The inaugural Wendy Sarkissian Courage Award has been presented to the Hong Kong based Sham Shui Po Fabric Market Participatory Planning Platform (SSP-FMPPP) at the Engage 2 Act (un)Conference in Melbourne. The SSP-FMPPP was initiated by Pang Jai fabric sellers, their supporters and volunteers as a platform for a joint civil society effort to formulate a bottom-up plan to save Pang Jai from a forced Government closure. One local shopper said “Pang Jai is more than just a local fabric market, it is a place full of collective memory”.
Instead of accepting defeat the group decided they would seize the opportunity to develop a creative hub for nurturing new possibilities. A hall mark of the submission was people solidarity and courage. Ten groups comprising hawkers, customers, built environment professionals, innovators and designers united around a ‘virtuous cycle of courageous engagement’ to ‘dream the impossible dream’ of keeping the market alive. “Not only have the hawkers become a close knit and self- sufficient community practising place-making, it has also been a practical classroom” said one Hong Kong local.
Becky Hirst, President of Engage2Act said “the presenting of this award to Sham Shui Po Fabric Market Participatory Planning Platform shows the depth of the global network of people passionate about high quality community engagement. I’m extremely excited that Engage2Act are able to support international community engagement through recognition in this award and continually through our member’s network and peer to peer sharing and support”.
In winning the award the Sham Shui Po Fabric Market Participatory Planning Platform group have shown how they acted as a community even when the Government continued to refuse recognising seventeen of the existing hawkers their right to operate in Pang Jai. Instead of seeing the hawkers in the intended relocation site negatively, the SSP- FMPPP has played a proactive role in seeking solutions demanding a comprehensive and holistic approach to cater for the needs of these people. A SSP-FMPP spokesperson said “The engagement activities have been inclusive and innovative, always advocating for the rights of hawkers through coalition building and educating other stakeholders the importance of saving Pang Jai as a commons”.
SSP-FMPPP aims to turn a destructive incident into a positive by developing a social enterprise to persuade the Government to permit alternative arrangements in the new fabric market. These include: a creative hub; a maker lab; a site for craft and skills succession; and a local fabric and fashion show room. For the Engage 2 Act judging panel which included the awards name sake, Wendy Sarkissian, this courageous effort helped the award submission stand out from others received.
Whilst the outcomes are still unfolding, the engagement exercise has helped the community around the market to reflect on the meaning of heritage, history, local community, local economic development, nurturing design industry, re-commoning practices as well as future sustainable development. Most important of all, it has been a collective experiment that has united community to develop solutions that can tackle complex urban issues.
In presenting the award to a delegation from SSP-FMPPP, who had travelled in from Hong Kong especially for the ceremony, in front of nearly 200 Engage 2 Act members at St Kilda Town Hall, Victoria, Wendy Sarkissian remarked “In my experience, courage in Community Engagement is mainly a solo activity. Collaboration. So the Pang Jai project is perfect for our inaugural courage award because it exemplifies the teamwork that is needed.”
For further information about Engage2Act or the award please contact Engage 2 Act President, Beck Hirst on email@example.com or by ringing (+61) 0449 190125