Caixin holds webinar on ‘Building a global safety net against Covid-19’

Caixin Media, considered by many to be China’s most independent and professional news outlet, hosted a “Caixin Global Webinar” on April 27, on the topic of “Building a Global Safety Net Against Covid-19 — how American, European and Chinese NGOs are addressing the crisis and shaping the post-crisis world”.

Speakers included Lu Mai, Vice Chairman of the China Development Research Foundation and Secretary General of the China Development Forum; Elizabeth Knup, director and chief representative of the Ford Foundation’s Beijing office; Gerry Salole, Chief Executive of the European Foundation Centre (EFC); and Zhu Yanmei, Executive Director of the BGI Group and Secretary General of the Mammoth Foundation.

Lu Mai spoke first, introducing the work that the CDRF has done in response to Covid-19. The foundation has worked both within China, where it has raised money through the Alipay crowdfunding platform, and then donated 600,000 PPE items to rural areas; and internationally, donating protective equipment to Italy, Brazil and Venezuela, and launching a project to assist Italy’s fight against Covid-19 with the China Global Philanthropy Institute and TOChina Hub. In addition, the CDRF has also continued its early child development programs, and it has advised the government on urbanization, based on its understanding that migrant workers should be encouraged to remain and settle in the cities where they work and live.

Elizabeth Knup spoke next, explaining that the Ford Foundation is most interested in addressing inequality, and thus it is particularly concerned with the impact of the pandemic on the society and on vulnerable people. In February, the Ford Foundation committed three million dollars over three years in response to the pandemic. As a grant-making foundation Ford deploys its resources through other organizations, including NGOs, which are currently under great economic stress. Elizabeth predicted that two years from now the number of NGOs in the US will have diminished by a considerable number. She also made the point that it is important for civil society to remain separate from the government. Civil society, the private sector and the government need to all be equally healthy and moving forward, rather than being merged into one gigantic entity.

Gerry Salole spoke about the response of European foundations to the crisis, explaining that a lot is happening, but different actors are responding independently, without the necessary coordination. He also pointed out that foundations have the ability to act counter-cyclically, and that there might be an argument for going past the 5% payout rule for handing out grants, considering that there has been such an outpouring of donations from the public that foundations have been able to raise in days what would normally take years.

Finally Zhu Yanmei introduced the Mammoth Foundation’s recent activities. Based in Shenzhen and sponsored by the BGI group, the foundation initially focused on enhancing testing capacities within China. It found 16 hospitals in Wuhan that needed help to enhance their testing capacity, and donated 8 million Yuan to raise their capacity up to 200 tests a day. Later on, the foundation’s chairman Wang Shi met with the Chinese ambassador in Japan to organize a donation of 12,500 testing kits to the Diamond Princess cruise ship. At that point many countries contacted the foundation for help, and by now they have donated 20,000 testing kits to 30 countries, most of which are in Africa.

The next step was to set up a lab in Belgrade, Serbia. The lab is now completed and can process over 1000 samples a day. The development of more labs is now underway in ten countries. Zhu Yanmei explained that the foundation is quite new, with only five employees, and fortunately it has avoided getting caught up in any kind of political rhetoric over its work.

After the four speakers had finished their presentations, Wang Zhenyao, Dean of the China Philanthropy Research Institute, made some key points, after which there was a Q&A session with the speakers.

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