Dodo Cheng is the founder of Sharing Kitchen HK, a social enterprise and food production platform that seeks to empower grassroots women by connecting them with local restaurants. By gaining access to restaurant kitchens during non-peak hours, Sharing Kitchen enables women with a passion for cooking to realize their dream, earn a living, and contribute to society. So far, six restaurants have pledged their support to the project by sharing their kitchens with underprivileged chefs.

With a background in social work, Cheng’s early community service experiences in low-income areas of Hong Kong allowed him to engage with the grassroots, who expressed their desire to take charge of the various issues affecting their own communities. As he worked to craft solutions to these issues, he decided to involve the business sector as a way to make a bigger impact. “I realized that tackling social issues is not only the responsibility of the government, but should also concern the business sector, civil society, and community members,” says Cheng. “When people join hands, things will change dramatically.”

Exploring the idea of using a sharing economy concept as a way to uplift grassroots communities, Cheng realized that he could mutually benefit underserved individuals and businesses by creating a “sharing kitchen”, which would provide flexible job opportunities to talented home cooks while taking advantage of underused restaurant space during off-peak hours. Two years on, Cheng has not only witnessed the success of the venture, but more importantly, the impact it has had on the individuals themselves. “Empowerment is key as it allows people to really take charge of their own lives by doing something they love, which encourages self-sustainability,” says Cheng.

As a panelist at the “Dialogue with Social Entrepreneurs” session at the BXAI Summer Program 2018, Cheng shared about the importance of empowerment in social entrepreneurship and how the business and social sectors can work together to make a positive impact. Cheng encourages students interested in the field to pursue their passion for social change, saying, “While social entrepreneurship is often about what you can do for the community, there is also a lot to be gained along the way. You will learn, grow, and be transformed.”