Dr. Johnny Hon, Chairman of Global Group and Diamond Benefactor to the UK’s Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme
Earlier this summer the Duke of Edinburgh withdrew from solo public engagements after a lifetime of service and at the grand age of 96. His step back was particularly noteworthy and poignant, particularly in light of some of his greatest achievements – most notably for me his development of the Duke of Edinburgh International Award scheme, of which I have been the first ever Diamond Benefactor since 2016 and with which I have been associated for many years.
One of the first things that inspired me about the Duke of Edinburgh Award was its encouragement of education and learning, effort and achievement, in any and every capacity. This was particularly striking in its ability to complement academic attainment with more practical activity, and this was one of the reasons I chose to support the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, including a wish to bring to the Chinese community a more balanced perspective on the different aspects of youth development and an all-round personality.
As the Diamond Benefactor, I now have a special responsibility to promote the award throughout the Asia Pacific region and obviously here China is the biggest prize and has the biggest potential. I see a great synergy with the country’s desire to again inculcate moral virtue in the society in the context of rising prosperity, as well as a unique, wholesome and worthy way of promoting international engagement and understanding in this task, that is both respectful and universal and always works with local partners. Building understanding is a long-term and ongoing process, but we are making progress.
I believe this significant work will help young people in China to build key enterprise skills, at a time when the Chinese government is actively encouraging mass entrepreneurship.
It will also enhance the global reach and prestige of the Award while further promoting Sino-British relations, which are already flourishing.
Although the Duke has always been adamant that this is a universal not a specifically British programme, something I have found the whole team appreciates and embodies, it remains the case that the British royal family is highly respected in China.
When I came to the UK for my secondary, tertiary and further education I was delighted to see the many programmes in place to support education and learning of all kinds. The Duke of Edinburgh’s scheme was founded in 1956 and is structured to run on the same principles as young people themselves. I see this as supporting the ongoing willingness to try and to learn. Above all, however, it supports the kind of strategic creativity and determination to overcome challenges and adversity that as an adult is easily recognisable as embodying an enterprising and business-oriented mind.
I started my business, the Global Group, twenty years ago, at the same time as I was studying for my PhD in Psychiatry at Cambridge University. I owe the success of both the degree and the business to the way they helped each other develop. Similarly, the award represents a huge opportunity at an early stage of bringing together what will, later in life, be referred to as one’s entrepreneurial skills.
Across the world, a scheme such as this brings an adolescent or a young adult ever closer to the moments that will mark out significant milestones in their life and career choices. The ability to bring the same energy and talent to skills and interests across the board will stand any candidate or budding entrepreneur in good stead to both their peers and their employers.
A Caribbean Prime Minister once told me that out of everything he had done in his life, the thing he was most proud of was his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. This highlighted to me just how relevant and life-changing this experience can be. Boasting a recognisable and highly-regarded award such as this on your resume is an invaluable way of presenting a wide range of skills and will position any talented individual at the front of their game. The award scheme is a clear path to recognition in both self-discipline and business, and in the key intersection of that – success.
That, at this stage, the Duke of Edinburgh himself should be taking a step back is merely a reflection on a lifetime of achievement. He will doubtless be able to look back on institutions such as his award scheme with much pride.
I am personally very grateful for the kindness he has always shown me and the inspiration he has given. I am greatly honoured to support the progress and skills of the next generation, particularly in a way that will surely allow future entrepreneurs to flourish and grow.