This article is part of CDB’s Special Focus on “Effective Communication and Cooperation between NGOs and Businesses”. It originally formed the second case study in CDB’s latest research report which we released in July 2015 (you can view the original here). Over the next few weeks we will be publishing translations of the ten case studies contained in that report. The case studies detail partnerships between Chinese NGOs, foundations, and businesses.
The formation of CSR groups
In light of the increased communications and cooperation between NGOs and businesses, information asymmetry has become a pressing issue and recent years have seen the emergence of several domestic internet networks and organizations. The US Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Shanghai, and online corporate social responsibility (CSR) groups of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong have become platforms for charities to levy big businesses. SynTao (商道纵横), Corporate Citizenship in Action (CCiA ,明善道), The Beijing Huizeren Volunteering Development Center (Huizeren, 惠泽人), and China Development Brief (中国发展简报) are all third-party organizations that act as platforms in some way. Similarly Tencent (腾讯), Sina (新浪) and other web portal public fund-raising platforms are positioned to finance public welfare projects. AmCham not only has thousands of members, but also has a comprehensive database of NGOs. This means that when member companies are looking for an orgaisation to form a partnership with, the Chamber of Commerce can recommend trusted and worthwhile organisations. Furthermore, through an annual charity donation, organizations can receive between 10,000 and 100,000 yuan of project funding ((Interview with Yang Ye, a CSR expert who used to work with AmCham, 2010)).
The emergence of communication platforms for NGOs and businesses, and the formation of circles of CSR managers have led to an increase in available fundraising channels, but they also demand NGOs to be more professional and put more emphasis on brand-building. The emergence of these platforms also signifies the gradual formation of mechanisms that observe and monitor NGOs. Although with these platforms, it becomes easier to build a reputation, it can also be tricky when an organization encounters any problems whilst working with a business, which will affect how other companies view them and could lead to the organization being blacklisted ((Interview with Zhang Hui, a well-known CSR manager in China, 2014)).
Aside from providing financial support, Huizeren recently launched a “Chinese professional volunteers alliance” (中国专业志愿者联盟), to create a platform for professional volunteers whose services are targeted at NGOs, and with an aim to help NGOs to use professional forces. The Alliance asks volunteers to offer their expert advice and skill sets in related professions and through their professional support help NGOs to develop and grow.
A case study of the China Women’s Network against AIDS
The China Women’s Network Against AIDS (女性抗艾网络-中国，hereafter referred to as the China Network) is a non-profit organization that helps women with HIV integrate back into society. In 2007 some of the women’s organisations fighting AIDS joined together hoping to increase their strength, and after two years of preparation, the China Network, under the auspices of the United Nations AIDS Programme (联合国艾滋病规划署，hereafter referred to as UNAIDS) was formally established. Nationwide it united 21 AIDS organizations, and turned them from a grassroots network to an organization equal to that of a national institution.
From the outset, UNAIDS had high expectations for the China Network whose whole first-year budget – 200,000RMB in total – came from the UNAIDS. However, like many start-up NGOs, they quickly learnt that having a single source of funding is a great risk. In 2010, after completing their projects, UNAIDS terminated their support of the China Network. This brought an immediate halt to the Network’s operations and even meant the closure of their Beijing office.
At this most difficult time, a group of CSR managers in Shanghai noticed the struggling organization, and attempted to raise funds for it through businesses. However, they found that some businesses were wary of dealing with an AIDS organization and were concerned that this would cause panic amongst their employees. A turning point came in 2010, after UN Women (联合国妇女署) was established. After this happened foreign enterprises in Shanghai, from a CSR perspective, rose up to promote the rise of women in leadership, and many businesses began to devote a special budget to CSR. In this new environment, CSR managers no longer sought companies to support women affected by AIDS, but instead applied directly to businesses for funding in the name of improving female leadership. This method enabled them to quickly gain the approval of many enterprises. The CSR managers soon brought together UN Women, The Non-Profit Incubator (NPI恩派), and The Philanthropy Times (公益时报) among others, and with the financial support of the SAP China Research Institute (SAP中国研究院), the IBM Volunteers Association (IBM志愿者协会), the Shanghai United Family Hospital (和睦家上海医院), the Grand Mercure Shanghai Hongqiao (上海虹桥美爵酒店), and the CSR Pioneers (公益堂), in July 2011, they held the YouKai (UCARE) Women’s Leadership Workshop Summit. The China Network’s 23 member organizations were all invited to participate. And, with a focus on capacity-building, they also invited the Rainbow Bridge (彩虹桥), the Xingeng Workshop (欣耕工坊) and other well established social welfare organizations to talk about their largely successful experiences. Furthermore, under the guide of The Network, members visited the Shanghai Social Innovation Incubator (上海创新孵化园), the Zhangjiang Hi-tech Development Zone (张江高新开发区) and other public welfare innovators.
Over a three-day session, the Summit provided the Network members with TtT project training (Train-the-Trainer), gave them AIDS counseling sessions, introduced working methods and other specific international practice methods, helped the 23 organizations create new logos, and produced manuals. They also provided 23 computers and other office equipment. Through a variety of methods, the CSR managers also helped them to establish relationships with the Philanthropy Times, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, NPI, and other organizations, and introduced all the resources and connections they knew to the Network members. In order to establish and assist with follow-up measures, they set up a special fund under the Shanghai public welfare Foundation (上海公益事业发展基金会).
The China Network continued to gain support and from 2012 the IBM subsidiary of The East China Volunteer Association (华东志愿者协会) began to send volunteers to the Network to provide training for staff, and provided funding for them to document and publish their work on AIDS as “Life Writings” (写生). To generate support for the publication of “Life Writings” and enable the stories to reach a wider audience, the IBM Volunteers Association contacted the Shanghai “Urban Origin” (都市原点) drama club who adapted “Life Writings” into the stage performance “October 18th – Cloudy, becoming fine” (十月十八阴转晴) and sent volunteers to participate in the performance. After a string of successful performances in several Shanghai theatres the play became a regular on the Shanghai theatre scene. In order to further expand the network and help more of China’s AIDS sufferers, IBM also sponsored the China Network to take part in the JiAnDe (The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute – 纪安德) AIDS Walk and paid for their travel and accommodation.
At the start of 2013, Abbott Laboratories (雅培) also joined the ranks of China Network’s supporters with their first contribution consisting of a 10,000 USD donation to cover the Network’s 2013 operating costs, and the provision of training in Nanjing. During the training, Abbott arranged for four staff members to teach the China Network about corporate communications in arts and design, and working with the Network staff they designed the ‘Self-Care Manual for Women Living with HIV’. The manual provides a comprehensive introduction to AIDS and provides advice on how to medicate and exercise, as well as methods of self-counseling and other ideas to help women living with HIV re-integrate into mainstream society. With the support of Abbott, the network completed the manual at the end of 2013, and held a press conference to promote it. Through the Red Ribbon Forum (红丝带论坛) and mailing lists, 2000 free copies of the manual were distributed to HIV sufferers. Although the network itself did not initiate contact with IBM, Abbott and the other companies, through the Shanghai CSR platform these companies and many others are able to connect with the China Network.
This new method encouraged new ways of thinking and brought new opportunities for the China Network. In 2013, the Network began to focus on improving medical discrimination against HIV patients. When HIV patients contract other illnesses, many are refused treatment, especially if that treatment requires a surgical procedure. In 2013 the organization sought funding to change the plight of HIV infected women in need of medical treatment. However, previous initiatives in this area had mainly been phased projects, and finding support from businesses at short notice proved to be difficult. So the China Network, now with extensive experience of international cooperation, began looking for a new partner. Shortly afterwards, they came into contact with officials of an international organization, and the China Network found a new direction. This organization believed that occupational hazards should reinforce the need for the protection of doctors; but the China Network, when dealing with medical discrimination, was always inclined to think too much about the patients and blame the doctors. Through communication between the two sides, many HIV patients began to understand that their doctors and other health care workers’ refusal of surgical treatment was due to a lack of protection for hospital doctors, and that if better protective measures were implemented then the doctors would not mind performing these procedures. With this in mind, the China Network focused on promoting understanding between doctors and patients as a method of eliminating discrimination against HIV patients.
In 2013, in conjunction with several other organizations, the China Network presented their findings on ‘HIV patients and doctors occupational protection issues’ for discussion at the Red Ribbon Forum. They arranged for doctors and HIV patients to come together and talk about the rights of both patients and doctors, and gave both sides a better understanding of the problems. In 2014 the organizations further collaborated to make a short film ‘Balancing the Imbalance’(失衡的天平). The film highlighted cases of discrimination that had led to a physical disability or even death, as well as the story of a physician who through occupational exposure had become infected with HIV and faced exclusion from his hospital as well as society. Through this channel, the Network was able to reach the international community to further expand the influence of the organization.
The China Network now has 27 member organizations in 12 provinces and once or twice a year holds capacity-building events among its member organizations and provides a small grant to carry out joint initiatives. The China Network does not get too involved in the work and activities of its members, and instead focuses their work on the re-integration of female HIV patients into mainstream society. Although the China Network has not, as expected when founded, brought about tremendous societal change, the gradual development and unceasing confidence of their members all over the country has ensured the Network is making huge strides and continually driving progress.