【Marketizing the NGO Sector】 The Ongoing Debate

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  • 【Marketizing the NGO Sector】 The Ongoing Debate

Following up on the two articles on the marketization of the NGO sector which we recently translated (see here and here), we now provide a brief summary of the views of some of the experts and NGO activists who took part in the debate on marketization hosted by our Chinese website. You can find the original articles here. As you can see, the majority of those who expressed their views were opposed to the NGO sector becoming more market-oriented.

If you would like to contribute to the debate, please send your own views and comments to gabriel.corsetti@cdb.org.cn


For Marketization


Gu Yuan, financial analyst

Very few NGOs can achieve exponential growth. They generally lack the expertise to engage the populace and are skeptical about the capacity of these “amateurs”, while many corporations increasingly outsource their work and only maintain their core staff and operations. Many social organizations also suffer from a shortfall in their incentive, which should be solving social problems and changing the world. Instead, they indulge in self-achievement and self-satisfaction. To achieve exponential growth, social organizations needs to equip themselves with entrepreneurship and must start embracing competition, high risks and uncertainty so as to navigate the various challenges and grasp the opportunities of the modern world.


Zhang Yixun, founder of the “Philanthropic Forum” website

The NGO sector has always been too proud to be marketized. Many insist on providing services for free to highlight their value or just avoid entering market competition due to a lack of confidence. However, marketization is a meaningful progress. The “invisible hand” plays an important role in the economic sector and all social sectors, promoting social development and prosperity.


Against Marketization


Ji Jiaqinhead of the Heren Institute for Rural Development

“De-moralization” and “De-administration” are the two goals of the “Marketization of the NGO sector” according to Mr. Xu Yongguang. However, this is hardly compatible with China’s current situation as the government’s grip on the NGO sector is actually increasing. It is a myth that marketization is the only or ultimate way for NGOs. I hope that the NGO sector can hold on to its values, independency and diversity in this movement towards marketization.


Liu Tao, founder of the Xinnan Social Development Research Center

The term “Marketization of the NGO sector” completely denies the political essence of NGOs, assuming that NGOs are detached from politics. This is not in line with the actual conditions in China and contributes little to the development of China’s NGO sector.


Qu Chen, Associate Program Officer in the Kaifeng Foundation

Marketization will lead to the end of the Chinese NGO sector, which was “deficient” at birth and has grown to be “deformed”.


Amy Schiller, US expert on philanthropy, consultant and commentator

Mixing charitable donations and the market will turn the intentions that lie at the heart of charity (caring about people’s lives, creating social funds and the responsibility to give back to the society) into a form of consumerism.


Da Xiong, founder of a charity in Wuhan

During recent years, both the government and businesses have resolutely attempted to support/enter the NGO sector, hijacking the sector with their resourses, purchasing social services, and conducting venture philanthropy and NGO-business cooperation. In view of this trend, holding on to the morals and values of the NGO sector sets a threshold against intrusion by both the government and businesses.


Feng Yongfeng, journalist and president of a grassroots environmental NGO

Compared to the “Marketization of the NGO sector”, the “Socialization of the NGO sector” may be a better term to outline the sector’s development and its future, that have little to do with either the government or the market. Marketization will never be the only way. There are a multitude of innovative or even peculiar approaches in the NGO sector that are not compatible with the market.

In Brief

CDB’s Chinese website recently played host to a lively debate on the marketization of the NGO sector. Here we provide a brief compendium of some of the views expressed by experts and activists on both sides of the debate.
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