China Issue Guides: education and poverty alleviation

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The Center for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS) and China Development Research Foundation (CDRF) released the China Issue Guides on Dec 2 at the China Philanthropy Conference. 


Social equity and common prosperity call for philanthropy


Fang Jin, secretary-general of CDRF, highlighted the increasingly important role of philanthropy in China’s economic and social development at the launch conference. 


“We hope that we can encourage more philanthropists, companies and the public to pay attention to and participate in the development of philanthropy. And we want to discuss with them how philanthropy can play a greater role in the process of rural revitalization, maintaining social equity and promoting well-being.”


Through research, CAPS found that Chinese philanthropy in education and poverty alleviation possesses some unique characteristics, including a high degree of alignment with national policies and objectives; the integration of business acumen and experience into the design and implementation of philanthropic projects; providing innovative solutions for the public sector through conducting small-scale pilot projects, and a propensity to give back to its origins.


On the other hand, philanthropy in education and poverty alleviation has unique characteristics. According to CAPS’ research, nearly half of all educational endowment goes to scholarship programs. In addition, to increase the impact of their giving, many philanthropists give funds preferentially to universities. Meanwhile, because philanthropists have different expectations of education philanthropy, the specific ways of supporting education varies based on their experience and interest.


However, philanthropy in poverty alleviation is mainly in response to government calls. As a result, most poverty alleviation projects are guided by the national strategy of targeted poverty alleviation, with measures tailored to local conditions and resources available.


Education philanthropy


China’s education system has gone through a rapid transformation over the past four decades. However, the scale and complexity of China’s education sector means that problems remain, such as the disparities between urban and rural areas in terms of education accessibility and quality, and the relatively low level of educational support for vocational, special and adult education. 


Philanthropic support for education plays an important role in driving the overall improvement of China’s education system. Of the more than 40,000 philanthropic projects listed in the Guides, the education sector ranked first in terms of both project expenditure and volume.


The Secretary General of Tsinghua University Education Foundation, Yuan Weibiao, believes donations are vital to teaching and scientific research at higher education institutions. “For top universities to conduct innovative and cutting-edge research, to make academic breakthroughs, and to support students and faculty in their projects, it is not enough to only have basic financial support from the government. These demands can be best supported by donations.”


There are also challenges facing education philanthropy. Li Kemei, the founder of the Beijing Deqing Foundation, said: “One of the bigger challenges we face is navigating the relationship with the education ministry. The support of the education ministry is essential in every aspect of philanthropic projects. To handle this relationship properly, firstly foundations should clarify their role as service providers for the existing education system. Secondly, as there are often staff changes in the local ministry and that can affect projects, foundations ought to maintain proactive communications to make sure projects can be sustained.”


Philanthropy in poverty alleviation and rural revitalization


Businesses, universities and NGOs have all played an irreplaceable role in China’s fight against poverty, injecting strong impetus into poverty alleviation. As China has achieved its anti-poverty goals, new challenges have emerged. 


Wang Jun, deputy secretary-general of China Rural Development Foundation, said: “As the social context has changed to achieving rural revitalization, our foundation has shifted its focus from addressing the basic needs of areas and people in poverty to bettering the lives of less developed areas and low-income people and providing better services to them.”


In terms of exploration, Chen Chong, director of the Guoqiang Foundation, proposed the establishment of social enterprises in the context of rural revitalization, advocating “the combination of commercial operations and philanthropic objectives, using commercial means to achieve social welfare goals, and solving social problems in a sustainable manner”.