The Youth Leadership Council of UBI Taiwan concluded a visit to Boston, Massachusetts, showcasing their projects promoting basic income. The delegation, composed of high school students from Taiwan, engaged in a series of meetings with local leaders and organizations to gain insights about Boston’s UBI initiatives. 

The Taiwanese delegation met with former Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, known for the “Rise Up” guaranteed income program; Camp Harbor View, and United South End Settlements (USES), both of which run basic income pilots focusing on families with children. Discussions with these organizations demonstrated how basic income improved school attendance and stabilized living conditions for families struggling to pay rent.

Tyler Prochazka, founder of UBI Taiwan, said the students learned from these organizations to put passion first when designing their UBI projects.

“This trip was an eye-opening experience for our students promoting basic income. They saw how non-profit organizations have been at the forefront of making UBI a mainstream issue in the United States and the lessons they can take for making their projects a success in Taiwan.” 

Boston’s organizations provided lessons for the council’s pilot to help single parents in Taiwan. UBI Taiwan’s program provides 10,000 NT a month ($300 USD) to single parents, tracking their progress through a documentary film. Steve Wei, director of the single-parent basic income program, highlighted how the program has already supported a mother moving into a better job and dealing with a health emergency. The documentary film is planned to be released in 2025, offering a window into how these lives are affected by basic income.

Allen Chen, founder of Lead For Taiwan, which co-organizes the leadership program, said: “The purpose of this visit was to combine education and social issues innovatively. We hope through this educational experience, we can guide students to find social issues they care about and make it their life goal to solve this problem.”

A theme throughout the visit was the ongoing challenge of public skepticism towards UBI. The Youth Leadership Council learned from USES that reframing the conversation to emphasize support for caregivers over the unconditionality of cash could help mitigate concerns. Another insight from the meeting was that nonprofit organizations might bridge trust gaps between recipients and government entities. This sparked discussions on the potential of public-private partnerships in administering programs that supplement UBI, such as USES’ mentorship services it provides for dealing with financial issues for recipients of its basic income.

James Davis, a special consultant for UBI Taiwan, said these discussions were important to deepen the international network of basic income advocates.

“Society’s evolution has always involved the cross-border exchange of ideas, and our team’s trip to Boston exemplifies that ideal. A permanent Universal Basic Income in Taiwan will earn global recognition and restore national solidarity.”

The council’s engagement extended to the government, with recognition from the Boston City Council and discussions on state policies with the Massachusetts Government Asian Caucus. The latter meeting underscored the shared challenges in Taiwan and the United States on funding basic income initiatives and the pushback stemming from taxation concerns. 

Prochazka said meeting the former Cambridge Mayor and current City Councilor, Sumbul Siddiqui was particularly insightful for the students. Siddiqui underscored the administration challenges and impact of basic income programs for low-income families in Cambridge, a program similar to UBI Taiwan’s single-parent initiative. Councilor Siddiqui’s experience addressing the wealth gap in Cambridge provided a real-world perspective on policy implementation for the students.

Before meeting the government officials, the students completed leadership training on the Harvard campus. Workshop activities were run by the Harvard Undergraduate Global Education Movement, with mentors providing feedback on students’ projects and presentation skills.

Reflecting on these sessions, the co-director of the leadership program Bob Lin said: “Having witnessed firsthand the power of education on making social change, I was inspired by how this trip motivated the students to take action on their projects.”

One of the student’s projects included “Buddy Up,” a program that provides mentorship to vulnerable students, particularly those in single-parent households. Wesley Low is a student at Taipei American School and founded the program. He intended to supplement the UBI pilot and provide additional support beyond the cash assistance.

“This trip widened my understanding of the spectrum of issues in the world and motivated me to take greater initiative,” Low said.

The visit to Boston marks a significant milestone for the Youth Leadership Council in pushing discussions of UBI to support families in Taiwan. By engaging with international leaders, the council gained insights and showcased the potential of youth-led initiatives in driving social impact.

Evan Tseng, the student vice president of the council, reflected on the importance of thorough research and passion in driving successful initiatives, drawing parallels with Harvard students’ projects. Tseng said he was inspired to learn about a program that redirected unused masks to the homeless during the pandemic.

“This is precisely the skill we need, to find resources in the most unlikely places to succeed in your project,” he said.

About UBI Taiwan

UBI Taiwan is dedicated to exploring and implementing Universal Basic Income solutions to address social and economic challenges. Through research, advocacy, and pilot programs, UBI Taiwan aims to foster a more equitable and sustainable future.

About Lead For Taiwan

Lead For Taiwan is committed to nurturing future leaders with a focus on solving social issues through innovative education and leadership programs. Its mission is to empower young minds to lead with purpose and make a tangible impact on society.

About Ascent Academy

Ascent Academy sponsors the Leadership Immersion Program. By teaching debate and public speaking, Ascent Academy’s goal is to help students apply these skills to make real social change.