International Forum on Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

About 200 experts and practitioners attended the first Amity-Heren International Philanthropy Forum

On 7 to 8 of November, the first Amity-Heren International Philanthropy Forum was held in Nanjing. More than 50 practitioners and scholars from seven countries and regions presented, discussed and exchanged ideas on China's advancing public welfare and charity sector. The forum was jointly organized by the Amity Foundation and the Heren Charity Academy of Nanjing University. About 200 participants attended the main-forum on Social Innovation and Sustainable Development and the six related sub-forums.

Liu Yajun, Deputy Director of Jiangsu Provincial Civil Affairs Department


In the Opening Address Mr Liu Yajun, Vice Director of Jiangsu Civil Affairs Department congratulated the Amity Foundation for organizing the first Amity-Heren forum, creating a platform for government departments, Chinese Social Organizations and academia to exchange. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of bringing actors together and stressed the significance of the third sector offering advice and suggestions for norms and government policies. He pointed out, that social organizations are main actors for good governance and innovation of the society.

Qiu Zhonghui, General Secretary of the Amity Foundation


Mr Qiu Zhonghui, Executive Vice Chair of the Board and General Secretary of Amity explained that important and profound changes have taken place in China's social system and social structure in recent years. Social organizations are already playing an important role in social governance in the modern China. He added that there is increasingly frequent cooperation and close relations between the market and the social sectors. Social organizations are more and more actively promoting cross-border collaboration.

Professor Chen Youhua, Heren Charity Academy,

Nanjing University


Chen Youhua of Heren Chairty Academy said in his keynote speech, that China is shifting to a moderately prosperous society and that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. Social innovation will have more theoretical and practical significance all over the world regarding population, economy, society, resources, environment and sustainable development. “I believe this Forum will certainly enhance academic exchanges and the sharing of practical experience, both at home and abroad, and raise awareness and reflect on social innovation and sustainable development.”

Professor David Horton Smith,

Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Boston College


Zhou Xiaohong, professor of Nanjing University highlighted in his speech that the first Amity- Heren Forum is a forum for cooperation. In the future an annual forum will be an important benchmark of exchange in the philanthropic field. Overseas keynote speaker David Horton Smith, one of the founders and leading scholars of volunteering research, exolained the importance of volunteerism for sustainable development. He pointed out that 56 million estimated volunteering associations worldwide and additionally various informal acts of volunteering are a striving power, which contributes to development.

Professor Wang Ming, Director of Institute of Philanthropy, Tsinghua University


Professor Wang Ming of Tsinghua University reminded the audience of the new legislation that brought significant changes to the sector. Besides the Charity Law and the Law on Administration of Activities of Overseas NGO Working in the Mainland of China, the country has also modified parts of its previous Civil Law, which was in effect for 30 years. In his opinion, the General Rules of the Civil Law provide important guidelines for social governance. Moreover, Wang Ming pointed out the technological advancement through big data. In China the government shares these data and it can be used for research on enhancement of social governance. In Wang Ming's point of view, the Chinese society could be shifting from a harmonious society, which was mainly based on regulations to a phase of developing a beautiful society, which improves the quality of life, which also includes the spiritual and the charity aspect.

Professor Huang Haoming, China Global Philanthropy Institute, Board Member of the Amity Foundation


Professor Huang Haoming of China Global Philanthropy Institute put the focus on Chinese non-profit organizations 'Going global', entering the international sphere. Huang Haoming emphasized the capacity building effect for Chinese organizations by gaining international practical experience. Moreover, internationalization entails better personal networks and diversification of funds, including official development assistance (ODA) and corporate funding, given that social organizations are partnering with the government and enterprises.

He Wen, Associate General Secretary of the Amity Foundation


He Wen indicated some of the various challenges of the philanthropic sector in China. Although an increase of donations and research shows the enhancement of the society, there is still a lack of professional project management. There are still 43 million people who are living below the poverty line in rural China as well 14.8 million people living below the poverty line in an urban context. The number of donations is only 0.19% of the Chinese GDP in 2016, which makes China one of the least charitable countries in the world. Out of those donations only 21% are given by individual donors.

He Wen pointed out the important contribution of grassroots NGOs. Unfortunately, they are often lack of funding. Most funds that are raised in affluent regions are then again used in the same regions. Projects often receive the most exposure when they are emotionally attaching and the mass media is causing fragmentation of information that leads to a lack of deeper understanding of social issues. This brings the danger of an overemphasis of marketization and a neglect of providing quality service. Especially grassroots organizations are confronted with the disparity between quality of service and commercialization, the dilemma between doing good and marketization. Consequently, professionalism and distribution in China are still insufficient.

Social Innovation was one of the main topics discussed in simultaneous sub-forums

Over the two days the 50 attending experts were presenting and exchanging ideas in six sub-forums: international cooperation and global governance, CSOs development and community governance, Management innovation and leadership, Local exploration in management and system innovation, Cross-boundary integration and multi-innovation, social enterprises and public welfare innovations.

During the closing session, Professor Xu Jialiang of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University said that NGOs should aim to change government policies and influence the government. Liang Zubin of the Hong Kong University called attention to the fact that social work has still a relatively low status among university subjects. Lu Wanping of the Taiwan Bengonian Foundation shared her experience of working more than 30 years in this field in Taiwan. She explained that Taiwan's thriving civil society is confronted with a lack of resources, which leads to more dependency on the government and to less advocacy and grassroots participation.

Many of the topics and challenges are well-known and unsolved in developed countries as well as in other developing and emerging countries, too. In the end, Huang Haoming pointed out that Chinese social organizations should learn from the experience of Belt and Road countries. He also reminded the audience that global governance and participation by religious groups in social development will become more important. Such framework is provided by the Sustainable Development Goals.

Group photo of participants of the Amity-Heren International Philanthropy Forum