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Taiwan's NextGen seeks to expand nation's soft power

Taiwan NextGen Foundation leading way in policy research, public advocacy

Taiwan NextGen Foundation CEO Chen Kuan-ting. (NextGen Foundation photo)

Taiwan NextGen Foundation CEO Chen Kuan-ting. (NextGen Foundation photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In just five years, Taiwan NextGen Foundation (NextGen) has made a name for itself as a policy research powerhouse in the nation’s political and diplomatic circles.

Established in 2016 by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ming-wen (陳明文), the non-profit think tank and education foundation is dedicated to policy research and public advocacy. The aim is to address Taiwan’s three major challenges: globalization, cross-strait relations, and democratic and societal transitions.

CEO Chen Kuan-ting (陳冠廷) told Taiwan News that while other think tanks, such as the Chung-Hua Institution Economic Research, conduct quantitative studies, he wants NextGen to do more: “I believe think tanks and NGOs have a social responsibility.”

"Despite our small team, we want to increase Taiwan’s visibility in the world, boost the nation’s soft power, and help promote government ideas such as the New Southbound Policy," the CEO explained, adding that the think tank also wants to engage with Taiwan’s liked-minded allies.

As a result, the scope of the foundation’s research is quite wide, covering topics such as social welfare, public health, national security, geopolitics, and freedom of the press. “Basically, any topics the Legislative Yuan needs to be informed about, we will study as well,” Chen said.

The CEO is not shy about the think tank’s links to the government. “We have a close relationship with elected officials. Not directly with the government, but with representatives.”

This gives the organization some freedom, Chen stressed, adding that “We don’t have to worry about whether our work will affect our relationship with the government.” The only concerns NextGen has are whether it's doing the right thing and whether a message is delivered in the right manner, he said.

For its mission, the think tank has adopted a grassroots approach to policy research. “When we invite speakers, we love to provide opportunities for the public to join us in order to understand the reasons behind each and every government policy,” Chen explained.

The CEO said he wants to hear the opinions of the public: "What do you want? What do you want to change?”

Chen pointed out that NextGen has held several panels and forums about Indo-Pacific security strategy with the Chang Yung-Fa Foundation and National Chengchi University.

The think tank also holds monthly Global Taipei Dialogues and organizes a workshop managed by researchers called NextGen Voices. This is an eight-week program that recruits high school and college students and teaches them soft skills like English.

The CEO noted that Taiwan focuses too much on standardized tests and college entrance exams and not enough on improving real-world skills.

During the workshop, scholars ask students to write articles covering various topics, such as diplomacy. “Each week, we invite politicians, including legislators or NGO leaders like Greenpeace, to give lectures,” Chen said. Through this process, the students are exposed to public policy.

The CEO said language is a tool for connecting with the world and expanding the nation’s soft power. It allows Taiwanese to let the world know what we represent and what our values are, he stated, adding that this must start with the younger generation.

Updated : 2021-10-21 17:42 GMT+08:00