I'm in Beijing this week, meeting with few overseas clients as well as gearing up for Give2Asia's
philanthropy conference on Thursday. Apart from extremely high winds,
Beijing weather has been uncannily California-like the last few days!
(Sometime in the future I will write about the differences between
Beijing and Shanghai in terms of the non-profit sectors, I promise, but
This afternoon I spent some time catching up with Dr. Kenny Lin, CEO of Town and Talent Technologies
an innovative IT solutions company with a strong philanthropic bent
towards Western China. To put it more strongly, Dr. Lin's organization
is one of the few local companies in China that I have seem which are
directly engaged in charity with a large scope in western regions of
James Fallows from the Atlantic covered his work in last year's
article "How the West Was Wired," which
I highly recommend reading. Both Dr. Lin and the founder Dr. Wen have
been close family friends of my parents. There are several components
to their work. The first is a network of relationships with 100 rural
junior high and high schools across Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Shanxi
Provinces. Town and Talent has given each school a basic toolkit for
web hosting, web maintenance and MIS management. In turn the teachers
receive training on how to teach aspects of basic web development,
giving the school and surrounding communities a voice on the web.
Sponsorship and scholarship needs are also met. Donors can sponsor a
rural child for just $130 per year, and students in turn promise to
share about their families and stories on the website West China Story (website is only in Chinese). Fallows is one such donor is apparently very pleased with the experience.
The second aspect, which I believe will be of
interest to one of SVG's current institutional clients, is the
launching of what will be over 100 "digital centers" across western
China. Over the years Town and Talent has developed a successful and
profitable e-commerce and MIS toolkit for small to medium enterprises
in rural China. These digital centers will on the one hand take this
toolkit to farther reaches in rural townships, especially procurement
centers for farmers and other commodity producers which have hitherto
not have access to web-based B2B sales channels, such as Alibaba.
Ongoing subscriptions to the e-commerce platform are priced for
affordability for rural west enterprises contributes to connecting
rural areas to business opportunities via the web. Finally, Dr. Lin
has also built a 5-star desert resort called Yellow Sheep River
in Gansu Province, employing local village resources. My parents
attended a class reunion there a couple of years ago, and came back
with nothing but praise for the way the place was run and the high
quality of the facilities.
The most remarkable thing about all of the above is
that they are funded in most part by Town and Talent or ongoing
sustainable revenues. As a company, Town and Talent contributes 10% of
its profits to its focused charitable endeavors each year. Lately I
have begun to be a little wary of the use of the phrase "social
enterprise" in China, and yet this is as successful and scaled model as
I have seen. Dr. Lin seems very open to partnering with other NGOs in
China which are interested in internet-based development of western
China, so let us know if you'd like more information.