Thursday, August 26, 2010

Important trends among Chinese NGOs

August 26, 2010

Despite some of the recent concerns about restrictions on NGOs in China, there are some important trends in China that civil society watchers should keep an eye on.

One trend that has been written about here, and elsewhere, is the rise of private foundations and their growing influence in China. A number of the more prominent private foundations like Narada and Youcheng have taken the lead in supporting grassroots NGOs, and encouraging the government and GONGOs to support grassroots NGOs.

Another trend that has been not been as visible or discussed is the rise of social networks. I hesitate to use the term, NGO networks, because these networks are generally quite informal, varied and fluid in their composition. NGOs and NGO leaders are an important component, but these networks also include individual activists and individuals from GONGOs, mass organizations and even the government. In the aftermath of the Wenchuan earthquake, we saw many networks form in response to the relief effort. We also see networks forming in the environmental, HIV/AIDS and foundation sector.

A third trend is the outsourcing of government services to NGOs in the area of community development, migrant education, poverty alleviation, and industry and commerce. This trend is important not just because it provides new sources of revenue for NGOs, but also because it may evolve into a more institutionalized channel by which NGOs can participate in the provision of public goods, and in shaping public policy.


  1. Thank you so much for your information!

    I'm totally agree that the third trend, contacting-out model, might be a preferred model by both NGOs and government. The government can still impose a lot of control over each project, and NGOs could gain "legitimacy" and financial support. After all,unlike NGOs in western countries (even some developing countries), Chinese NGOs do not really put maintaining "autonomy" on the top of priority.

    Actually I'm a university student who is doing a research about NGOs' role in government procurement in China. I was directed to your blog when I was googling relevant information. :) But I am facing problems in finding cases about the topic. There is little information in Internet as well as in journals... Could you do me a favor to tell me one or two cases about the third trend you have mentioned? Thank you very much!


  2. Hello Noni,

    One case is in Shanghai where the Pudong district government has taken the lead in contracting out to nonprofits, such as those providing services to migrants (nongmingong). Another case in Beijing is the NGO, Shining Stone (北京社区参与行动) which is contracted by local governments around the country to do community organizing work.