It has been quite a year for ISSIA HK! I just wanted to give everyone an update and overview of ISSIA's achievements over the past year and where we're headed!
ISSIA started on a tumultuous, meandering road in the summer of 2019. We began strong and with great passion, but were held back by diminished momentum. We faced setbacks in generating continued interest and school support. Nonetheless, our vision was simple: we wanted to build an organization that is the center of all things 'social issues'. A network, a platform, a community - whatever you want to call it; we wanted ISSIA to be the place for students to come together and engage with social issues, interweaving the talents of writers, artists, organizers, video editors and community-minded individuals into a rich, inter-school tapestry.
Since our restructuring in February, with over 200+ staff members across 40+ schools, ISSIA has grown into one of the largest student-led organizations in Hong Kong. In addition, we have a range of international contributors from the U.K, India, Philippines, Vietnam, Russia and more. We've been featured across a wide array of media outlets, including the SCMP Young Post, RTHK Radio 3, the Ariana Magazine and @pixl.hk. We also spoke at the Hong Kong Mental Health Conference (Youth Summit). Most recently, we have been awarded a HKD$3000 grant by Kids4Kids (AFAC) to expand our flagship ISSIA magazine, with aims to introduce print copies at local bookstores and further scale the wider organization and its projects.
ISSIA is approaching 1000 followers on Instagram, with popular initiatives such as QuizISSIA, Weekly Roundup and a variety of article posts. We've engaged in a variety of partnerships, significantly broadened our local school representation, and have continued to consolidate our 15+ school chapters across Hong Kong. From our flagship ISSIA Magazine - with over 120 articles published on issiahk.org and an upcoming first edition of 95 pages - to our multimedia initiatives (podcasts, videos, surveys); from the ISSIA Youth NGOs Forum to ISSIAMUN and our debate programme, we've expanded into a diverse range of projects - all underpinned by a commitment to discourse and advocacy for social issues.
Over the past year, we've introduced a stronger and clearer organizational structure, with increased efficiency, accountability and specialization. Our departments include: ISSIA Magazine (Editorial/Design), Events and Operations, Outreach and Partnerships, Multimedia (Podcasts, Research and Advocacy, Video Production, Social Media) and our School Ambassadors. Nonetheless, our recruitment philosophy remains the same: we welcome all who share a passion for social issues. ISSIA will continue to be flexible and provide a range of ways to engage with our projects. For those that can commit: a spectrum of leadership opportunities and room for growth awaits.
"The whole is more than the sum of its parts"
Beyond these numbers and 'achievements', I think what has been the most indelible facet of ISSIA is the power of community and diversity: ISSIA encapsulates this notion where people from a variety of backgrounds and diverse skill-sets can come together for a greater good, forming a collective that allows us to do more than any one person. As young people, we will have the primary responsibility of driving progress and advocating for the issues that we care about. ISSIA is the product of this sort of thinking - a mere microcosm of the kaleidoscopic potential within us all as we step into the wider world.
Now, you may be wondering: given the early setbacks, how did ISSIA turn itself around? I think that the answer lies in the crossroads of unrelenting passion and commitment, the goodwill and collective power of those that believe in the organization. However, more practically speaking, ISSIA’s flexibility and adaptability has been a great asset. Although COVID-19 has brought significant restrictions for us to hold face-to-face events, the organization has thrived by utilizing online communication channels, and with the introduction of the ISSIA Magazine, we had found our 'anchor' for recruitment and the central driving force of the organization - all of which allowed us to scale at an unprecedented pace. I still remember when the magazine had started off with a mere group of 20 members - many of which applied simply because they saw an application post on our Instagram page. This leap of faith served as the bedrock for ISSIA and it's eventual growth. As such, I would like to extend my thanks to those original members. Nonetheless, I would also like to thank all those who have joined us along the way. Only through each person’s efforts has ISSIA become the diverse community it is today,
The Road Ahead
The organization has a good foundation: it is here to stay. Nonetheless, there is still a lot to work on and substantial room for growth and further scaling. We've faced several issues since the immense growth of ISSIA including burgeoning bureaucratization and, due to COVID-19, a lack of face-to-face community-building efforts. In addition to strengthening our existing projects, we will be looking to introduce innovative new ideas: we will be exploring a variety of restructuring initiatives and expansion opportunities, involving both short and long-term goals over the course of the next year and beyond. As always, one of ISSIA’s main goals is to foster civil discourse and look for diverse perspectives in attempts to diminish ‘echo chambers’. Local school and international outreach will be as important as ever, but also reaching out to those of different ‘political persuasions’. With the introduction of a Content Strategy Taskforce, we will be looking for more collaborative leadership and problem-solving opportunities. We are also looking to broaden our partnerships with other student-led organizations through our ISSIA Youth NGOs Network, where we will spearhead inter-organization collaboration, generating greater synergy.
More specific goals include: 1) introducing live events (Social Issues Fair, workshops and conferences) 2) more opportunities for community-building 3) greater transparency, accountability and bidirectional communication 4) more engaging, time-sensitive content (quality and quantity) 5) establishing and consolidating long-term relationships with member schools 6) the development of ISSIA’s presence across Hong Kong and internationally (conferences, festivals, bookstores).
ISSIA will continue to strive towards our original goal and build the organization into the pre-eminent safe space for all-things social issues and as one of the largest student-led organizations in Hong Kong, ensuring long-term sustainability and a strong, diverse community of passionate individuals. Let us look forward to an even more fruitful year for ISSIA! Happy new year!
Co-founder and President
Take a look below at some reflections from ISSIA HK's members!
Jasmine Wan (SPCS Y11):
I first learned about ISSIA through a friend. Accessing their Instagram page for the first time, I was captivated by the areas of social issues the magazine discussed. There were articles about climate change, racial discrimination, the LGBTQ+ community and more. ISSIA is one of the few safe platforms in Hong Kong where teenagers can talk openly about current issues without the fear of being criticized, and it emphasises on how every person has a different perspective towards current affairs. I immediately took the chance to sign up for ISSIA, and what surprised me about ISSIA the most was the editorial team itself! There’s this common misconception that students in Hong Kong are simply focused on their studies and nothing else. I myself fell prey to this belief, until I saw the article topics of editors. The results ranged from atomic energy to political debates, and more I’ve never heard of before. The wide range of interests each student has dispelled another myth: Hong Kong students are not as ignorant as they seem. Writing articles for ISSIA is an intellectually stimulating challenge, yet, it is personally fulfilling, and I am honoured to be part of ISSIA’s Editorial Team this year.
Angela Chan (SPCS Y10):
I came across ISSIA through its Instagram platform, and was intrigued by its controversial yet thought-provoking articles on topics ranging from self-exploration, to climate change. ISSIA stands out from other multimedia organizations, since its projects are student-led, and its community consists of student contributors. This was partly the reason why ISSIA’s multimedia content is so fitting for readers my age, since its contributors are largely within the same age group as readers. After discovering ISSIA’s platform, I’ve come to explore political issues like value fragmentation as well as cultural issues like individuality. Covering topics that are overlooked by mainstream media has differentiated ISSIA from other multimedia organizations, and was what motivated me to join ISSIA’s community as a contributor. Besides, I was impressed by the editorial team’s welcoming and proactive approach towards newcomers, as well as the well-organised work distribution. As a platform managed by students, this community is proof that teens are capable of advocating their opinions, facilitating discourse, and is passionate about social issues.
Audrey Yuen (Harrow Y11)
Simply put, ISSIA is an amazing organization and what I love about it the most is the diverse and burgeoning community. I’ve made so many amazing friends here at ISSIA and gotten to know so many individuals from Hong Kong and abroad. I really feel that I belong in ISSIA and that I’m accepted for who I am. This community has really supported me, inspired me, and empowered me during the pandemic. I have really relished organizing online and physical socials and watching the community bond grow through mutual hobbies, friendly discussions, games, and more!