To promote what’s called “high-quality development” of social organizations (a local umbrella term including NGOs) in Beijing, the Beijing Social Organization Management Center surveyed 207 social organizations recently to analyze the existing problems and challenges and make suggestions to their future development.
The total number of social organizations in Beijing has grown from 7,589 at the end of 2011 to 13,409 at the end of 2019 — a 71.5 percent increase.
Their services cover fields including education, science and technology, sports, culture, health, law and social services, making them an increasingly important force in the country’s socio-economic development. According to the 2019 annual inspection data, social organizations in Beijing had created 220,000 jobs — accounting for 1.73 percent of the city’s job market.
In terms of social governance, social organizations have participated in emergency relief, helped provide basic public services, facilitated community-based grassroots governance work, and promoted extensive voluntary services.
Problems and challenges
According to the research, relevant legislation and regulations for NGOs are not yet updated to suit the current situation of their operations. Neither are they practical for real-life implementation. Moreover, some of the key terms such as “social organization” still lack standard definitions.
Without an integrated regulatory framework in place, public support and policies for NGO work remain insufficient, making the on-the-ground operation of these organizations less efficient.
Besides the environmental factors are problems concerning NGOs themselves. One problem summarized by the research is that Chinese NGOs in general have a weak party-building foundation, because the percentage of party members as NGO workers is low.
A considerable amount of NGOs lack a thought-through and strong internal governance system, which should at least consist of organization rules, clear assignment of responsibilities and inspection mechanisms. Very often, organizations that do not have a well-rounded regulatory framework will derive from the status of being non-profit, with top-level members using the organization for personal purposes.
Another issue lies in the level of professionalism. Many NGO workers do not have a sufficient understanding of the relevant laws and regulations in the sector or relevant knowledge of organization governance, project operation and financial management, which affects the quality of services provided by NGOs.
In addition, without a long-term development plan in place, some NGOs have poor fundraising capabilities. The range of services provided by NGOs is also limited, according to the research.
Suggestions going forward
To realize the full potential of NGOs, their development should fit into the broader picture of national and city-level development strategies, the research proposed, and NGOs should adhere to the “new development concept”, which refers to innovative, balanced, environmental-friendly, open and shared development.
Secondly, NGOs should take a people-oriented approach and strike a balance between their relationship with the government, between government development support and regulatory management, and between NGOs’ own development and the role they play in society.
In order to secure the high-quality development of NGOs, strengthening the regulatory framework, empowering development with innovation, and building quality NGO brands are all areas to improve.