As two of SVG's newest staff members, we were sent to the Shenzhen China Charity Fair 2015 to look at China’s social sector from yet another angle. The event was on a beautiful sunny day in a very large and well maintained public space. Advertisements for the fair were posted prominently around the city and there was a definite buzz at the event. It was a great turnout and the large crowds were being directed by a task force of welcoming volunteers and police officers. Everyone was very excited and proud to be there. Attendees from all over China (including ourselves) were even enthusiastically taking photos at the entrance and pausing to post them on social media.
As we entered the hall, there was a very large schedule prominently and clearly posted so that all attendees had easy access. Past the initial displays were over one hundred booths with a wide range of organizations exhibiting their work. Though the name of the event is the ‘China Charity Fair,’ it felt as if the event organizers wanted to bring in a global perspective, as there were organizations from all over the world. There was also a large selection of forums attendees could attend so instead of wandering amongst the labyrinth of booths catching bits of information from a random assortment of organizations, one could gain deeper knowledge of a particular subject by attending a talk by a reputable keynote speaker.
Charity versus Sustainable Philanthropy [Sarah Li]
Lu Ren Jia is a crowdsourcing online platform for social causes. They have a wide spectrum of causes listed on their platform from the more traditional projects that provide financial support for individuals-in-need or giving supplies to schools in rural areas as well as more progressive projects such as capacity building for grassroots NPOs or supporting organizations that provide skills training to college students to increase their own and others’ awareness of social causes.
Having entered the social sector after working in the corporate sector for over 15 years, it suddenly became clear through this organization’s presentation the great difference between charity and sustainable philanthropy especially in regards to impact. At SVG, the scope of our work puts great emphasis on sustainability and high impact. Rarely do we facilitate donations that start and stop with one-time giving. Charity does not try to change the climate of the issue nor does it holistically attack the issues. Sustainable philanthropy empowers the people to help themselves and triggers change on a higher level. After one month of working in this industry, it became clear the huge difference between these sometimes mis-interchangeably used terms.
I was extremely encouraged by the large number of people who want to participate in the social sector and how giving has become more accessible with platforms such as these. While charity typically starts with an individual’s good heart, we need to change the culture and encourage people to think about how their donations can reach farther and produce more results.
Moral Fiber in this Generation of Start Ups [Flora Zhu]
In previous years, the affluent in China earned their wealth quickly. Their capital was accumulated in such a short amount of time and in a time when the social sector was still in its infancy that they did not have the ability or awareness to incorporate a social responsibility component into their wealth management and company infrastructures.
Yue Yuan from the Horizon Research Consultancy Group gave a talk about how it is imperative that local start-ups consider how they support their communities as they begin to grow as companies. Yuan gave compelling reasons why this generation of entrepreneurs and motivated and ambitious self-starters should consider the importance of moral fiber in a company culture. Many local governments have special budgets to support social enterprises or companies that have a strong CSR program. When marketed correctly, it can also improve the organization’s reputation.
As SVG continues to work with Chinese companies to develop the culture of giving within their employees and infrastructure, we see the great influence these companies have on the future of their communities.
We believe attending the China Charity Fair was a great opportunity as newcomers to the industry so we could gain broader insights on the landscape of China’s social sector. There were guest speakers from a wide range of industries and so attendees had great access to a vast spectrum of knowledge just by attending the fair. The forum topics were hard hitting and while unfortunately many of the guest speakers were unable to attend, we believe that future fairs will provide more and more great insights.
Contributed by Sarah Li and Flora Zhu