Dr Yanki Lee with Professor Jimmy Choo, OBE, Global Ambassador of the Alumni Awards, Hong Kong.

Educator, Design Researcher and Co-founder of Enable Foundation - Dr Yanki Lee

From: Hong Kong SAR, China 

Studied: Professional Certificates in Design Education

UK institution: Royal College of Art  

Dr Yanki Lee is the recipient of the Study UK Alumni Awards for Social Impact in Hong Kong SAR, China, and a UK-China Fellow for Excellence Award, after dedicating her career to improving people’s lives through tapping into their problem-solving creativity.  

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND ACHIEVEMENTS

I trained as an architectural designer and then embarked on 10 years of post-MA research and teaching in the UK, and a PhD in Design Methodolgy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University with the Royal College of Arts (RCA). I developed a ground-breaking study, the Ingenuity of Ageing, involving hundreds of retirees in developing new ideas to support active and creative ageing. 

My work led to a UK-China Fellow for Excellence Award in 2011, and in 2012 I was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the RCA, recognising my contribution to design education and inclusive design development.

HOW DID STUDYING IN THE UK CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR SUCCESS?

My studies at the RCA and the exposure to UK design policy made me rethink my professional role from a social perspective. 

After graduating, I joined the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. Working with Professor Roger Coleman,

I came to understand how design and architecture can transform people’s lives for the better by involving older and less able users. 

I joined research collaborations with Cambridge, York and Dundee Universities and played a leading role in the inclusive design education programme at the RCA. As a result of my time studying and working in the UK, I now have an extensive UK and international network – a strong platform for future collaboration.

WHAT IS THE WIDER IMPACT OF YOUR SUCCESS?

I have introduced over 1,000 masters-level design students to inclusive design theory and practice during my research fellowship at the RCA. As an advisor and judge to the RCA Student Design Awards I helped and encouraged over 500 UK and international design students to execute social design projects.

In 2013 I was invited by the Hong Kong Vocational Training Council to set up the HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research, as part of an international Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Network with over 40 centres worldwide.

Over three years the HKDI DESIS Lab has conducted a series of high-impact programmes, engaging hundreds of young design students and citizens in co-designing solutions for crucial social challenges in Hong Kong like population aging and dementia. This work was honoured with an Asian Social Innovation Award which I received in 2014 and awarded a Social Innovation and Enterprise (SIE) Fund from Hong Kong Government to start the Social Innovation Design Lab (SI.DLab) from April 2017.

By empowering people to confront and solve real-life issues, like aging, living with disability and dementia, and caring for others, I believe we can make Hong Kong a more inclusive society.

Dr Yanki Lee is the winner of the Study UK Alumni Award for Social Impact 2017, Hong Kong SAR, China.

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