Founded in 2014, MicroForests is a social enterprise that provides trainings and job opportunities to marginalised women like single mothers and new immigrants. By making and selling Sogetsu, a Japanese floral art, MicroForests hopes to enhance well-being of Hong Kong people and empower its employees.
It is revealed that there are more than 40,000 stay-at-home mums in Hong Kong (MicroForests, 2016). At the same time, it is worth noting that people who are unemployed or are receiving incapacity benefits are more prone to suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or even more severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (RAND Europe, 2014). Therefore, it is necessary to provide job opportunities with flexible working arrangements to marginalized women to increase their confidence and sense of self-worth, and to enlarge their social networks (SCMP, 2015).
Through their “Life Transformation Program”, MicroForests equips their participants with various tangible and transferrable skills through professional trainings, thereby allowing them to take up the duties of designing products, hosting workshops, and arranging logistics after events (HKET, 2019). Delivering workshops at corporations, schools and NGOs offers job opportunities with flexible working hours to marginalised women. Their products are inspired by the Japanese Sogetsu school of floral arrangement and they offer a wide range of products from customised decorations to DIY kit for making mini forests. This extensive product range appeals to a wide range of customers, thereby ensuring a sustainable business.
In addition to creating employment opportunities and training, the products and workshops aim to enhance customers and participants’ well-being. The workshops cover a diverse range of themes including as environmental sustainability, social innovation, diversity and social inclusion, body, mind, spirit enhancement and family bonding. The workshops not only serve as team building exercises, they also increase participants’ awareness on environmental and social issues. They also offer horticultural therapy, which can enhance participants’ physical, psychological and social well-being by understanding and reflecting on the life energy of plants. MicroForests also hopes to create synergy through cross-sector collaboration, such as organising inclusive workshops for the disabled where members from the community and business sector also take part, sharing happiness and creativity with the vulnerable and those in need.
MicroForests performed a social impact assessment by conducting pre and post surveys with their trainees. The respondents demonstrated improvements across five aspects, including family well-being, social support networks for the mothers, social exposure, confidence and sense of competence (MicroForests, 2021). MicroForests has also incorporated environmental elements into their artworks, like reusing unwanted metal cans and baby bathtubs. They organised an MicroForests Life Transformation Graduation cum Art Exhibition in 2019 to showcase the artwork. MicroForests’ outstanding effort has earned itself the Certificate of Excellence issued by the Business Environment Council in 2018 for being one of the top sustainable product suppliers, as well as the Caring Company recognition in the year 2017/18 from the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
Mother-in-law dissatisfied with idea of becoming a full-time mum, Novice mother recovers from postpartum depression: don’t want to affect my son because of my condition(想當全職媽媽惹奶奶不滿 新手媽媽走出產後抑鬱：不想因自己停滯影響兒子). (2019, March 21). Hong Kong Economic Times (HKET). https://bit.ly/36Hm1fG. Accessed on 31 March 2021. (Only available in Chinese).
Chan, J. (2015, August 11). Hong Kong stay-at-home mums regain their self-worth through work, Lifestyle, Family & Relationship. South China Morning Post (SCMP). https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1848252/hong-kong-stay-home-mums-regain-their-self-worth-through-work. Accessed on 31 March 2021.
MicroForests DIY Greenery Kit. (2016). MicroForests. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLYTlP7t9xI&t=143s. Accessed on 31 March 2021.
Psychological Wellbeing and Work. (2014). RAND Europe. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273433/psychological-wellbeing-and-work.pdf. Accessed on 31 March 2021.
“What We Do: Our Services”. (2021). MicroForests. https://www.microforests.com/?lang=zh. Accessed on 31 March 2021.