It's been nearly 16 months since I last wrote about our work at Social Innovations Advisory (SIA), the consulting firm I started back in early 2018. Since then, we've been through struggling through a pandemic that is going into its third year, and an abrupt departure from China last summer with my family (one day I may write about this). In January this year, we ended up back on our feet here in Taipei, Taiwan where we'll be based for the next few years and maybe beyond.
The mission of SIA is to build a resilient civil society for inclusive, sustainable development. Early on, SIA's focus was on China, but as I explained in my last post, we began to venture further afield following China's growing footprint overseas. In 2019, we organized a team of researchers to carry out a UNDP/DFID project to examine the social risks of Chinese overseas investment in Nepal and Zambia as part of that massive development project known as the Belt and Road Initiative.
This project led to consulting for the UK government's China Infrastructure Programme which was intended to help Chinese state-owned enterprises raise the social and environmental standards of their infrastructure projects overseas. We were brought in because of our expertise on China and inclusive development, particularly social inclusion and community engagement. We succeeded in bringing in Chinese partners, including a large industry groups whose members are SOEs, to work on projects to improve their engagement with affected communities.
Since March 2021, in collaboration with the Innovation for Change network and other NGOs, we've been working directly with those communities and CSOs in the global South to strengthen their capacity to understand the BRI, and engage Chinese government and corporate actors to hold them accountable. It's the opposite of what we did for the China Infrastructure Programme and arguably more impactful because civil society is more open to working with us, and understands our language more than Chinese SOEs which have been conservative and cautious in embracing the idea of inclusive development.
In addition to the work we've been doing with global South civil society and BRI, there are two other important areas of work SIA has been involved in.
One is helping organizations re-think, re-orient and re-strategize their work in challenging spaces such as China and Hong Kong. We have advised the EU, international NGOs, and other organizations develop new strategies through research and convening of stakeholders.
The other is helping NGOs, particularly those working on human rights which have relied heavily on international funding, explore and develop innovating strategies and methods to diverse their local funding base to become more financially sustainable. We have designed tools to train and mentor NGOs through this process, and hope to do more in helping them develop prototypes that can be scaled up.
If you'd like more information about our work or want to talk about collaborating, please take a look at this pamphlet about our work, and get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.