“Ask an Aussie” series: David Willson, The Foundation for Talented Youth
Ever wondered what life is like as an Australian working in Taiwan? “Ask an Aussie” is a series of mini-interviews with Australians doing incredible things in Taiwan.
This month, we catch up with David Willson, who came to Taiwan to study Chinese and stayed on to found a non-profit called the “Foundation for Talented Youth” with fellow student (and now business partner) Austin Yoder.
As an entrepreneur, an educator, and a long-term Australian expat in Taiwan, we asked David about his life in Taipei and work with teenagers and young people. Here’s what he had to say:
1) What do you miss most about Australia, and conversely – what do you miss about Taiwan when you’re back in Australia?
The thing that my family all miss the most about Australia is big, well-stocked supermarkets. Australian cheese is the big thing we miss - especially artesanal cheese shops/makers with interesting flavours like wasabi-cheddar etc.
On the flip side we never feel safer than when we are in Taiwan. Until you experience it, you just can't imagine the sense of security that living in Taiwan provides. It is a fantastic feeling when we get in a taxi after returning from overseas, knowing that the taxi driver will never rip us off and that if we leave something behind, we will get it back.
2) Biggest challenge in your current work?
We are currently working with a variety of parties to provide supplementary education to Taiwan's teenagers around innovation leadership.
Taiwan's education system has a heavy emphasis on rote-learning, however, the modern workforce demands critical thinking skills and creativity.
We run three-day intensive workshops through to full-semester programs in local and international schools, orphanages, rural communities and detention centres teaching skills like Critical Thinking, Leadership, Teamwork and Innovation. We also cover things like presentation skills, story-telling and teach the Business Model Canvas.
The biggest challenge that we usually face is that many parents and teachers fear that teaching teenagers to think for themselves and ask questions will lead to them becoming 'troublemakers', defined by them as being any youth who does not automatically just accept whatever they are told by their elders. It takes a great deal of patience to help them overcome their fears.
We have also been fortunate to have found many people who understand what we are trying to achieve and who can help us navigate these issues. We are always looking for more help though! This is a big issue.
3) Favourite thing about working with Taiwan’s young people, and why?
We love working with youth here! It usually takes about a day or so before they trust us when we tell them that we love kids who challenge the status-quo. At first they are generally too frightened to actually ask questions, but when they get over this, they are full of great questions and innovative ideas. The youth here are bright and brimming with ideas and a strong desire to make our world a better place.
For many of the kids this is the first time in their lives that adults have ever asked for their opinions and actually listened and valued their responses. The look in their eyes when they learn that they can come up with fantastic ideas is something that stays with us and something that they carry with them as they move forward in life. They develop the confidence to believe that they can have independent thoughts of value and that revelation has the potential to transform their lives and ultimately to have a hugely positive impact on Taiwan's businesses and economy.