Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报), July 9, 2013
NGOs can learn from the lesson of poverty alleviation co-ops, which floundered under the operation of government offices. Modeled on the Bangladesh Grameen Bank’s micro-finance program, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences established a similar program, the Poverty Alleviation Economic Cooperative Program, which operated in China for more than 20 years. At the time that the program was established, the NGO sector was quite weak, so CASS decided to work with local poverty alleviation offices in the implementation of the program. Unfortunately, they discovered that these local offices were using the accounts as their private funds, which were embezzled or used as high-interest loans. Finally, after years of disappointment, the program director Du Xiaoshan arranged for the program to be taken over by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. While the CFPA was originally quite closely affiliated with the government, it has made efforts to become independent and professionalize its operations. This article argues that the experience of the poverty alleviation co-ops can serve as a lesson to NGOs, concerning the extent to which they collaborate with the government. If they are too intricately tied to the government, it may be difficult for them to operate according to professional standards, and to avoid graft and embezzlement.