Apr 5, 2017
If you’ve been to a fun or interesting event in the last year in Suzhou, chances are you probably went to one organized by UrbanVillage. The brains behind this unique movement to build community is Junyi Tsai. We interviewed Junyi to hear about the motivations behind and the future goals of UrbanVillage.
Q: To people who don't know, what is UrbanVillage?
Junyi: UrbanVillage is an independent community in Suzhou, as the name represents, “Urban” is the metropolitan environment that most of us are living in and “Village” is the idea of a kind of community similar to people living in small villages where everyone knows each other by name and helps each other out. This is the “Village” we hope to gather where positivity, forward thinking and international citizens who share and support each other aim to have a social impact on the local society.
Q: What was your goal in creating UrbanVillage?
Junyi: I often joke that I created this for the most selfish reasons. It was because I personally couldn't find a lot of activities to do after work in Suzhou and was inspired by other social activities like Internations or TEDxSuzhou, etc. I decided to organize events on my own. The other motivation was my fun experience in co-working spaces in other countries I lived in the past where people gathered together to work, share and communicate. I enjoyed the cool and positive vibe of the co-working and co-learning culture and I wanted to bring that to Suzhou. After 6 months, the community is developing towards my initial wish and I am very happy and proud to see people are collaborating and sharing within the community and it has become an option for people to spend their leisure time together.
Q: What are some of the most memorable events you've organized?
Junyi: We started with a networking event series last year. They were three events where we invited networking experts to share their knowledge and experience in how to prepare for a networking event, how to approach it and how to follow up. From organizing this series of event we established our tone. The sharing culture in the community brings us to so many new audiences who I can proudly call friends now!
The Passionfruit Project is a new addition to UrbanVillage, and I fell in love with this idea from day one. After meeting more and more young professionals and entrepreneurs, we were so impressed by their stories on what motivated them and how they overcame challenges. Subsequently, we launched the Passionfruit Project to celebrate their success on turning their passion into a business or project and to share their inspiring stories aimed at influencing the public. We were very glad to see our audiences and members who were very touched and connected by these stories around us.
Q: What inspired or compelled you to create it?
Junyi: Though I might have started this for my selfish reason, now it’s the support and love from the community members that inspires me and supports me currently. It is the most satisfying feeling when I receive feedbacks from members on how much they appreciated the events or what help they have received from the community or even just a greeting from time to time.
Q: What has the feedback been like from Chinese and expat people?
Junyi: Since English is one of our official languages I was glad to see that the gap between Chinese and expat members is not very big and in general we have a very good mix of people. Generally, people enjoy the leisure events but I realized recently that more and more people are asking for events that can have a more social contribution aspect or influence rather than a movie and wine night. I think everyone that is involved in UrbanVillage can feel the power of this community is getting stronger and with every new member, we can definitely achieve more and bigger projects.
Q: what is your goal for 2017 and beyond?
Junyi: 2017 is going to be great. We are expanding and looking for more and more people to join our team. We will continue our leisure events and workshops and, in the meantime, we are also working on few new projects that has greater tone of social impact which covers topics including the LGBTQ community, sustainability and art.
You can learn more about upcoming events in Suzhou including those organized by UrbanVillage at www.wearesuzhou.com
About the Column
Luke is a mental health counselor from Seattle, Washington in the United States. He moved to Suzhou in 2016 and currently works as the Psychological Counselor for international students at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Though his current position consists of counseling students, Luke also enjoys working with couples, parents and families. Previously Luke worked in the Kurdish region of Iraq and in private practice in Seattle. In his spare time Luke enjoys cooking, meeting new people, playing board games and traveling to different countries.