Session 1: Making Changes

Yu-Chun (June) Ku


Distinguished Professor, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, National Dong Hwa University (Taiwan)

Since moving from Taipei to Hualien in 1995, Dr. Yu-Chun (June) Ku has taught at university and spent much of her time working with local and Indigenous communities in Hualien County. 

Ku’s expertise includes teacher training, curriculum development, diversified education, community building, environmental education, social undertakings, and program design; many of which she has applied to the contexts of young local community members via various programs. In these programs, youth are given opportunities to explore and develop their interests, and are encouraged to pursue activities that help them to gain new skills, without the pressures of traditional lines of education. 

In 2008, Ku assisted the facilitation of the “Five Way House”, a social enterprise based in Fengtian Village, Shoufeng Township (Hualien, TW) to undertake various business activities with children and residents of the local community with the aim of creating an enjoyable learning environment. Starting from 2012, the “Fengtian Five Way House” has become an unconventional educational environment that operates in parallel with the traditional school system.

Project Abstract

Charity Thrift Store as an Ecological Livelihood: a Case Study of Space of Creative Resistance Construction

Yu-Chun Ku, Hung-Ming Wu

This paper deals with a case study of the refurbishing and operation of a deserted space in a rural area in Taiwan. It revolves around how the selling and buying process in free market gets altered through operation and social network.

In Taiwan, education has long been influenced and dictated by the decisions of the central government, which has led to an overall decrease in local agency. Although there was a loosening of education regulations, resulting in the three waves of specific educational reforms which occurred in 1994, 2004 and 2019 respectively, such attempts to promote the development of educational subjectivity in local areas were largely superficial. For example, the idea that each school should develop a relevant standard curriculum according to their needs had no substance, and instead led to a growing gap in educational opportunities and subsequent socio-economic disadvantages. This case study describes an empowering non-traditional, non-formal, and community-led educational project designed in response to the inadequacies of current educational trends in such disadvantaged rural areas in Taiwan.

Wu-wei Wu, based in Taiwanese east coast, was first erected by local youngsters, college students and professors in 1998. A deserted wooden shack got transformed into a thrift store, a hub for local adolescents’ nourishment, small business where residents in the neighborhood exchange on subjects such as cultural and agricultural activities, thus becoming a spot where micro-economics, education, social work, social welfare and community development may all come together. The past 10 years, Wu-wei-Wu has generated a new format for serving disadvantaged children, adolescents and their families. The focus of the paper: How does a thrift store germinate new social network through new and existing businesses? How may charities be smartly utilized? How may social disadvantage scenarios be reframed? How individual “learning” be redefined and germinated? How may adolescents get inspired on their path of career development?

Wu-wei-Wu is a form of space of creative resistance in active social development, targeting at challenges neo-liberalism has brought to Taiwan, intended to fix problems such as the reduction of pluralism and class gaps and generating greater diversity, appreciations for individual differences.

Informed by J.K. Gibson-Graham’s “ecological livelihood”, the paper proposes scholars should take alternative economical activities into account, appreciating business activities involving social interaction, human beings’ mutual support.

Key words: Diversified economy, alternative economic activities, rural education, ecological livelihood