Lily’s Blog Post “Global Perspective on Regional Collaboration” the Most Read

I just realized that my article, “Global Perspective on Regional Collaboration” has remained the most read and commented blog on the Web site of the The 2030 Group, a business group promoting regional collaboration among jurisdictions to solve the biggest issues such as transportation, affordable housing and supply of quality workforce.

Please see all the comments posted in the Comments section of the post on this site under that artice, mostly by immigrant professionals.


Event invitation–MONTGOMERY COUNTY TODAY: Changing Community and Transformative Opportunity

Have you ever wondered what the future holds for Montgomery County, a community of one million people among the best educated in the world with unrivaled bio-health research assets? Join community members and County leaders for a discussion about the exciting vision to transform our County into a global destination for innovation and your role in making that vision a reality.

10 AM – NOON (lunch to follow)
BRINKLOW, MD. (NEAR OLNEY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY–address will be sent to you after confirming your name, affiliation and email upon RSVP)


Welcome and Introduction

Lily Qi, Special Projects Manager, Office of the County Executive
Mimi Hassanein, President, Global Partnerships USA LLC

BioHealth Innovation: Translating Research into Reality
Todd Chappell, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, BioHealth Innovation, Inc. (BHI)

Great Seneca Science Corridor and Corridor Cities Transitway
David McDonough, Senior Director, Johns Hopkins Real Estate

White Oak Science Gateway and Transit in Montgomery County
Jonathan Genn, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Percontee, Inc.

Innovation Resources for Businesses
Bernadette Goovaerts, Senior Business Development Manager, ICT and Biotech,
Montgomery County Department of Economic Development

Q&A and Closing Remarks
Lily Qi, Special Projects Manager, Office of the County Executive
Hdeel Abdelhady, Attorney, MassPoint Legal & Strategy Advisory PLLC


Elections and Asian Americans

If you live in Maryland, you probably know that our primary election is on April 3, much earlier than previous years. Chances are, you have received multiple mailings from both your local Board of Elections and from candidates, especially if you live in the new Congressional District 6, where it’s a serious contest in both the primary and general elections.

Local elections can be confusing as relatively few people pay attention to local politics, especially for the largely-immigrant Asian community, which does not have deep local ties to really know the issues or the candidates. In spite of greater efforts by the party establishments and campaigns to reach out to our community and greater overall participation from our community in recent years as voters, donors, volunteers or organizers, or even candidates, a host of challenges remain in our election participation.

In Maryland, most of the elections are decided by the primary race, especially in the heavily minority jurisdictions where Asians congregate, such as Montgomery, Howard, Prince George’s and Baltimore city.

Since many Asian American voters are not registered with any parties, they cannot vote for most of the candidates in the primary election, and by the time they cast their votes in the general election, the results are so predictable that their votes don’t really matter much. The reluctance among Asians to be associated with any
parties means this phenomenon is unlikely to change in the near future – unless we change the policy to allow independents to vote for party candidates.

The small number of active participants in election activities leads to over-taxing of community leaders and connectors, who are being asked by a growing number of organizations and campaigns to open our wallets and rolodexes to support various candidates and party campaigns. It can be exhausting and expensive for a very frugal community that still brings lunch to work to save money and does not always understand why so much money is needed for elections.

It is one thing to reach out for money and votes; quite another for advice and understanding. So far, we have been mostly playing a cheerleading or supporting role. Very rarely do campaigns or parties take the time to learn about our communities’ dynamics, interests and priorities, or to get our advice on critical issues.

So we mostly cast our votes based on name recognition, campaign rhetoric or personal relationship rather than real issues that matter to us. Until the parties and the campaigns learn to engage our communities on a continuous basis and better yet, to cultivate true leadership in the Asian community, we will continue to see what I call the “eagle effect”—organizations or individuals swooping down to seek our support when needed then disappearing into thin air.

Finally, the national debate on illegal immigration has made Latinos synonymous with immigration. Often times, it is assumed that all immigrants support pro-immigrant legislations such as the Dream Act, which would allow those who were brought to this country illegally as children enjoy in-state college tuition if they graduate from Maryland’s high schools.

The fact is, the Asian community is highly divided on this issue as they were in 2009 when Montgomery County started reporting individuals charged with violent crimes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after a couple of high profile killings committed by undocumented residents.

A community made of largely swing voters is fair game for any party wanting to earn our trust and votes. The fact that most Asians vote for Democrats has more to do with the lack of serious outreach from the Republican Party and the perception that Democrats are more minority-friendly, than with where the parties stand on issues.

With immigrants and our families, including our American-born children, making up an increasingly larger share of almost every community in the region, it is time the political parties integrate multicultural (and multilingual if necessary) outreach into their psyche and strategy for their own long-term benefits. No matter who we support, our core values of family cohesiveness (lowest divorce rate among all racial groups), education (highest educational attainment), and personal responsibility (highest savings rate) don’t change.

The fact that Maryland is the only state in the country with three Indian Americans in its state legislature, in addition to a Chinese American and a Filipino American, is sure progress. True social integration can take generations, but let’s not waste any generation, foreign-or American- born.

The article was originally published in Asian Fortune’s April edition.

Lily Qi: Mover and Changer

By: Jenny Chen

The original article can be found at

Rockville, MD – Lily Qi is no stranger to change. The Shanghai native has lived in West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and now Maryland. Over the years, Qi has served as head of multicultural affairs at American University, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at the DC Economic Partnership, spokesperson for the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, and Community Liaison for the Asian, Middle East and Near Eastern populations in Montgomery County, Maryland. But whether she was disciplining college students or drafting press releases, there’s one thing that’s held constant – Qi loves making connections.

A self-declared cultural broker, Qi is now drawing upon all her past experiences as the newly appointed Director of Special Projects in the Montgomery County Executive’s Office. Looking around at her new office, which is full of relics from the past – a mug from American University, where she earned her MBA, a porcelain cup from China, and photo from her days as a community liaison – Qi says that she feels like this is a reward for all the years that have passed.

But her path was not easy. Like any immigrant, Qi found her first couple of years in the United States extremely difficult. She not only had to learn English, but also the cultural idioms that are not written in any grammar textbook.

“You sort of lose your identities,” Qi said about being an immigrant in a new country. “I have been working very hard at small barriers.”

Qi says that Asian Americans have just as much responsibility to fight stereotypes as do mainstream figures. She says that it is up to Asian Americans to show the greater public that they are above stereotypes.

Perhaps it is because of her immigrant experiences that Qi became a strong community activist.

“I don’t want to feel like a guest. I am a U.S. citizen. I want to be plugged in…in order to feel more grounded,” Qi said.

This desire propelled her into her latest position. When Qi heard about a new project to convert an old farm on Muddy Branch Road into a Life Sciences complex, Qi recognized it as a project that Asian Americans should rally behind – and she made it her mission to make sure they do. She took to the streets to encourage Asian American residents to pressure their elected officials to vote for the project.

“This is why they came here in the first place,” Qi said. “My point is not to teach them about what to say but they have to care,” Although the project received very strong opposition by those concerned about pollution and transit problems, by the time the County Council took a vote, every council member was for the project.

Qi’s single minded tenacity is not lost on those who work with her.

“She’s one of the most diligent people I’ve ever met,” said Michael Stevens, the Vice President of the DC Economic Partnership. Stevens and Qi worked together for four years to recast DC from a political center to a business center. “She was always well prepared. She was a great strategic thinker.”

Qi’s support of the life sciences center fell right in line with the county’s own development strategy and in 2011, she was appointed by County Executive Isiah Leggett as Special Projects Manager. Her special project? The life sciences project which is now dubbed as the Great Seneca Science Corridor.

Her vision is to make the area the number destination for science and health research. “No one has the FDA. No one has NIH. No one has NIST. It would be a shame for us to sit on all our assets and not benefit the world,” Qi said.

As Manager of Special Projects, Qi is poised to oversee radical change in the area. For example, Qi facilitated a deal between the Chinese pharmaceutical company, Tianshili and Johns Hopkins. Tianshili will be the first traditional medicine company approved by the United States FDA.

Many in the Asian American community appreciate Qi’s efforts to engage the immigrant community in local affairs. Qi is a rare face, as a Chinese born activist and who rose in ranks not through science or technology but by her sheer ability to communicate in her second language.

“If you go to any majority activity that is not an ethnic activity, you will have to look closely to see any Asian Americans. It’s not proportional to our presence here, which is 12-13% of the population. If we are not there, there will be a misconception about whether or not we are really interested in being part of the community,” said Michael Lin, former President of the Organization of Chinese Americans. Lin worked with Qi while she was President of the DC Chapter. Lin says that her presence continues to bring unique perspectives to the community as a whole and pushing reluctant immigrants into participating in their new home country.

“If a vacancy comes up, I’d encourage her to run for elected office,” Lin said. And although he was laughing, if there’s one thing that’s certain when it comes to Lily Qi, it’s that change is always in the air.

Asian and Middle Eastern Liaison Position Opening

The application deadline has passed. 

After three and half years serving as the Asian and Middle Eastern Liaison of Montgomery County, Maryland, I was appointed this past summer by County Executive Ike Leggett as Special Projects Manager to work on several Countywide initiatives including biohealth industry growth strategy and international partnerships. 
Being a community liaison was tremendous amount of hard work, requiring, but I was infinitely enriched by that experience and consider that one of the best jobs I have ever held.  I connected with many different communities and learned about their cultures and religions in ways I would have never thoughtful possible.  If you are passionate about people and cultures, I highly recommend that you consider applying. 
Being a community liaison means you are an advocate on behalf of your communities inside the government, a connector of people and resources in many different ways, an advisor to anyone seeking your insight on things related to your community, an educator about community dynamics to help others understand the new communities, and a problem solver who is a trusted point of contact for anyone in the community who seeks you out for help.  Here are a few more of my observations about this job and the desired attributes/qualities/skills that might be helpful to you if you’re interested:

  • A high energy person who can work on evenings and weekends for numerous community events and meetings on behalf of the County government;
  • An excellent writer who can produce greeting letters, proclamations, certificates requested by communities year round and prepare speeches and talking points for the County Executive on special occasions;
  • An effective public speaker who can make spontaneous or prepared remarks on behalf of the government and the County Executive for various ethnic and cultural communities
  • A culturally sensitive and astute person who is willing to learn and able to adapt to different norms and dynamics while maintaining professional neutrality and a healthy balance as a facilitator and mediator of all interest groups and parties
  • A good listener who can bring people together to work towards the common goal and understand each ethnic community’s unique needs as well as identifying common issues and opportunities. 
  • Most importantly, this person has to be an effective and strategic connector that introduces and recommends community leaders and community resources to the larger community that is eager to learn about and connect with the many different communities. 

Below is the position announcement:

The Community Outreach Manager job (IRC 7120) was posted on November 1. Applications are due by Friday, November 18 (see link below) with a start date projected to be January 2, 2012. This is a merit-based position with benefits that will expire on December 31, 2014. Continued employment in this position beyond December 31, 2014 is contingent upon action by the County Executive elected in November of 2014. The position is one of three full-time positions working as a team under the supervision of the director of the Office of Community Partnerships within the newly established Community Engagement Cluster.

The three major areas of responsibility are: (1) community outreach and engagement with the County’s Asian populations; (2) community outreach and engagement with the County’s Middle Eastern populations; and (3) leadership role promoting and ensuring compliance with County, State, and Federal language access policies and procedures.

Bilingual applicants in Asian and Middle Eastern languages are encouraged to apply. Minimum qualifications include: Bachelor’s Degree in Public or Business Administration or related fields and extensive (seven years) professional administrative experience in the areas of public relations or program management in community outreach or public policy.

For a more detailed description of the areas of responsibility and preferred criteria,

Deadline is November 18, 2011.


Montgomery County Today: A Changing Community and a Transformative Opportunity

2011 Business and Economics Seminar Series

“Montgomery County Today: A Changing Community and a Transformative Opportunity”

Friday, October 28, 2011, 12:00 PM -1:30 PM
Far East Restaurant, 1776 E. Jefferson St, Rockville, MD 20852 Tel: 301-881-5552

SPEAKER:                Ms. Lily Qi
Vice Chair of Maryland Governor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs and Montgomery County Executive’s Special Projects Manager

As Montgomery County Executive’s Special Projects Manager overseeing several priority initiatives including the biotech and biohealth growth strategies and international relations, especially with Asian countries, Lily Qi has unique perspectives to share on Montgomery County’s growth and development.  Among those are how recent population shifts in the County have created demand for smart growth and transit-oriented development. She will share specific plans on several initiatives, including the two life science centers (the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan and the East County Science Center Master Plan), a new countywide public transit system, and opportunities for the County’s diverse communities to be part of this vision. 

REGISTER/INFO:   TowsonGlobal, 410-769-6449,                            $25/Person (pay at the door by cash or check).


I chose “Welcome” as the title of my first post, but really, there are many titles that would have worked just as well: 欢迎, ترحيب, Bienvenidos, स्वागत. This is, after all, a blog about connecting across cultures and communities. I will be posting some of my musings on culture, including my monthly columns on Asian Fortune magazine, as well as on happenings in my community. I will also do my best to post stories and findings about integration at both the individual and community levels. Hopefully, this website will contribute to more welcoming attitudes towards our differences.