‘You will never know if it works unless you try’ and ‘Never forget your purpose’ are two mottos at the entrance of the Trial and Error Lab in Jordan, central Kowloon. The large studio space houses an inspiring range of installations, leatherwork, embroidery, and other creative work–a display of youth’s skills as well as their personal journeys.

Breakthrough’s Lab Fellow Programme provides co-sharing space for young artists 
to meet, support, and inspire each other.

Celebrate Uniqueness, Diversity and Creativity

Trial and Error Lab is a conceptual space and physical studio-gallery-marketplace. The innovative project is managed by the youth and cultural organisation Breakthrough, which has been working on youth community building for decades. Seeing that youth can be uncertain about their life goals and apprehensive about pursuing non-mainstream careers, especially in the cultural and creative sectors, Breakthrough set up Trial and Error Labandits Lab Fellow Programme in 2016. The Programme targets youth aged 16-35 and involves vocational training, co-learning opportunities, and the co-working space. It celebrates each youth’s uniqueness and creativity, supporting their self-exploration, self-affirmation, and imagination.    

Over the last five years, Breakthrough’s Lab Fellow Programme has served over 70 youth. One Fellow says, “While we work on our own projects, we also share a space and care for and inspire each other.” Another said, “I’ve been searching for what I’m interested in, and what I’d like to express. It wasn’t until these past two years that I’ve begun to feel I have found my direction.” It’s been wonderful to see youth affirm themselves and build careers–some have worked with schools, organisations, and businesses to develop portfolios, some have gone on to set up their own brand, and former Lab Fellows share their stories with current Fellows. A community is growing.

The project encourages youth to follow their heart and persevere 
in their career in the creative sector, and in their life.

‘I Know What My Talent Is’ and ‘Give Co-Learning a Go’

Exploring community economy, PCD has seen an increase in creativity co-initiatives, especially with designers, such as co-working spaces and cooperatives. Our partnership with Breakthrough enables us to further consider how relationships, space sharing, and arts and crafts are manifested in community economy practices. We began exploratory collaborations with Breakthrough in 2021 and within a year, started supporting Lab Fellow Programme and two new youth initiatives: I Know What My Talent Is, and Give Co-learning a Go. The Breakthrough team knows that young adulthood is such a critical stage in value formation and career planning–they see these projects as ways to extend the community of young artists, both in depth and breadth, and for youth to further explore their ideas about life and work.

I Know What My Talent Is supports personal growth through reflecting on ways to relate with others and the world. The initiative targets youth aged 18-24 who are interested in cultural and creative work, whether they are current students, job seekers, or employees. Participants join a co-learning camp where they plan and conduct community visits, and then express their observations creatively, such as through collage or photography. In the following month, they take it one step further and work their reflections into socially engaged art practices. Activities have included nature tours and letter-writing.

Give Co-Learning a Go explores co-living as a way to attract and support youth. Living together stimulates sharing and creativity, and creates opportunities for values to be developed, examined, debated, consolidated, and actualised. The project supports a group of summer interns to stay for a brief period at Breakthrough Youth Village in A Kung Kok Shan, Shatin, and to participate in a publishing work. Some 4–6 former Lab Fellows also join the project, staying longer, working and exhibiting there for 2–3 months.

The journey of life is one of challenge and opportunity for all of us, especially youth. In these collaborations with Breakthrough, we hope to co-inspire and co-create through art, co-working spaces, and community building. We hope to walk with youth in their heart-filled journeys of self-exploration and to play our part in the development of Hong Kong’s cultural and creative sector.