Development of Chinese philanthropy infrastructure
By Weiming Wu, Senior Program Manager and Legal Officer at Woqi Foundation
The 1980s saw a great change in the development of Chinese philanthropy when the government started opening space for civil society to help deal with social problems, and welcoming the increasing number of international aids/development projects started entering the country, which, to a great extent, shaped the future development of Philanthropy in China. Another turning point for Chinese philanthropy was the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. It was the biggest natural disaster in decades and it shook both the public and private sector. Numerous NGOs and volunteer groups joined relief and reconstruction work together with the government, local philanthropist and international organizations. Many see this inter-sector cooperation as the first nationwide mobilization of the philanthropic community in modern China. Since then, this kind of collaboration seems to have become a tradition every time a large scale disaster happens, and many network and supporting organizations started to form throughout the process as a response to it.
The idea of building a “ecosystem” also emerged after years of separate and fragmented actions. However, compared to western countries, the development of philanthropy and civil society is still in its very early stages in China. While the number of philanthropic organizations and the amount of resources flowing into philanthropy are growing rapidly every year, in the meantime, the compartmentation of the philanthropic sector seems to be worsening and there lacks a consensus in the sector about the direction of future development.
The Woqi Foundation is among the few Chinese philanthropic organizations that is dedicated to building a capable and complete non-profit sector in China. We believe that a favorable environment is essential for the sustainable development of the sector, and that the building of such a sector requires organizations and individuals within the field to work in close collaboration. Even though the non-profit sector has evolved significantly in recent years, and there have been talks here and there about building a “support system” or “eco-system” for the field, there lacks specific grounding and framework based on which people can develop an agenda to promote the “system”，there also lacks a clear definition of “support system” or “eco-system”. Many in the field still lack the sense of cooperation, and there are few organizations or mechanisms that can serve as “ philanthropy developers, enablers, accelerators”. There are even less funders that can finance these organizations. That’s when WINGS came into our view. We think the research WINGS did on philanthropic infrastructure and philanthropic ecosystem is a good way to make Chinese NGOs and foundations realize the importance of infrastructural building, and international experiences and/or concepts can be adapted to suit the conditions of the country and borrowed by Chinese philanthropic practitioners.
Thanks to the support of the Narada Foundation, which is one of the most renowned funders in China, we were able to put this idea into action. We translated four English reports recommended by WINGS into Chinese: Using the 4Cs:Evaluating Professional Support to Philanthropy; Unlocking Philanthropy’s Potential: What Funders Can Do to Build Strong Philanthropy Support Ecosystems; Infrastructure in Focus: A New Global Picture of Organizations Serving Philanthropy; The Global Landscape of Philanthropy. Aside from this, we also translated featured articles from the Alliance Magazine Special Feature: Philanthropy’s Developers. After the completion of the translation, we publicized the Chinese reports online. We also made a summary out of the reports, and published a short-version handbook. We then sent copies to both our partners and stakeholders in the field to make sure it reaches a greater audience.
On November 23rd, 2019, we made an official appearance at the China Foundation Forum together with Narada, the Dunhe Foundation and China Donors Roundtable, and launched the translations and the handbook at the forum. The presentation on the China Foundation Forum was well received by the audience, many of which admired that WINGS had been producing this kind of reports for many years and thought it was a great contribution to global philanthropy. There were also talks about replicating WINGS’ practice in China since very few organizations in China are doing the work that WINGS has been doing. People also tried to compare Chinese philanthropy developers to overseas infrastructure, and whether China can borrow from international experiences around infrastructure building. There was no consensus reached, but we think it’s a great start. China Donors Roundtable, which was the co-organizer of the event, also released their preliminary findings on the mapping of philanthropy infrastructure in China, which we think it’s a good follow up to our translations. The organizers concluded the event by advocating for the participants, especially for the funders and infrastructure organizations in the audience to build an alliance to continue on the talkings and interactions on this topic. There is still a long way to go for the building of Chinese philanthropic ecosystem, but we think the forum and the materials we introduced have achieved their main purpose, which is introducing the concept and make sure people start paying attention to infrastructural building in the field. We are looking forward to the further development on this issue in China.
Senior Program Manager and Legal Officer at Woqi Foundation
Woqi Foundation mission is to promote effective philanthropy by producing knowledge in partnership with social organizations. Read more on their website: http://www.woqifoundation.org.cn/en.php/Home/Aboutus/index.html#abt_1