Embracing the Global Stage – An Interview with Lucy Xie

24 March 2017

As a ‘1.5 generation Chinese-Kiwi’, Lucy Xie has led an interesting life so far as a social entrepreneur and digital ethnographer. She describes herself as a ‘typical Millennial in the sense that I place a lot of emphasis on having meaningful experiences and working to create impact.’ And create impact, she certainly has.

Lucy Xie

Lucy first came to the Ministry for Youth Development’s attention when she entered and won the Anzac Youth Award at the 2015 Youth Week Awards. She was instrumental in establishing the Memribox Project which captured the war time stories of New Zealand’s World War II veterans on video. She involved youth volunteers who had little understanding of world conflicts and being a part of the project opened their eyes. This ignited her interest in ethnography, a field which is about understanding the habits and customs of a group of people. She describes it as an area which is ‘able to uncover previously unknown insights that help transform products or services to better serve a group of people.’

Lucy says that while she knew Memribox represented an important piece of work, it was really receiving the funding that validated her thinking that young people have the skills and potential to pull it off. The initiative has had positive outcomes and benefits for lots of those involved.

“Many of the young people that worked on the project went on to start their own businesses or land their dream jobs because they were able to participate in something that not only stood out in their CVs, but gave them perspective on life that led to self-awareness and resilience.”

Lucy decided to develop Mapmo, a knowledge-harvesting IT platform designed to become the commercial arm of Memribox. In February 2016, Lucy received funding for Mapmo from the Minister for Youth’s ‘Opportunities for Young People’ funding. This funding came from the $2m Youth Enterprise Fund launched in December 2014, which largely supports organisations offering hands-on opportunities for young people to develop entrepreneurial skills. Lucy also represented New Zealand in Stockholm and Berlin for two separate digital transformation projects led by young people.

In September 2016, Lucy was named as one of ten recipients of the inaugural Minister for Youth’s International Leadership Award. Selection enabled the recipients to travel to China, where they attended the second-ever New Zealand China Young Leaders Forum in Beijing. As well as attending the forum, the young New Zealand leaders participated in a range of other opportunities in both Beijing and Shanghai during their stay in China. These included discussion sessions led by expert speakers in fields such as scientific innovation, cultural creativity and social enterprise, and visits to cutting-edge innovation and incubation hubs. Lucy describes the trip to China as a life-changing experience.

“Before the Minister for Youth’s International Leadership Award, I never considered China as a place to work or do business. We met with and talked to local and expat entrepreneurs and I realised that not only were they surviving in such a challenging environment, they were thriving and I began to see myself coming to China too.”

Lucy credits her ongoing involvement with MYD with allowing her to carve out a completely different career path which is aligned to her values and empowers her to live out the truest form of herself.

“Without MYD’s support, I would not have discovered and pursued ethnography, and would not have the confidence to carve out a space for myself, and my team. As a direct result of the Minister for Youth’s International Leadership Award, I have been invited to join ResonanceChina, a leading social media and research agency in Shanghai. There, I will have the opportunity this year to do ethnography on a global scale, and facilitate bridges between NZ companies and the Chinese market.”

Lucy has some great advice for other young people about building capability and resilience.

“If you see a problem in your community that no one is tackling, do not accept that. You have more power than you know to solve that problem – through your offline and online networks and the ripple effect that you can start with your voice. There are organisations like MYD that will hear, and support you, if you want to make a change in your community. But it starts with you – know thy self is the pre-requisite for any change you want to see in the world. Only when you know yourself, can you live out your goals and dreams. You WILL be knocked down. Not once, not twice but maybe more times than you think you can handle. But you will get up and you will realise that it’s better to fail and learn now than later!”

Lucy Xie is a great example of how embracing opportunities can catapult you onto the global stage. She captures it well when she says “the more you take initiative to discover what you like and don’t like and what inspires you and feeds your soul, the better you’ll be positioned to build resilience and take on the world. Because we need to see ourselves no longer in the local sense, but a global one.” With an ethos like that, she looks set to take on the world.