Acting and Reflecting on the Route of Pursuing Charity Causes

中文 English

Editor’s note: this article is written by a young man who just started his career in the public welfare sector, and it is a profound reflection on his experience of learning how to go about project funding. It includes three interconnected parts: the evolution of my relationship with my partners; the learning and growth process which me and my partners went through while‘wrestling’ in pursuit of the ‘results’ of our projects; and finally going back towards defining myself and the beneficiaries of my projects’.

I completely lacked any experience in business organization and public welfare foundation when I started my master’s degree two years ago. During my four years in college, I worked in many social organizations ranging from state organizations and youth unions to students union and private non-profit organizations.

It was through a training project sponsored by China Merchants Charitable Foundation (CMCF) in which I participated by chance, during which I had my first contact with my current colleagues, that I first realized the difference between CMCF and any other team I had worked for earlier. As this training project presented me with a new path in the public welfare sector that I hoped to try, I started to follow news related to CMCF until I finally got the chance to work for them three months later. However, working in a foundation was not easy for a newcomer. Terms such as funding theory, rational public welfare, and value chains in public welfare, which were unfamiliar if interesting to me, were mentioned time and again at our team meetings. What left me the deepest impression was something someone said in a meeting: “there is no standard career training for project officers working in foundations, funding projects is more like a craft that is gained through a lot of practice.” Such a statement definitely made me quite anxious as a newcomer. How could I do this by self-exploration and without an adviser, I thought?

Listening to other people

My anxiety soon showed up in my work. On my first business trip for project inspection, I did a lot of work before my departure, including reading project material and gathering information about all the relevant stakeholders and their interests. Without any related experience, I found that I was ambivalent about the trip. On the one hand, I was nervous after finding out that our partner was strong; on the other hand, I looked forward to joining the project because it was the first time that I could play such a role in a similar project. However, when contacting project-related parties, I rushed to deliver messages that I had prepared beforehand. I was worried that if I didn’t do so the expected results could not be accomplished, therefore I kept struggling to find a perfect timing to express my opinions on the project. In the end this exhausted me and I gained little out of it. I kept wondering why I was not gaining the most from what I had initially prepared, and understood the answer by referring to a former project visit that I paid with a predecessor who worked in the field of educational foundations. Looking back at his generosity in giving partners more chances to think and express their ideas clearly, I realized that my impatience did me no favours, and in fact, putting the focus entirely on expressing my own opinion while trying to show that I was the party with the resources and power in my hands killed any chance for our partners to express their own viewpoint.

Focusing on personal development

What did I gain?

My criteria for evaluating a successful project have changed through my work. I was asked once during an interview how I think we can evaluate the success of a project. The answer that I gave at that time was ‘by looking at the quantified statistics’, and it sounds funny to me now because I am not an especially result-oriented person, but I still gave such an answer. What I realized gradually during my work at CMCF is that my foundation isn’t result-oriented either, accepting possible changes in the process of project implementation and willing to leave space for possible modifications even during the project design stage. We believe that the difference between the project promoter and the funder do not lie in their strengh or weakness with respect to each other, but in the different roles they play. Even though there may be plenty of obstacles during the project practice, and some might even affect the final results, a funding can still be considered successful as long as the two parties’ problem solving ability is enhanced in the process.

Some similar thoughts had already struck me when I took part in organizing student events on campus, and I realized that we can’t just look at the guests list or the attendance numbers to assess an event’s success. At the time I didn’t think deeply about the matter from other perspectives. Even though I am constantly learning how to deal with new challenges in my work, and this learning process has often been hard and painful, it has also made my thinking more integrated, and I have understood that, a successful project should include a clear logic, a smooth communication mechanism, a clear sense of responsibility and a clear division of labour..

What did my partners and I gain working together?

While carrying out projects for the ‘comprehensive development of rural communities in poverty’ (贫困乡村社区综合发展), our foundation lays emphasis on making use of the community capital and the ‘development’ of value chains in public welfare. Community development is however a slow process during which many uncertain factors are present. This means that community development projects may entail many variables which always have to be adjusted for. For a project officer, how to deal with these variables is an issue of great importance. In my view, the appearance of each variable and the implementation of every modification are positive processes. In fact, the growth of both sides (the promoter and the funder) even surpasses that of the project itself.

From the point of view of professional ecology, CMCF tries to cooperate with organizations that focus on different issues, including established organizations that operate maturely and several start-up grassroots organizations. We face great challenges, especially when working with the start-ups. For example, being a foundation with a central state enterprise background, CMCF is submitted to a large amount of regulations, and faces much pressure to regulate its financial operations. This year I participated in a funding project with a start-up that focuses on industrial reflection and criticism. Because it was hard to identify its independent financial account, we had some trouble with financial regulations. However we actively communicated with our partner and our colleagues in the finance department, hoping to find an optimal solution. It became especially important for us to restate our points repeatedly and strive to find common ground in our conversation, as we had different concerns and focuses that got in the way of our communication. I learned to feel and respond to our partner’s difficulties, and we tried to understand each other’s concerns, which in the end made our cooperation successful. Out of this experience, I learnt that the willingness to break down stereotypes and try to be understanding and communicative are more important than any specific technique when carrying out a project. It is a process of growing up for both the partner and the foundation.

A humanistic orientation

A belief I hold firmly all the time is that as change starts with a single person, every independent individual’s actual life and their specific situation are worthy of concern. The organizational value of CMCF is ‘to provide upward mobility for those who have motivations’, highlighting the importance of the individual and their initiative. Three of CMCF’s project principles, all derived from its values, are ‘raising people’s self-consciousness, ‘reinforcing people’s market access’ and ‘increasing people’s choices’. Either by chance or by luck, me and this foundation came together, and it maybe because of this belief that we stay together.

Meanwhile,in Southern China, the rural recreation center ‘CM –Yinlong Happiness Town’ has developed rapidly in Weining, Guizhou Province. Village women not only cleaned their houses up, but also formed a public health team to work on public health problems; college student Xiao Jiang came back to the village after her graduation, and became a ‘Chinese partner’ along with two other friends: they opened a cottage hotel, a restaurant and a KTV, introducing some urban amenities to their hometown; Xiao Jiang recently hosted a debate within the community, discussing living plans and environmental protection problems with the villagers. This is a village where only three years ago you had to wear rain boots to go out, because there was dirt up to half a meter deep everywhere. In an area of Yunnan not far from this village, villagers living in the mountain established a mutual aid team (互助组) to raise cows and sheep together. They also established the first public toilet in the village. In order to help villagers learn to use it properly, training was conducted on site. For generations, the only toilet that the villagers had used was the forest far way.

In Northern China, in Puhan community of Yongji, Shanxi province, workers from a Planting and Farming cooperative (种植养殖专业合作社)stand on the stage and give a lecture for non-locals. Wang, the village woman who is in charge of financial services,now takes a laptop to work everyday, because she needs to record data or sometimes prepare a PPT for her classes…. It’s hard to imagine that these sociable people were too nervous to speak in public a few years ago.

These changes brought about by our projects give me a feeling of satisfaction, and the targets of our assistance have become my focus. In September 2015, I participated in a “cooperative foundation camp” for front line program officers (基金会一线项目官员协力营). During the first phase, my predecessors from PCD (香港社区伙伴) pointed put that project officers in foundations should reflect on several questions, such as ‘do you agree with your organization’s sense of values and its strategy for promoting changes in society’ and‘have you become a part of the solution’ I was moved by these questions. Combined with what I have seen while moving forward in the past few months, they made me realize that I am not just a passer-by, but a part of ecological and public welfare. My participation in the projects I have worked in may turn me into a part of the problem, but also into a part of the solution.

When walking forward, don’t forget to look at the big picture. It will make your every step more determined in the future.

About the author:

Wu Jingsong(伍锦松), project officer in the China Merchants Charitable Foundation (CMCF), participated in the ‘comprehensive development of rural communities in poverty’ project. He got his bachelor’s degree in social work from Beijing Normal University’s Zhuhai Branch, and his Master of Charitable and Philanthropy Management (MCPM) from Macau University of Science and Technology. While studying he was committed to the principle of serving the community from the campus, and actively promoted campus democracy. He took many positions while in school, including Secretary General of Association of Social Workers, President of the Student Committee, Chairman of the Joint Conference of Student Organizations and Chair of the Graduate Student Union; he was also actively involved in off-campus social services and carried out services for youth development and older patient companionship and care; he also promoted cooperation in the phjlanthropy sector, launched the Pearl River Delta Joint Conference of Social Work Student Groups and held its rotating presidency.


编者的话:长假之前,冷锋的一篇“冷眼看贵圈”以其冷峻中的锋利搅动了公益圈,沸议之后,更需前行。本期推送的文章,是一篇深入项目的行动反思,以刚加入公益行业、学习项目资助的青年人视角,回顾了资助过程中的“我”与“合作伙伴”的权力关系演化,“我”与“合作伙伴”如何在追求项目“结果”与“过程”的角力中成长,并回归到“受益对象”和“我”本身是谁、如何存在更有意义上来。作者伍锦松是那类周身上下都写满了“努力奋发”的公益好青年,很有大牌基金会贤才俊彦的共通特点:名校出身、国际视野、严谨专业。本科期间,他的社会实践活动丰富到能写一本书,拿遍了学校的各种荣誉称号和奖学金,又保送读了硕士。为了选择合适的职业道路,他曾在扶贫办、团市委、社工协会、总工会、街道办等等单位实习,2015年初一次偶然的培训,让锦松走上一条之前还没尝试过的路——加入非公募基金会做资助项目官员。一切都还在摸索,但与前行伴随的是不断更新的反思与成长。     两年前刚读硕士时,我曾通过文字记录下四年本科求学的经历和思考,在里面提到四年里自己对未来职业的探索,现在总结起来就是十六个字——“进过机关、待过工青、做过社团、办过民非”,唯独没有经历过的就是商业机构和公益基金会。 后来在一次偶然的情况下,我参与到一个由招商局慈善基金会资助的培训项目,接触到一些现在的同事。短暂的相处之后,感觉这个团队似乎与我过往所接触的团队不一样,更重要的是那次培训让我近距离接触到另一种公益路径,而这正是自己希望尝试的。于是我开始关注这家基金会的动态,或许真的是“念念不忘,必有回响”,三个月后,我等到了招聘的机会,顺利进入这家基金会,踏进了这个行业。 入职之后的工作情景依然历历在目,工作团队开了一次又一次的讨论会,谈资助理念、聊项目管理。在讨论中“理性公益”、“有效资助”、“公益价值链”这些概念不断被提及,在当时看来这就是行业术语,既陌生而又令人满怀期待。不过,印象最深刻的是另一句话“基金会项目官员没有标准化的职业训练,资助更像是一门个人修炼的手艺”。这样的说法对于行业新丁来说无疑制造了紧张:没有师傅手把手教,大多要自行摸索,这可如何是好?   他者导向 这种紧张感很快就在工作里表现出来了。入职三个多月后第一次出差考察项目,在出发之前我做了不少功课,认认真真看了项目资料,了解每个利益相关方的情况,理清其中的利害关系。因为之前没有任何相应的经验,尤其又通过同事了解到合作伙伴比较强势,心里便有些忐忑不安。但也正因为第一次以不同的身份参与项目,着实也有满满的期待。 带着这种复杂的情绪到了项目地,开始了跟各个利益相关方的接触。因为担心错过每一个关键的环节,自己迫切地希望向他们传递之前准备的内容,总感觉如果不这样就无法达到项目考察的预期效果,所以始终在寻找合适的时机提出自己对项目的看法、疑问或建议。作为项目官员的第一次项目考察基本上自始至终在这样的节奏里,最大的感受是身心疲惫而收获甚微。对此我心中困惑不已,为什么明明按照设计好的方式去执行,结果却不尽如人意呢? 由此回想起早前跟随一位关注教育领域的基金会前辈走访项目的经历,他时常有意地让合作伙伴做更多的思考并能清晰地表达他们的想法。突然意识到急躁的心态让自己走进了一个封闭的圈子里,将自己的主要精力放在了寻找表达意见的机会上;同时自己扮演的又是掌握资源的甲方,这种权力关系使自己更容易主导对话——正因为如此,往往抹杀了合作伙伴发声的机会。当然,那位基金会前辈与合作伙伴循循善诱、平和自然的沟通方式除了因为经验的积累而了然于胸,也有个人风格的原因。但无论如何,保持足够的耐心,才能让我们听到不同的声音,看到更多的可能性。   成长导向 我的成长 在面试时,我曾被问到一个问题:你觉得应如何去评估一个项目成功与否?当时我的答案是“看产出、量化的数据指标”,现在回想起来仍然觉得挺可笑的:因为自己明明不以结果为导向,也并不热衷这一套东西,当时却鬼使神差般那样回应。入职之后慢慢发现,我所服务的这家基金会也并不只关注结果,能够接受项目执行过程中可能出现的变化,也愿意接受合作伙伴在项目设计之初为变化而预留空间;并且认为项目的执行方与资助方本身不存在能力方面谁强谁弱的问题,只是角色分工的差异;即使某一个项目在执行的过程中遇到诸多障碍,甚至最终影响了项目目标的达成,但如果双方在消除障碍的过程中,思路变得更加清晰,应对问题的能力得到提升,这依然是一次有价值的资助。 在此之前,类似的理念在我参与校园学生工作的时候隐约出现过,自己也多次跟团队伙伴强调举办某个活动固然重要,但最终认定活动成功与否不应该只看出席嘉宾或者参与人数。但当时尽管我已隐约觉得“只以结果定终身”有失偏颇,但对于其他方面并没有更多的思考。现在我常常面临来自工作各个方面的挑战,我不得不说这是一个非常痛苦的过程,但也确实让我之前的思考变得更加完整——例如对于项目成功的理解,包含了使项目逻辑变得更加清晰,团队形成顺畅的沟通机制,每个人具有清晰的责任意识,或者每个人为此而所做的努力和尝试等等。   与伙伴共成长 我们基金会在参与贫困乡村社区综合发展的同时,注重社区资本的“开发”与公益价值链的打造。然而社区发展是一个缓慢渐进的过程,同时这个过程伴随着诸多不确定性因素,这也就意味着社区发展类项目在执行过程中可能出现各种各样的变数和随之而来的调整,作为项目官员,如何看待这样的变数和调整尤为重要。于我而言,每一个变数的出现和每一个调整的实施,都是一个积极向前的过程,双方在这个过程中的成长甚至超越了项目本身。 从行业生态的角度出发,招商局慈善基金会尝试与关注不同议题的组织进行合作,包括运作已经相当成熟的老牌机构,也包括个别处于初创期的草根机构,在与后者的合作中就面临着一些挑战。比如作为央企背景的基金会,需要面对更多方面的监管,在财务操作方面的压力更加明显,而今年我参与了资助一家关注行业反思与批判的初创型机构的工作,因为很难确定该机构的独立财务账户,在财务规范问题上遇到比较大的挑战。但我们积极与合作伙伴、财务同事进行沟通,希望找到解决问题的最优方案。因为各自关注的焦点不同,讨论时双方难免不在一个频道上,所以反复澄清和寻找对话共同点就非常必要。我慢慢学会运用同理心去感受和回应合作伙伴的难处、财务同事的顾虑,并且尝试让彼此去理解对方,最后顺利达成了合作。从这个角度来看,在挑战和应对挑战的过程里,除了在具体操作上积累了经验,更重要的是大家愿意突破各自的思维定势,尝试更多的沟通和理解,不管对合作伙伴还是对基金会来说,这都是相伴成长的过程。   人本导向 “人”是改变的开始,每一个独立的个体的真实生活和特定情境都值得被关注,这是我始终坚信的理念。招商局慈善基金会以“为有动力的人提供向上的阶梯”作为组织价值观,强调人与主动性的重要性,也由此发展出三大项目原则:唤起人的自我意识、强化人的市场权利和增加人的多元选择。机缘巧合之下,我与这家基金会走到一起,或许正是因为有着这样共同的信念。 在南方,贵州威宁“招商局·银龙幸福小镇”的农家乐红红火火地开展起来了,村里的妇女们不仅做好家里卫生,还组成了卫生小组关注社区的公共卫生问题;大学生小江毕业后回到村里,和两个朋友一起做了乡村版“中国合伙人”:开民宿、办餐馆、KTV走起来,把城里的那一套引到了自己的家乡;最近小江还在村里组织了一场社区议事,让村民一起讨论生计和环境保护的问题……然而,就在三年前,这个村子里出趟门还得带着一双雨鞋,因为到处都是半米深的泥地。相隔不远的云南昭通,大山里的村民们成立了互助组开始养牛养羊,合力建了村里的第一个厕所,为了让大家更好地使用还专门做了现场培训——而祖祖辈辈以来,村里的厕所一直是远处的树林。 在北方,山西永济蒲韩社区,种植养殖专业合作社的工作人员站上讲台,给从外地前来学习的人们讲课;负责做金融服务的王大姐现在出门都要拎着笔记本电脑,因为要做记录,有时还要准备讲课的PPT……看着如今侃侃而谈的人们,谁也想不到几年前的他/她们站在台前都紧张到说不出话。 这些变化都让我感到欣喜,受益对象成为我全部的焦点。2015年9月,我参加了基金会一线项目官员协力营,在第一期培训中,香港社区伙伴(PCD)的前辈提出基金会的项目官员应该思考几个问题,包括“是否认同机构的价值观与推动社会改变的策略”、“自己是否成为问题和解决的一部分……”这些问题让我很受触动,结合过去几个月向前奔跑道路上的种种风景,意识到自己并非过客,而同样是整个公益生态的一部分。自己在项目中的存在,可能是问题的一部分,也可能是解决问题的一部分。 低头赶路,也别忘了抬头看天,或许这样才能让以后的脚步迈得更坚定一些。     关于作者:伍锦松,现任招商局慈善基金会项目官员,参与贫困乡村社区综合发展工作。本科就读于北京师范大学珠海分校社会工作专业,后赴澳门科技大学修读慈善及公益管理硕士课程。求学期间坚持“立足校园,服务社区”的理念,在校内积极推动校园民主,先后担任社工协会总干事、学生会议会议长、学生组织联席会议主席、研究生会主席等;在校外积极投身社会服务,开展青年成长、老年陪伴和病患关怀等服务;倡导行业区域合作,发起珠三角高校社会工作学生团体联席会议并任轮值主席。   关于“来自基金会的TA”: 作为行业资源汇聚之地,基金会总是能吸引更多目光,然而过往基金会发出的声音大多来自深孚众望的公益大佬与意见领袖,中基层项目官员成为沉默的大多数。2015年,在第七届中国非公募基金会发展论坛的支持下,中国发展简报设计执行了“倾听一线的声音-—项目官员眼中的基金会与行业”项目,通过国内非公募基金会一线项目官员的公益观察或个人故事,展示他/她们的所思所想、所见所得,由此呈现项目官员如何成长、基金会如何运作、又如何对社会议题和行业发展产生影响。 本栏目所有文章版权均属于该项目所有,转载敬请联系,并保留版权声明。

Translated by He Lei

Reviewed by Fu Tao, Wu Weiming

Edited by Gabriel Corsetti

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