Tzu Chi’s CEO Po-Wen Yen introduced Tzu Chi's sustainability model during his speech at NASA, aiming to foster more partnerships for the common good. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation | NASA Ames Research Center, USA | 2024/05

From April 30, 2024, the Berkeley Innovation Forum (BIF) held a four-day event at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California’s Silicon Valley. The forum brought together 43 speakers from various fields to discuss innovations in technology, corporate leadership, and space exploration. Among them was Charles Duke, a former astronaut from the Apollo 16 mission which landed on the Moon.

The focus of the 2024 Spring BIF was “to explore the transformative power of open innovation in nurturing a sustainable future.” The discussions focused on the role of advanced space technologies, data-driven findings, and collaborative approaches to secure a healthy and sustainable future for Earth.

Creating a Civilization Based on Goodness

Tzu Chi Foundation’s CEO Po-Wen Yen and Deputy CEO Rey-Sheng Her were also in attendance to give talks at the Forum. With a focus on sustainability, they shared how Tzu Chi has pioneered paths in charity, environmental protection, medicine, and education globally for over 50 years. As part of Tzu Chi’s humanitarian efforts to relieve suffering, compassionate technology and innovation is vital to finding solutions to climate change, disaster relief and food security.

During his speech at NASA, CEO Po-Wen Yen spoke of the partition tents and multi-purpose foldable beds designed and used for disaster relief as examples of Tzu Chi's efforts in environmental protection, humanistic care, and cycle of goodness. | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation | NASA Ames Research Center, USA | 2024/05

With a background in technology, CEO Po-wen Yen previously served as the CEO of UMC, Taiwan’s second-largest semiconductor company. This time at BIF, he spoke on the topic of "Tzu Chi’s Model on Environmental Mission." Opening with the statement that there is unequivocal evidence that Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate, and the principal cause due to human activity, CEO Yen elaborated on how Master Cheng Yen uses compassion and wisdom to guide volunteers to lead eco-friendly lifestyles and inspire entrepreneurs to innovate for sustainability. This has led to various innovations such as the use of recycled PET bottles to make blankets, partition tents, multi-purpose foldable beds, and daily necessities for disaster relief. These efforts not only enhance the spiritual well-being of volunteers but also showcase the economic benefit of businesses in recycling. Through humanistic communication, they advocate for social goodness, shaping the three sustainable cycles of the Tzu Chi model.

Deputy CEO Rey-Sheng Her (left, standing) spoke on the topic, "From Altruism to Common Goodness," a look at how we can resolve conflicts in society. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation | NASA Ames Research Center, USA | 2024/05

Tzu Chi Foundation's Deputy CEO, Rey-Sheng Her, spoke on the topic, "From Altruism to Common Goodness" to delve into possible resolutions for societal conflicts. He cited global aid experiences of Tzu Chi, explaining how love can be used to resolve various conflicts, be it between humans and nature, different ethnic groups, different religions, and even between the rich and the poor.

Tzu Chi to Host November BIF in Taiwan

The speeches by CEO Po-Wen Yen and Deputy CEO Rey-Sheng Her were met with enthusiastic responses at the forum. Scheduled for November this year, the inaugural Berkeley Innovation Forum in Asia will take place at Tzu Chi in Taiwan, marking a collaborative effort between Tzu Chi and BIF. Several tech companies from the US and India have expressed keen interest in participating. The event will also include a visit to Taiwan’s largest semiconductor company, TSMC and include the participation of leaders from Foxconn and Acer. Additionally, 88-year-old astronaut Charles Duke has expressed great anticipation for the event.

The Berkeley Innovation Forum (BIF) and Tzu Chi will jointly host BIF-Asia in Taiwan in November 2024. Representatives signing the collaboration agreement (from left to right): Dr. Srikar K. Reddy, Consul General of India in San Francisco; CEO Po-Wen Yen of Tzu Chi; Professor Solomon Darwin from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, advocating for BIF; and Deputy CEO Rey-Sheng Her of Tzu Chi. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation | NASA Ames Research Center, USA | 2024/05

Welcoming Global Partners to Join Tzu Chi’s Endeavors

Tzu Chi is seeking more support and partnerships to collectively engage in global disaster relief efforts and drive improvements in critical issues. This was the main expectation of CEO Yen's participation in the Berkeley Innovation Forum.

"While TSMC is a partner of the BIF and enjoys global recognition, there's still a lack of familiarity with Tzu Chi, despite all the work we've done." CEO Yen explained. He elaborated on how, guided by Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi's environmental initiatives have fostered spiritual, economic, and compassionate sustainability. He has highlighted the positive impact of these efforts on volunteers' well-being and relationships, backed by SROI (Social Return on Investment) analysis. Dedicated volunteers aspire to serve until their last moments, establishing an exemplary long-term care system within Tzu Chi's environmental volunteer network. Following these impactful experiences, many BIF attendees expressed keen interest in delving deeper into Tzu Chi.

Deputy CEO Rey-Sheng Her (right), with astronaut Charles Duke and his wife Dotty Duke. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation | NASA Ames Research Center, USA | 2024/05

Calling for a Humanistic Approach to Technology

During the four-day forum, Deputy CEO Rey-Sheng Her posed a question to attendees: Is the swift advancement of AI and ongoing space exploration driven by love or boundless curiosity? He emphasized the need for technological development to incorporate profound contemplation of ethics and beliefs. He drew a parallel, suggesting that if driven by "love," it mirrors the myth of Prometheus bringing fire to humanity in darkness. Conversely, if driven solely by "curiosity," it could lead to unintended consequences, akin to opening Pandora's box and releasing plagues, wars, and calamities upon the world. Deputy CEO Her stressed the importance of technological progress aligning with the ethical and belief systems of the Chinese "civilization of goodness." By fostering virtue-based development, we can aspire to create a harmonious world where prosperity is shared and practiced by all.

Story by  Department of Literature and History, Tzu Chi Foundation