What the Narada Foundation Learned from Lushan

China Development Brief no. 58 (Summer)

中文 English

Liu Zhouhong, Secretary General of the Narada Foundation, tells CDB Editor Fu Tao about what Narada learnt from participating in the 2013 Lushan earthquake relief effort.

Since 2008, the Narada Foundation has continually supported the disaster relief operations of non-profit organizations. Our role is to support operational costs and logistical expenses. After the 8:00 am earthquake on April 20th 2013 occurred, we began following the situation closely. On that first day, we joined the “Chengdu Public Interest Circle” Wechat group, and saw that the 420 joint rescue operations platform (hereafter 420 platform) was very active, and its division of labor was very clear. We believed that we had to support this type of joint action. On the afternoon of April 20th, we received a short e-mail from the 420 platform, asking if we could provide 20,000 yuan of support. According to our customary regulations, we need detailed project proposal and signed agreements to accept a project, and money is sent after we have received the invoice. However, that time we broke the rules and, once it was approved, the funding was sent before all the regular requirements were processed. During the discussion that evening , Xu Yongguang put forward the idea that 20,000 yuan may not be nearly enough. As we fully trusted the 420 platform, we decided to raise the subsidy amount to 200,000 yuan and see how it went. If 200,000 were not enough, we decided we would discuss the issue again. If the 200k were all spent, we thought we would use the remaining money to develop the 420 platform further in the future.

On the 24th, my colleagues came to Chengdu on a business trip to see the places where the money had been received. While the volunteers were loading the car, an unexpected situation happened. The driver suddenly asked for a fee of four thousand yuan. A few days prior, logistical fees were free, but it was understandable that a cost would emerge later. At that time, the “420 Alliance” discussed, whether or not they should unload. A colleague asked if we would be supportive of the extra logistical costs, and I said that we would. Then they managed to talk the price down to 2800 yuan, and the money saved was very useful. If they need more financial support in the future, we will continue to support this platform, which can manage regular disaster relief mechanisms and provide capacity building trainings.

Speed is a critical element of an emergency rescue and response phase. When we received proposals, project officers would begin discussing the issue on the same day, clarifying potential problems. If the proposal was not clear, then we would communicate by phone. Once we had helped making corrections, the proposal was sent to project relief teams. After fully discussing it, the summary was sent to me. The decision of approving or not approving the funds was to be decided before noon every day. During those days I had to work 15 to 16 hours every day, and take my laptop along with me when I went out on business trips.

The experience taught me that our foundation must be prepared, with a clear funding direction, strategy and positioning. Secondly, after the earthquake, the foundation must observe what other organizations are doing and find a team worthy of support. Thirdly, during normal times, it must develop ties with core organizations that are knowledgable and trustworthy. This way, when facing a sudden situation, decisions will be made quickly and will be met with approval and support.

The 420 platform is only one of the ways we provided support. In fact, many of our projects provided services to support organizations. For example, we funded the “Public Interest Day” disaster psychological assistance project. The project team recruited and selected volunteers online, providing them with psychological disaster intervention training, and then sending them to organizations in disaster areas. We also supported organizations that monitored water for environmental protection (such as the Genesis Green Center), as well as volunteer training for the Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Education Centre. I believe that foundations should fund and support grassroots efforts to enable them to be more effective. When starting rescue efforts, whether they support grassroots organizations or co-operate with the government, foundations must first consider how to do the job most effectively, rather than how to spend the money as quickly as possible. They should consider how to ensure safety, knowing that giving money to the government is not necessarily the right answer. The key is to establish a mechanism to ensure the safety of funds. The Narada Foundation has 10 million yuan, and we can approve and support projects quickly if they are good and the needs are clearly identified.

南都公益基金会快速资助芦山地震救援的体会

 

2008年以来,南都基金会一直支持民间组织的救灾行动。我们的定位是支持工作成本和物流费用。4月20日当天8点地震后,我们就开始持续关注。正好我们头一天加入了“成都公益圈”微信群,看到420(联合)很活跃,分工清晰,我们想应该支持这样的联合行动。20日下午收到了一个(来自420联合的)简短邮件,问能不能支持2万元的工作经费?按照常规,需要详细的项目建议书,要签署协议,收到发票再拨款,我们这次要打破常规,马上审批,头一回先拨款,后补手续和报账。当晚讨论时,(徐)永光提出来,2万元可能远远不够。(既然)我们充分信任他们,就(把资助金额)提到20万,花完了不够再说。如果花不完,也可以用于未来的平台建设。

24日我的同事来这里(成都)出差,看他们的物资接收点。志愿者正在装车,没想到碰到了情况。有司机突然提出来要4000元。前几天物流是免费的,后来出现成本也能理解。当时“420联合”讨论是不是要卸下来?同事请示能否支持这车的物流费用,我说可以啊。后来他们把价格谈到2800元,有这些钱还是挺管用的。如果未来需要,我们会继续支持这个平台,可以搞常态的救灾机制和能力建设。

紧急救援阶段要体现快速的特点,我们收到建议书,项目官员会在当天进行沟通,澄清问题,如果建议书不够清楚,我们就通过电话沟通,帮他们完善后发给救灾项目小组,充分讨论后汇总到我这里,我每天12点前决定批还是不批,当天搞定。这几天每天工作15~16个小时,出差带着电脑也是这样。

这件事的体会是,基金会要有准备,有明确的资助方向、策略和定位;第二是发生地震后,要去观察机构在做什么,找到值得支持的团队;三是平时要有积累,非常熟悉和信任这些核心机构,遇到突发事件才能够放心快速地决策审批提供支持。

联合救援平台只是我们支持的一个方向,其实更多的是支持机构的服务项目,例如,我们还资助了“一天公益”的灾区心理援助项目,他们通过网上募集并遴选志愿者,对他们进行灾区心理干预培训,再派往灾区的组织。另外我们还支持了做水环境监测的组织(创绿中心),以及平安星(防震减灾教育中心)的志愿者培训等等。基金会应资助草根,这样效果更明显。在救援方面是选择资助草根还是与政府合作方面,基金会首先应该考虑的是怎么做才更有效,而不是钱怎么能尽快花出去,怎么保证安全,把钱给政府也不一定安全,关键是建立一套保证资金安全的机制。南都是常备1000万元,根据具体需求来决定投放的项目,有好项目就可以批。

Liu Zhouhong is the Secretary General of the Narada Foundation

Translated by Dawn Wang

Reviewed by Kelly McCarthy

Edited by CDB Staff

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