Interview With Yanni Peng Of Narada Foundation
Peng Yanni has over 20 years of experience in the field of non-profit management, social enterprise and social investment, and public services to vulnerable groups. She is CEO of Narada Foundation which is a leading grant-making foundation based in Beijing. She sits on the boards as board director, vice chair or chair of a few non-profit organizations including China Foundation Center, China Foundation Forum, China Donors Roundtable, China Social Enterprise and Investment Forum, China Alliance for Fundraising Professionals and New Citizens Center. Yanni was Executive Director of United in Diversity China Fund of Giti Group from 2011 to 2012 and has successfully brought Theory U, a tri-sector leadership program, from MIT to China. She worked for the British Council for 8 years from 2003 to 2011. In her capacity of Assistant Director Social Development, she led the design and delivery of the Skills for Social Entrepreneurs Project which is a flagship project in social enterprise and social innovation area in China. The project has successfully promoted the concept and practice of social enterprise in China. Yanni holds a master degree in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries from London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Bachelor degree in Business Management from Renmin University of China.
1- Can you please tell us a bit about you and the Narada Foundation?
Narada Foundation is a grant-making foundation which was established in 2007 with a mission to foster the civil society sector in China. It is the first grant-making foundation providing grants to grassroots NGOs while most foundations in China tend to operate projects by themselves.
I joined Narada Foundation in 2013. I feel lucky to be part of Narada Foundation where my personal aspiration is aligned with Narada’s mission and vision.
2- The vision of your Foundation is that ‘Every Heart Shall Carry Hope’. What does that mean and how can developing the ecosystem of the philanthropy sector help to achieve that?
Actually we re-phrased our vision as ‘a fair and just society where every heart carries hope’ when we developed our 2017-2019 strategy. From the perspective of Narada Foundation’s founders and the board, a fair and just society exists when three sectors (public sector, business sector, and the third sector) of the society work together in a balanced and coherent way. China has a very strong public sector and a growing business sector which has progressed significantly since 1978. However the third sector is small and weak due to various reasons. Thus Narada Foundation was positioned to support the development of the third sector at the very beginning when the founders decided to set up a foundation.
By developing the ecosystem of the philanthropy sector in China, we aim to develop an enabling environment where NGOs and foundations can thrive: increased numbers of NGOs and foundations, enhanced capacity, stronger support from the public, and a more friendly regulatory environment.
3- How would you describe the philanthropy sector in China today, what are the main trends and challenges?
The philanthropy sector in China is going through a fast growth phase with lots of different forms and approaches of philanthropy happening at the same time. The ecosystem is at an embryonic stage. The main trends include the more important role and bigger impact of internet and IT in philanthropy; the taking-off of new forms of philanthropy such as social enterprise, venture philanthropy and impact investing; increased enthusiasm of entrepreneurs in philanthropy; an emerging force of NGOs established and working at county level across the country; and increased government budget spend on buying public services from NGOs. Regarding challenges, the philanthropy sector faces a significant shortage of talent, lack of funding and support for infrastructure, difficulty in achieving impact at a scaled-up level and engaging the public effectively.
4- One of your key values is that you are rooted in civil society and you are dedicated to supporting social innovation of grassroots NPOS. How do you believe philanthropy can best encourage innovation at the grassroots?
We believe solutions come from those who are close to the problem. What we need to do is to find those grassroots NPOs and social entrepreneurs who are close to the problem and then support them.
5- How in your view can the national-level philanthropy sector ecosystem and the global-level philanthropy sector ecosystem best work together?
The two philanthropy sector ecosystems at national-level and global-level can work together by sharing best practice with and learning from each other. Its relationship is like ‘bees and trees’. Global-level philanthropy sector ecosystem is ‘the bee’ – identifying and collecting best practice and learning from ‘the trees’ (different national-level philanthropy sector ecosystems in different countries), and also taking best practice and learning from one ‘tree’ to other ‘trees’.