Foundations should ‘focus on development of sector’

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Foundations and funding strategies should pay more attention to the development of the charity sector, said Wang Ying, founder of Yuan Charity and a mentor to the “Jingcaotongxing Peer Project” of the SEE (Alashan) Foundation, at the inaugural SEE Foundation Charity Development Forum last month.

Governments at all levels have included environmental governance in their performance assessments and the corporate community has deepened its awareness of charity and environmental protection, leading to more and more solutions and joint actions across different sectors. However, although the current national policy clearly states that environmental governance requires the participation of NGOs (known locally as social organizations), they are obviously lagging behind the needs of current and future development, she said.

Foundations like SEE that put supporting sector development in its own development strategy and funding strategy are crucial, according to Wang, and funders who can continue to support these foundations’ long-term commitment to sector development are also very important.

Examples from SEE Foundation

SEE Foundation established two projects — “Creating Green Homes” and “Jingcaotongxing” a decade ago to support the development of private, grassroot environmental protection organizations.

After years of development and exploration, SEE Foundation clearly regarded supporting the development of the sector as an important strategy as well as a cornerstone of the foundation in 2016.

According to Wang, the board members of SEE have always been very supportive of the sector’s development, and some board members have also invested money and resources in the development of the two projects.

In the 10 years since the launch of “Jincaotongxing Peer Project”, more than 160 entrepreneur members have taken part. Through the project, they not only helped the beneficiaries but also learnt and grew themselves, according to Wang.

More work required

Having only a few foundations paying attention to sector development is not enough, Wang said. SEE Foundation shouldn’t just work on its own, but also needs to generate more debate within the scope of the foundation and its sponsors to reach a consensus, so that peers from other foundations can pay more attention to sector development.

When more resources are poured into this field, more social organizations will have room to develop and grow, and the general circumstances of the environmental protection charity sector can be improved, so eventually social organizations can play a more important role in national environmental governance.

The resources mobilized by the foundations are like water and fertilizer that should be used to address the root needs of the plants, she said. The development of the sector can’t be achieved without skilled professionals, and since the charity sector wants to solve social problems, it can’t be accomplished by one person — it demands cooperation between organizations and coordination of key organizations to effectively organize resources.

“Charity organizations are an important force in participating in social governance and solving social problems,” Wang stressed. “Whether an effective solution can be devised, how many results can be achieved, and how much impact can be exerted depends largely on the degree of development and the ability of the organizations.”

In her opinion, a good organization should be “lively”, and the vitality of an organization often requires supportive resources and time to grow. Social organizations can only be more organized with specialization and professionalism, and with that they can execute more efficient and influential projects — and on a larger scale.