The Chengdu NGO Service Park: an Interview with Xu Qizhi

China Development Brief, No.56 (Winter 2012)

中文 English

On 29th June 2012, the Chengdu NGO Service Park (成都公益组织服务园) was launched. Initiated by the government, the Service Park introduced the Non-Profit Incubator (NPI) (恩派) model, and acts as an integrated support network for NGOs, social workers and public welfare projects. It provides incubation, capacity building and community outreach services for NGOs at different developmental stages. At present, the Service Park has recruited an initial group of 15 organizations, and is providing project promotion and community outreach services to meet the needs of 14 more mature organizations (in mid-November, the Service Park announced a second round of recruitment). During the opening ceremony, many NGOs put up displays, and experts and scholars involved in the study and promotion of non-profit organizations from Mainland China and Taiwan in attendance affirmed and expressed their hopes for the Service Park’s innovative model. In addition, as part of the package, the Chengdu municipal government has provided 380 million yuan to set up the Chengdu Social Organization Development Foundation (成都市社会组织发展基金会), which will provide financial support to the organizations in the Service Park. As an entity initiated by the government and planned by academics and the community, and backed by the government’s resolute and innovative thinking, what are the similarities and differences of the Service Park compared with the previous NPI incubator model? What new problems will its operation encounter?

On October 29, China Development Brief interviewed the Service Park’s Advisor Xu Qizhi. Xu, who comes from Taiwan, studied under the well-known public sector authority and founder of the Third Sector Research Center at the National Chengchi University of Taiwan (台湾政治大学), Professor Mingxiu Jiang, in 1996. In 2006, Xu began his Ph.D. at Shanghai Jiaotong University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Outside of his academic background, Xu’s diverse experience also includes establishing an NGO incubation enterprise with Jiang and others in Taiwan in 2001. His affinity for NPI began as a result of his research on social enterprises. Xu helped to develop training courses and set up the Social Entrepreneurs College (社会创业家学 院) in Shanghai’s NPI in 2010. He left in September 2011 upon its completion. As part of Chengdu’s planning to promote social organization, Xu became the “designer” of the Service Park, and led its implementation. With his Taiwanese background and diverse perspectives, this outsider “sage” had a good grasp of the local situation. He has observed the implementation of the NGO incubator concept in Chengdu, and shared his thoughts on the structure, positioning and rationale behind the Service Park, as well as his experiences in working with the government.

CDB: What was the context under which the Service Park was established? How did you get involved in the framework design and preparation process?

Xu: NGO incubators have been popping up all over the country in recent years, and Chengdu’s exploration in this area was also relatively early. In 2010, the Jinjiang District set up a NGO incubator (the Jinjiang Citizen Service Center, 锦江区市民服务中心), resulting in Chengdu having two incubators at the district level [Editor’s Note: The other incubator is NPI’s Chengdu office.]. In 2011, Chengdu wanted to expand the incubator pilot, so they began searching for people with relevant experience across the country. In September 2011, I had just left NPI and travelling around the country giving lectures. The current Director of the Service Park and a few others contacted me, and after much discussion, I formally joined in for its preparation in February of this year. I provided them with proposals, ideas and advice. Since helping to create the Social Entrepreneurs College, I had begun to summarize my experiences with NPI, which came into play with the implementation of the preparations for the Service Park.

CDB: What are the profiles of the organizations in the Service Park currently? What are the similarities and differences between the NPI model in terms of the positioning, framework design and specific operations of the Service Park?

Xu: There are a total of 15 organizations in the first group. They are involved in psychological counseling, book clubs, education and Youth leadership development, elderly people, people with disabilities and other fields. The standard of Chengdu’s NGOs is not considered high, so we had to consider our capabilities and resources in preparation for completing incubation within the year to bring Chengdu’s level up to standard. Many of the organizations in the Service Park are already registered. With high-tech zones doing the same (inviting NGOs to their zones to register and provide services), we were easily able to get on board. Out of the 15 organizations, eight are from other provinces, and the remaining seven are from within the province. Four of the organizations from outside the province were involved in the relief and reconstruction efforts in Sichuan after the 2008 earthquake. They are now facing the challenge of transitioning from reliance on foreign resources to local resources, and usually have a relatively higher starting point. The remaining four organizations are those that I felt were outstanding, and I asked them to apply to join us.

One example is Shanghai’s World of Art Brut Culture (WABC), which can raise funds by itself. They see Chengdu as a research and development center for organizational innovation where we provide intellectual resources. These organizations will eventually be introduced into the community. Another organization is “Dialogue in the Dark (China)”. I did a good deal of cajoling to bring them in, hoping that these more experienced organizations will help promote the development of Chengdu’s social organizations.

In addition, we also have 14 community service partner organizations. The park does not provide incubation services to them, but rather community initiation. An example is the first public welfare project promotion event (Shuangliu session), which was very successful. In the future, more exchange activities will be held, as well as efforts to bring in more organizations from other provinces into Chengdu. Of course, the second and third groups of organizations may not be as well-known as the first, so we’ll need to strengthen our role. To put it realistically, the Service Park is a GONGO, linking up grassroots organizations with community, street committee and other government resources so that they can enter the community to work.

The Service Park has positioned itself as an incubator, capacity builder and community initiator. The aspect that is purely based on the NPI model is the incubator. However, we have our own innovations. The NPI incubator is project-based, thus focusing on more detailed examinations of those projects. Our area of focus is on building the abilities of the team, hoping that the team will have the ability to bring in resources for professional and sustainable operations after their incubation period. Even though the processes and models are based on NPI, the orientation is different.

The Service Park’s operations include recruiting 15 organizations every three months, with the goal of incubating 60 organizations a year, which corresponds to the total number of organizations incubated by the Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu offices of NPI. We provide integrated administrative support, including venues, office space, funding, capacity building and policy support. Similar to businesses, each organization receives a startup fund (up to a maximum of 50,000 yuan), which they can use autonomously in cooperation with us. Each organization receives a subsidy of 5,000 yuan a month, which is mainly to support staff salaries, and up to 100, 000 yuan of project funds at the end of incubation.

The incubation period was originally planned to be from three months to a year, depending on the stage of development and the organization’s needs. However, there were some who felt that the three-month period was too difficult to achieve, and thus, the first group were all approved for a one-year incubation period. Registered and unregistered institutions are both welcome. An example is a mature institution like the Shenzhen Canyou (残友), which we hope can replicate its model from Shenzhen headquarters to the China’s western areas [Editor’s Note: Canyou is an IT company staffed by people with disabilities. It is seen by many to be one of China’s most successful social enterprises. See “Friends of the Disabled: A High-tech Enterprise for People with Disabilities”]. Canyou’s purpose in coming to Chengdu was not for team support, but to establish good ties with the local government and other resources in the city. Our appeal for this organization lies in our research and training resources such as our international and domestic experts, scholars and trainers.

Actually, NPI currently faces a number of challenges in its development direction and continued innovation. There is quite a bit of internal disagreement on whether they should do more longer-term incubatation, or to withdraw support once the results are seen. Through the Service Park’s operations, I hope to deepen the level of incubation, and to explore other possibilities for the development of incubators in China.

The framework we designed is quite stringent. Originally, Chengdu allocated 500 million yuan to set up the Service Park. External consultants and experts recommended that there should be a separate fund set up to manage the money. As a non-governmental, intermediary, support organization, the Service Park takes into account both government policy and community needs, coming up with projects with partners and applying for funding for annual projects. Since the Service Park has assumed the responsibility of reviewing project applications, the Chengdu Social Organization Development Foundation can focus on the management of funds. At present, the Foundation supports the following areas: projects in the Service Park, incubation projects targeting youth in the District Communist Youth League’s Innovation Centre, and the Jinjiang District Social Organization Development Foundation.

CDB: Are there any differences in the development space and policy environment for NGOs in interior regions such as Chengdu, compared to coastal areas such as Shanghai? What are the challenges and difficulties faced in implementing the incubation model here?

Xu: An incubator plays of a resource platform, bringing together the resources from the government, private enterprises and NGOs, and coordinating the interests of all the parties involved. We need to convert the concepts of capable grassroots NGOs into language and practices accepted by the government and private enterprises. We also need to translate the corporate lingo into language accepted by grassroots NGOs, and ensure that everyone is satisfied. This is very challenging.

In my academic work, I’ve done a few comparisons of Chengdu and Shanghai. The advantage of Chengdu is that due to the earthquake in 2008, all parties have established a consensus regarding public benefit work. Local businesses and government are as supportive of public benefit work as grassroots organizations. This change is very obvious. Like the September 21, 1999 earthquake in Taiwan which brought about a number of social changes in Taiwan, similar changes have occurred in Chengdu.

In the process of setting up the Service Park, the majority of the problems appeared in working with the local government and party offices (specifically the municipal Propaganda Department which is under the local Party Committee). NGOs in Taiwan have been developing at least 30 years longer than in Shanghai. Comparing Chengdu and Shanghai, the understanding of the public benefit in Chengdu lags by at least five years, and this includes the government, community and private enterprises. Objectively, the government lags behind slightly more. When proposing an idea to the governments in Shanghai and Beijing, I don’t need to put in much effort. However, in Chengdu, I have to put in a great deal. Shanghai is more relaxed, so even if they don’t agree, they may let you try. Although the Service Park is registered as a NGO, the government’s influence is still very large. This is unimaginable in Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen. The difference in the extent of [government] control between these areas is similar to the difference in their geographical distance. Of course, the Service Park concept, from a framework and design perspective, is already considered quite open-minded. During its launching ceremony, many experts mentioned that it is ahead of its time by 5-10 years. This poses a huge challenge to the Chengdu municipal government. Despite appearing to be very innovative, their awareness and understanding is still lower than governments in coastal areas. Shanghai has a more open system but less awareness, whereas Chengdu is the exact opposite.

CDB: NPI operates its incubator independently as a NGO, while the Service Park is government-led. Are there any shortcomings in the Service Park’s development when compared with your original expectations? Can you evaluate your role in the Service Park?

Xu: It’s not so easy to grade I think. But if I must, I definitely didn’t pass. Within the government system, I have to go around in circles whenever I want to do something. Even though my opinions are implemented more than 90% of the time, and quite smoothly I must say, it takes a lot of energy and time. I must acknowledge that they are supportive, but there is still a large gap between my expectations and the reality, which may be because my expectations were too high. After leaving NPI in September, the Chengdu government contacted me but I refused them. In October, I came to Chengdu to teach. I arrived the day before and we talked all evening, and then next day, they tried to convince me all day. Finally, I proposed certain requirements, foremost of which was autonomy, hoping to get them to give up. Of course, I fully understand that they are part of the [government] system, and so no individual can make decisions by themselves. Privately, they are very supportive and acknowledging of me.

In terms of staffing, I asked three people from Taiwan, Shanghai and Chengdu grassroots organizations to join me when I came over. Including myself, we totaled four. The ones from Taiwan and Chengdu have already left, leaving the one from Shanghai. The original plan was to take the standard route to recruiting, advertising to attract talented people from all over the country. However, the current situation is that the support is in place, and the staff has been allocated to us. The Director of the Service Park is the Director of the City Youth Palace (青少年宫), and the staff comes from the city’s Social Construction Office (社会建设办公室) and the Youth Palace. [Editor’s Note: The point Xu is making here is that the Director and other staff are coming from the party-state system and so have little familiarity with NGOs. The Youth Palace is part of the Communist Youth League system and the Social Construction Office is also under the local Party system]. This has brought difficulties, and training and other services are unable to proceed smoothly. Some of the recruited institutions are very experienced, and thus need to be provided with professional support. However, the staff provided are novices in terms of their knowledge of civil society and working capabilities, and we need to start from the very basics.

CDB: As a resource support platform, does the Service Park have plans for other programs and activities?

Xu: We hope do something to catalyze the linking up of grassroots organizations. Two weeks ago, there were already 17 hub institutions involved in the preparation and they had reached a consensus to hold a public benefit CEOs salon every month. There will be no fixed theme, and everyone will meet to communicate, share ideas and support each other. In order to recommend reliable NGOs to the government and private enterprises, and to have third party supervision, we have to start from the linking up of social networks. At the same time, we also want to use this platform to understand the needs of the government, private enterprises and the media. Currently, the public benefit CEO salon has decided to hold a Joint Annual Meeting of Chengdu NGOs on January 11, 2013. In addition to being a landmark event to show unity, this also paves the way for future cooperation.


解读成都公益组织服务园 ——徐启智访谈

付涛 中国发展简报2012年冬季刊

2012年6月29日,成都公益组织服务园启动。服务园在政府主导下引入恩派(NPI)公益组织孵化器模式,定位于公益组织、社工人才和公益项目发展的综 合支持平台,为不同阶段的公益组织提供孵化、能力建设和社区落地三大服务模块。迄今为止,首批15家机构入驻服务园,此外还引入了14家较为成熟的机构, 为其项目复制推广和社区落地需求提供服务(11月中旬,服务园发出了第二批招募公告)。启动仪式上,不少公益组织进行了现场展示,两岸三地从事非营利组织 研究和推动的专家学者也纷纷莅临现场进行观摩、研讨,并对服务园的创新模式予以肯定,并表达期望。此外,作为服务园的配套,成都市还由市政府注资3.8亿 元成立了成都市社会组织发展基金会,为服务园内的组织提供资金支持。作为政府引进、由学者和民间参与策划的公益组织服务园,在政府魄力和强烈的创新意图背 后,与此前恩派的孵化器模式有什么异同?其运作会遇到哪些新问题?

10月29日,中国发展简报在成都公益组织服务园访谈了服务园的顾问徐启智。徐是台湾人,1996年师从知名台湾公益界权威、台湾政治大学第三部门研究中 心创办人江明修教授,2006年进入上海交大国际关系公共关系学院攻读博士学位。除了这些学术背景,徐的跨界经历还包括早些时候在台湾创办企业,2001 年与江等人在台合作试验实施公益组织孵化器。他因研究社会企业与NPI结缘。2010年,徐启智在上海NPI帮助开发培训课程、筹办社会创业家学 院,2011年9月告一段落后离开。作为成都市推动社会组织规划的一部分,他成为公益组织服务园的“设计师”,应邀主导参与了服务园的实施计划。以台湾人 的身份和跨界的视野,这个外来的“和尚”念的是本土的经。他对公益组织孵化器概念在成都的落地环境做了观察,也介绍了服务园的架构、定位与背后的理念,还 吐露和分享了与政府合作的心路历程。


徐:近年来全国各地都在做公益组织孵化器,成都在这方面的探索也比较早,2010年锦江区就成立了社会组织孵化器 (指锦江区市民服务中心),这样成都在区的基础上就有了两个孵化器(编者注:另一个是NPI在成都的孵化器)。2011年,成都想扩大孵化器试点并提升一 个层次,就在全国去找有相关经验的人。2011年9月我正好从恩派离开,赋闲之际到处讲课,现在的服务园苑从军总干事等人找到我,经过多次游说在今年2月 正式参与服务园的筹备。我为他们提供方案和想法,提供咨询。我在帮助建立恩派社会创业家学院的时候,就开始总结恩派的经验,按这个思路去落实服务园的筹 备。


徐:第一批入驻的机构现有15家,涵盖心理咨询、读书会、支教与青少年发展、老人、残障等多个领域。成都公益组织水 平在全国不算高,因此要在一年内完成孵化,在准入标准上考虑了我们的能力和资源能够承担的程度。入驻机构中有不少已经注册的机构,加上高新区也在做这件事 (邀请公益组织到区内注册和开展服务),我们搭了个便车。15家机构中省外组织有8家,省内7家。省外机构中有4家是5.12地震后到四川参加救援和重 建,现在正面临从依靠国外资源向本地化转型的组织,他们的起点比其他机构高,另外4家是我觉得很优秀,动员邀请他们申请入驻的。

例如上海的无障碍艺途(WABC),自己有能力筹资,他们将成都作为机构创新的研发中心,由我们提供智力支持。这些入驻机构将来一定是要落地进入社区的。 另外一家是“黑暗中的对话(中国区)”,我做了很多动员工作,请他们进来,希望通过引进一批在全国范围内都比较成熟,有经验的组织来带动成都市社会组织的 发展。

另外我们还引入了14家社区服务伙伴机构,服务园对他们提供的不是孵化,而是社区引入服务。比如首场公益项目推介会(双流专场),效果很好。将来会做更多 的对接活动,并将更多的省外机构引入成都。当然,第二和第三批入住机构可能不会像第一批那么有名气,因此我们的作用更需要加强。讲得实际一点,服务园就是 一个GONGO,为草根组织把社区、街道等政府资源对接好,使他们能进入社区做事。

服务园定位在孵化、能力建设和社区落地三个方面。纯粹以恩派模式为基础的,就是孵化这一块。但我们也有自己的创新点。恩派以项目孵化为主,对项目的考察比 较细致。我们的设计是以团队能力孵化为主,要求团队在出壳时有能力引入资源进行专业操作和可持续提供服务的能力。尽管服务园在流程和模式上是以恩派为基 础,但有着不同的取向。

具体操作上,每三个月会招15个机构进来,一年额定孵化目标是60个机构,与恩派在北京,上海,深圳与成都四地一年的总量相当。我们提供统一的行政支持, 包括场地、办公空间,资金,能力建设和政策支持。启动时像商业机构一样有一笔启动资金(最多5万),入驻机构可以在我们的协调下自主使用。每个机构提供每 月5千元补贴,主要用于支持人员工资,孵化出壳时还提供最高10万元的项目资金支持。

原来计划的孵化时间是3个月到一年,根据机构发展阶段和需求不同量身打造。但有意见认为3个月难度太大,最终第一批都以一年为期。注册和未注册的机构都可 以进来。像深圳残友这样的成熟机构,希望把深圳总部的模式复制到西部,到成都来发展,需要的不是团队支持,而是进入成都所缺乏的行政资源,解决身份和资源 对接的问题。我们对这家机构的吸引力,还在于拥有国际国内的专家、学者和培训师在内的研究和培训资源。


我们设计的框架还是比较严谨的,原来成都市划拨5亿资金成立服务园。外部顾问、专家提出建议,应该单独成立一个管钱的基金会。服务园作为一个民非和枢纽 型、支持性机构,整合政府的政策需求以及社会需求,与合作伙伴结合产生项目,统包成年度计划向基金会申请。由于服务园承担了项目审核的功能,基金会可以专 事资金管理。目前,成都市社会组织发展基金会目前主要针对以下三块提供支持:服务园的项目、团市委青年创新中心针对青年的孵化项目,以及锦江区社会组织发 展基金会。


徐:做孵化器是夹心饼干的角色,本质上就是一个资源平台,要把政府、企业和NGO的资源拼到一起,协调各方的利益取 向。要把能够干事的草根NGO的理念,转换成政府和企业能接受的语言和做法,还要将企业的语言进行转换,使草根NGO能够接受,还要保证大家开开心心往下 走,我觉得难度很大。

基于学术习惯,我对成都和上海两地做过一些横向比较。成都的优势是通过2008年的地震救灾,各方建立了公益的共识,当地企业家和政府对公益的认知、心理 上的认同和使命感并不比草根组织少,这是非常突出的。1999年的9.21地震也给台湾带来了一些改变,我在成都仿佛也看到了这样的变化。

服务园筹备过程中,大部分问题出在与政府(市委宣传部)的磨合上面。台湾社会组织发展至少领先上海30年。成都和上海相比,包括政府、民间和企业在内,对 公益的理解又至少要滞后5年,客观上是政府相对滞后一点。在上海、北京向政府提出一个想法,我会费点劲,在成都会费很大劲。上海处于更宽松的状态,即便不 认同,也可能放手让你尝试。服务园尽管注册为民非,但政府对它的影响和管控还是非常大。这在上海、北京或深圳都是无法想象的。这种管控的力度差距与地理距 离差不多。当然,成都能设立服务园,从框架设计和机制设计,都算很开放,(服务园)开幕式上,专家进行点评,都认为超前了一个时代(10年),或者说至少 5年,这对成都市政府是一个很大的挑战。创新力度看上去很大,但在认识和理解上与沿海还有距离。上海是体制上宽容,认知上滞后,成都正好相反。

简报:NPI是作为公益组织独立运作孵化器,而你在服务园却面临政府主导的格局。与你原先的预期相比,服务园的现实进展有哪些落差?能不能给自己在服务园中发挥的角色打个分数? 徐:不太好打分吧?但(实在要打的话)肯定没有及格。在政府体制内,每做一件事都要转圈,尽管我提的(意见)90% 以上都会做,也可以说是顺利,但都耗费我很大精力和时间。必须肯定他们是支持的,但与预期差距还是很大,这种差距也可能是我自己期望过高造成的。去年9月 离开恩派时他们来找我,我拒绝了。10月我来(成都)上课,前一天到,讲了一晚,第二天劝了我一整天。最后我提出了几个条件,想让他们知难而退,其中自主 权就是第一条。当然,我也完全理解他们在体制程序内,不是个人能拍板说了算的。于私而言,他们对我都很认同和支持。

人员构成方面,我过来的时候请了3位,来自台湾、上海和成都三地的草根组织,包括我一共有4位。现在台湾和成都的都已经走了,还剩下上海的一位。原来计划 是要用正规的想法去做,通过招聘吸引全国优秀的人加盟,现在是支持很到位,人都给我们准备好了。服务园总干事是市青少年宫主任,工作人员分别来自市里(社会办)和市青少年宫,这带给我们很大困扰,使培训和其他服务无法按部就班。入驻的一些机构本身就非常有经验,对他们提供支持就需要做到很专业,但到位的工 作人员在公益认知和工作能力上还是新手,需要从ABC说起。 简报:服务园作为资源支持平台,还有其他的计划及活动安排吗?


[1] 注:该活动已于11月20日结束,共有120家组织参加(以四川省内组织为主)。最终通过媒体评审团点评,从30家入围组织中产生了“十家最具正能量”公益组织。

Senior Researcher, China Development Brief

Translated by Feng Zhiying

Reviewed by Mark Lee

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