Asia-Pacific Regional Lead for Strategic Partnerships & Project Development
Elizabeth Liew is currently Asia-Pacific Regional Lead for Strategic Partnerships & Project Development for TechSoup, a global NGO based in San Francisco. She holds a double major in Journalism and Public Relations, specialising in developing regional partnerships, building out communities, and implementing projects across intersections of human rights, good governance, and transparency. Over her 15-year career, Elizabeth has worked in corporate responsibility and sustainability, community development, and social activism, across the environmental conservation, banking, hospitality, and social technology sector. Her work, both on a professional and volunteer basis, have impacted women from various marginalised communities, civic tech, and social innovation sectors. Combined with her leadership qualities – of honesty, empathy, courage, clarity, decisiveness, and confidence – she continues to inspire women to be their own social agents of change.
Always one to follow her moral compass and live life whole-heartedly, her career choices embody this philosophy, and has shaped her journey towards realising her Ikigai – the intersection of doing what you love, being good at what you love doing, being paid for it, and what the world needs.
Elizabeth is a YSEALI 2018 Spring Fellow, where she completed her fellowship with The Kaizen Company in Washington D.C.
What is your professional background and how did you become involved in the world of commerce and contracting?
Elizabeth Liew is a Community Development Strategist and Specialist who found her passion and purpose as a social change agent. After spending 15 years working in various sectors, her personal mission to create positive impact in the socio-economic sphere, has integrated into her professional life.
Her journey into contracting and commerce began as CSR and Sustainability Manager when she introduced ethical procurement and developed guidelines to implement sustainable supply chain-related reforms. The newfound knowledge and subsequently, implementation of procurement elements in her work – supply chain sustainability, vendor compliance, fair trade sourcing – shaped her interest, and eventually, her career path towards good governance and transparency.
Elizabeth is currently developing projects related to promoting transparency and anti-corruption around Asia-Pacific. One of the key goals is to advocate for a more open and transparent contracting process, which is only possible through an inclusive cross-sectoral approach with involving multiple stakeholders.
In 2018, she was recognised for her work in empowering communities, and awarded a placement in the Young South East Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Fellowship programme. Elizabeth is fluent in four ASEAN languages, and familiar with intersections of civic engagement, making her a highly sought-after mentor and speaker in hackathons and youth-related events.
What are two personal achievements and contributions through your career.
From a young age, Elizabeth knew she wanted to “be the change” in this world.
She has invested in communities working on statelessness, indigenous people, mental health, transparency and governance, anti-human trafficking, LGBTQ and male sexual health rights. Her work, both on a professional and personal voluntary level, has impacted 300 NGOs, 600 hotel staff, 120 vendors, and 1200 schoolchildren across the Asia-Pacific region. While traveling through India, she stayed in Dharamshala (home of the Dalai Lama) for two weeks. Volunteering at a small NGO, she offered to help write a grant proposal, helping to seek funding to run their language school for Tibetan refugees. Six months later, the NGO wrote her: they were awarded a USD36,000 grant. This would take them through 2 years of operations for the language school.
When developing CSR strategies for her environmental education programmes, she made sure indicators were both quantitative and qualitive; to her, it wasn’t just about hitting numbers, but ensuring substantial behavioural changes – one example was getting schoolchildren to understand why they should not eat turtle eggs, and actually seeing a drop in turtle egg sales.
At the root of beliefs is moral courage: to have integrity, a strong value system, and to always stand up for what she believes in.
Covid-19 has illustrated the critical importance of helping women to realise their professional aspirations - what role have you played or are you currently playing within your organization to support women in their roles?
On an organisational level, TechSoup has been proactive in addressing the pandemic : setting up a COVID Response Fund for the NGO sector, providing staff mental health days, promoting flexible hours, and encouraging self-care. In feeling supported by my employer during these uncertain times, I have felt more mentally and emotionally resilient, and in turn, able to support women around me.
On a professional level, I have supported colleagues and partners through various ways – mentoring, providing technical advice, encouragement through prep talks, as well as sharing and discussing coping strategies on staying mentally and emotionally healthy in COVID times. As a well-connected person in the NGO sector, it is important that I maintain rapport with our partners: the encouragement I have provided has helped many of continue their professional aspiration. I have also walked them through certain tools such as Zoom and Google Drive so that they could cope with working from home.
On a personal level, I have offered moral and emotional support to female friends and colleagues, and many, especially those across the gender spectrum – trans, non-binary, and fluid – have struggled with anxiety and mental stress.