Throughout my tenure at Taipei City Government, I sought to actualize an open door policy and make my office a one-stop shop for all members of Taipei’s global community who wanted to liaise with the city government. I thus initiated the plan to establish the Taipei Innovation Office within our city government, to ensure that our entire institution opens itself up to new ideas.
I welcome the recent media interest in our work since this has been an opportunity to share our vision with a larger audience. At the same time, I remain disappointed by their regurgitation of the status quo narrative. The apprehension about innovation and global cooperation is exactly what perpetuates red tape. This is why I want to explain my push for the establishment of an Innovation Office and the expansion of our global internship and fellowship programs - which I still trust are opportunities, rather than threats.
For years, Taiwan has run scholarship programs to encourage students from our diplomatic ally nations to come to study in our country. I believe that an overwhelming majority of these scholars returned home with a deeper understanding of Taiwan and a strengthened connection to our country. These young talents become great ambassadors for Taiwan, and can also enrich us with their unique experiences and perspectives.
I thought it would be a natural next step to encourage young global talent to contribute to their new local community - Taipei. Throughout the world, government institutions at all levels have the practice of accepting interns. In the United States, for instance, many of the Capitol Hill interns go on to become important leaders of their country. And internships in other institutions are equally important. Once an intern at the Chang Gung Hospital, Dr Zdeněk Hřib now serves as the mayor of our sister city, Prague.
This is why I hoped to set up the Taipei Innovation Office. It could become the home of the "Taipei Fellowship" program aimed at outstanding global youth and international politicians who would bring new ideas to Taipei and also their cities back home. I trusted that these talents would put their abilities to use to bring about positive change in the city of Taipei.
Last year, I inaugurated a pilot program with a budget of 0 NTD. Since then, the team of the Mayor’s Office has hosted trainees from Australia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, the UK, and the US, which allowed for the strengthening of exchanges between their home countries and Taipei. Among their contributions was the bilingual Taipei City government COVID-19 resource website, which proved to be an important asset for our sister cities.
Even if you manage to score 100 goals, it doesn’t mean that you improved 100-fold. This is why it is so important to pursue innovation and improvement. And often, the source of these lies outside of our bubbles.
I can only hope one day soon my former colleagues will recognize the many benefits of pushing innovation in government.