new entity—the "Rural Renewal Authority" (RRA)—to act as the nexus of all rural revitalisation efforts, policies and stakeholder engagement, and which would attract, manage and allocate funds.

"During the GIFT program, I received constructive feedback on my interpersonal skills and my ability to lead and communicate effectively within a team. I treasure these experiences because I learned how to recognise people’s ability and learned to adapt to each individual’s unique thinking pattern. I would not have picked up on these really useful skills if not for the GIFT programme."

Dr. Elizabeth Lai | CEO | Reconnect Limited

"The GIFT programme is an exceptional and unconventional programme that brings talented people across sectors together in making a positive impact to the society.  The programme shapes a global insight and facilitates leadership virtual in participants to cope with this dynamic business world. I would highly recommend the GIFT programme to future leaders from any sector who would like to make a difference to the society and explore thier potential to the fullest."  

Sunny Wong | Manager in Deals, Transaction Services | PwC


Hong Kong, one of the world's most dynamic cities, is in a state of transition.

The city is undergoing social, economic and political shifts, and many are looking to raise awareness of the territory's internal challenges, from rising inequality to an economy reliant on the financial and property sectors. 


Hong Kong, despite being a major city and one of the world’s most densely populated regions, has one of the highest proportions of countryside for an urban city. About 75% of Hong Kong’s land is countryside and 24 country parks in Hong Kong cover just over 430 km2.

There are 77 enclaves on privately-held land within these country parks. Once home to active agricultural and trading communities, mass emigration from the 1950s onwards and recent freezes on development have led to most of these villages being partially or completely deserted. 


Villages can be difficult to get to, which has limited their ability to be economically self-sustaining. Villagers and their descendents have moved into the city to be closer to workplaces and shops. 

In some cases, the government has resisted further development on enclaves; in other cases, it has allowed enclaves to be developed, either allowing villages to expand or allowing private developers to build luxury housing or resorts. 


YLP participants heard from respected leaders in business, civil society and media.


Group Chief Executive and President for AIA Group.


Undersecretary for the Environment for the HKSAR Government.


Chief Corporate Development Office for China Light and Power Group (pictured center).


Lai Chi Wo is a 400 year old Hakka village nestled in Plover Cove Country Park, in the northeastern New Territories. The village was once one of the area's most affluent hamlets, with a population of 1000 residents at its peak. The area also has one of Hong Kong's oldest-surviving feng shui woodlands and one of the most biologically-diverse freshwater wetlands. 

A collaborative and multi-year rural programme – the “Sustainable Lai Chi Wo Project”  – was launched in 2013. The Project was co-organised by the Policy for Sustainability Lab/HKU (formerly known as the Kadoorie Institute/HKU), the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation and other partners. 

The project includes the restoration of four old village houses which now house a small exhibition on traditional rice farming techniques and display information on the original building methods in Lai Chi Wo.

David Tsang showed participants a satellite image of Lai Chi Wo from the 1950s that reveals the scale of the original farmland and rice terraces. 


The Feng Shui woodlands at the back of Lai Chi Wo protected the village from fires and attacks, and is home to several rare varieties and species of fauna and flora.

Participants experienced making traditional Hakka dumplings in a villager's home.


The HKYLP uses real-world field projects to hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Through meetings with government, community and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions amongst themselves, participants learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views to transform concepts and theories into realities on the ground.

Participants proposed creating a "Rural Renewal Authority (RRA)": a government-led organisation that would act as the central hub for village revitalisation efforts across the territory. The RRA will source funds from private and public sources and distribute them to village clusters. Clusters would have autonomy to drive revitalisation across several villages.

Below are a few slides from the full business plan developed by participants.

Every Global Leaders Programme ends with a public forum, where participants present highlights from their business model to an audience of local community leaders, businessmen, government officials, representatives from NGOs and international agencies, and students.


"As long as key stakeholders do not believe villages can succeed (and succeed sustainably), environmentalists will not allow more activity in country parks, and housing planners will not choose alternate spots for housing development."

From "How one Hong Kong village has adapted a rural lifestyle for the 21st century," August 12th, 2016.

"Lai Chi Wo, a 400-year-old walled village, is showing how abandoned communities in the New Territories
can be revitalised in a holistic way."

From "A New Life Under One Roof," October 8th, 2016.

“The farmland had been abandoned for many years and restoring it wasn’t easy. We also aim to revitalise the community and local economic activities. The primary objective is sustainable development for the village.”

From "The Hongkongers giving our abandoned villages a new lease of life", March 18, 2017.

"Town planning board approves HK$50 million project to restore 12 abandoned buildings in remote Lai Chi Wo. The project, launched by the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation, a charity dedicated to conserving the city’s countryside, aims to revitalise the area and promote Hakka culture."

From "Empty dwellings in 400-year-old Hong Kong village get new lease of life as holiday homes," August 11, 2017.

For more information about the 2016 Hong Kong Young Leaders Programme, or about the Global Leaders Programme in general, please write to us at