Fellow Portrait

Natalie Chan

OWN Academy

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OWN Academy offers a purpose-driven education platform connecting young people to companies with real-world learning.

04. Quality Education

10. Reduced Inequalities

17. Partnerships for the Goals

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East Asia

HONG KONG SAR, CHINA

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Finalist

2021

When meaning is missing, motivation shrivels

As a student, Natalie Chan didn’t see the “why” behind what she was learning. Lacking a clear connection between schoolwork and real life, she found it hard to maintain motivation even though she knew the importance of school.

Natalie wasn’t alone as a student searching for purpose. Around the globe, teenagers feel disconnected from education, suffer stress and pressure around academic achievement, and often attend schools that are complacent or ill-equipped to provide the inspiration and skills essential to a 21st-century education[1].

Although she finished school and took a respected job with Deloitte, Natalie’s early disaffection with the educational system remained. “I was feeling unfulfilled,” she says. “I decided I wanted to re-engineer education and make learning more meaningful.” Her journey led from consulting to teaching to film production and finally to founding OWN Academy in 2016.

[1] According to studies by OWN Academy

I did a road trip from London to Mongolia and had all these amazing experiences. It was a classroom beyond the textbook. I started wondering, why am I so much engaged in this space, when in the classroom, everything is so contrived?

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Democratizing opportunity for young people

OWN Academy partners with purpose-driven companies and organizations to offer real-world challenges, workshop series with industry experts, career lectures and panels, experiential learning programs with industry partners, internship placements, personalized coaching, and an online platform connecting students and schools.

The reason behind all of these, Natalie says, “is to make learning more real and impactful. Our goal is to create an ecosystem where the world is our classroom, every passionate professional can be a teacher, and where projects positively affect community and society.”

Advances in technology have democratized knowledge. “We need to do the same for opportunities,” Natalie says. She cites LinkedIn’s CEO Ryan Roslansky, who wrote recently that “talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not; we have to find a way to let talent shine.” By connecting the most purpose-driven companies with the most purpose-driven young people through its platform, OWN Academy aims to give all students opportunities, regardless of their socio-economic background.

We're not here to help students get better grades. Our goal is to help students find their purpose, so they are intrinsically motivated to solve the most pressing challenges in the world. We do that through becoming the go-to platform for purpose-driven career exploration.

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Aligning purpose with career

OWN Academy provides genuine opportunities that can become an alternative pathway for hidden talents to be discovered. “The key to doing that is to help young people understand their talents and then align those talents with purpose and career,” Natalie says. “Our goal is to build a technology platform that connects every young person in Asia Pacific and beyond to meaningful career opportunities.”

Since its founding, OWN Academy has reached more than 10,000 students and partnered with more than 100 professionals and companies. The company’s next big project is to partner with all the most purpose-driven companies to offer a diverse range of opportunities for young people. Ultimately, Natalie wants to transform education as we know it. “What if instead of solving math equations, schools are solving community problems?” she asks.

When a student has a clear purpose driven by personal passion, the motivation to learn comes naturally. Natalie’s vision for connecting school-based learning with real-world experiences promises to motivate and inspire the next generation of young people.

We wanted to create a company that bridges school and the real world and that makes learning much more practical and meaningful, where students’ efforts can directly impact businesses, communities, and humanity.

PHOTO GALLERY

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