Promoting Self-governance in Communities
“Creative Ideas from the Community” is a system of selfgovernance that is being used in Beijing. Residents can note various problems and propose ways to solve them. The project helps residents be more aware of problems, and it stimulates self- governance.
Whether in a high-end community or an old community, a trivial matter or a major issue regarding public security, ideas to solve problems that Beijing's residents face have the chance to be implemented via the Creative Ideas from the Community programme. Chaoyang District has used this system since 2015. “We will make decisions about our community” is no longer just a slogan.
Master of Communities Development
The government policy and financial support for the Creative Ideas from the Community. They will be implemented via cooperation between subdistrict offices and professional social organisations. Resident committees collect the ideas. They are distilled down to those that are useful and feasible. These are implemented to solve problems in communities and meet the needs of residents.
Wangjing Sub-district began to implement this programme in its 22 communities as part of the 2016 Promotion of Creative Ideas from the Community in Chaoyang District. Residents can solve a variety of issues regarding community management.
The Huajiadi Xili Community solved the problem of small, illegal advertisements being posted in the community. Huajiadi Xili is an old community without dated service facilities. It has lacked basic property management services. For example, the walls of many residential buildings were covered with a variety of illegal advertisements. Getting them removed was difficult. According to Li Xiaoling, secretary of the Huajiadi Xili Community Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC):
“In 2008, a large-scale campaign to remove illegal advertisements was carried out and supported by the government. Later, the community never removed them.” in recent years, the Creative Ideas from the Community programme was implemented. One of the main proposals was to remove the illegal advertisements. After they were approved, the sub-district provided financial support to the community. Three hundred CPC members established a volunteer squad to remove illegal advertisements at regular intervals. It became a daily activity, and the squad achieved good results. For example, building No. 117 was once a disaster area, but it is now very clean.
If one visits the community, vague traces of advertisements can be seen on the outer walls of the buildings. The Creative Ideas from the Community programme has been a success in the Huajiadi Xili Community.
Local governments at grassroots levels have always focused on community governance. The result was often “strong management with weak services,” however. Top-down management was often implemented with the passive participation of residents. In recent years, community governance has received unprecedented attention as a result of changes in policy and implementation. The Suggestions on Strengthening and Improving Urban and Rural Community Governance, which was issued by the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council in June 2017, provided a higher standard for community governance. The People's Government of Beijing Municipality and its departments have issued a number of documents to require “strengthening community selfmanagement, developing social organisations to enhance community services and promoting community governance.” according to the report delivered by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping at the 19th National Congress in 2017: “We will strengthen the system for community governance, shift the focus of social governance to the community level, leverage the role of social organisations and see that the government's efforts work in harmony with self-regulation in society and residents' self-governance. A number of policies have brought community governance to centre stage after previously being in a more marginal zone. The Creative Ideas from the Community governance method has created more synergy between topdown administrative requirements and bottom-up demands.
A Bold Attempt
The Creative Ideas from the Community project began in Chaoyang District. Initially there was some confusion. Take the Wangjing area for example. When the programme was implemented in 2016, both officials from the sub- district and residents in the communities were not very familiar with it. There were many questions along the way, including what exactly the programme is and how it can be used.
To implement Creative Ideas from the Community based on actual situations, Chaoyang District issued an eight-step workflow. It includes things like preparatory work, collecting ideas, selecting proposals, issuing selected projects and implementing the projects. Wangjing Sub-district introduced four professional social organisations such as Huizebozhong to work with residents, learn about their needs and help implement the projects. Creative Ideas from the Community began to roll out in Chaoyang District.
The programme's pilot faced some difficulties when it was launched in 2016. A staff member from a social organisation that was involved mentioned: “The previous model featured top- down community governance. Residents thought that Creative Ideas from the Community would be mostly conducted by the government also. This kind of thinking needed to be changed. Residents needed to realise that issues can be solved in their communities based on their ideas and efforts. Changing their thoughts patterns can be difficult though.”
Developing backbones for communities and collecting ideas from residents were also not easy. According to Deputy-director of the Wangjing SubDistrict Office Wang Wei: “At first, most of the proposals focused on people's individual needs or those of some organisations established by residents in communities. These ideas were only based on their own interests. In 2016, proposals mostly included cleaning up clutter in passageways inside their apartment buildings or cleaning up public areas in front of their buildings.” When asked whether these kinds of things would be implemented, Wang Wei shook her head and said: “They are too individualised. We encourage residents to take care of things that can be solved on their own. Creative Ideas from the Community is meant to support common, universal demands. These are urgent issues in communities' that need to be solved.”
Organisations, such as performance groups and calligraphy and painting associations, are active cells in communities. The sub- district office needed to foster
these community organisations first. Talents that emerged from these groups would play a leading role in promoting the development and implementation of the Creative Ideas from the Community. A bold vision was at work to create and improve grassroots communities.
Choosing useful ideas from proposals that were submitted involved screening for those that enhanced “public welfare, sustainability and the development of social organisations.” Sixty- eight proposals were approved in Wangjing after they were reviewed by experts and voted on by the public. The system is weighted 80-20, with experts having more influence. Organisations in communities were supported by the government's policy, because they had strong aspirations for their development. There were initially 31 accepted proposals that had cultural elements, comprising about 50 percent of the total.
At this point, preparatory work for the Creative Ideas from the Community pilot was over. It was now time to implement the accepted policies, which was set to occur in the second half of 2016. Before long, the needs of residents and organisations in communities would come true.
Though Wangjing Sub-district encountered many difficulties, it gained a lot of experience during the first year of the programme, enabling the implementation of the 2017 Creative Ideas from the Community programme to be smoother.
In 2017, Wangjing Sub-district set up a mobilisation centre as a comprehensive service platform for organisations set up by residents in communities and a coordinating group to monitor and guide the implementation of Creative Ideas from the Community. The previous professional social organisation changed somewhat. Three of them, including Huizebozhong, continued to participate in guiding and implementing projects. The Kangleyinian Social Work Office joined them to carry out optimisation, implementation and financial management for the projects and to prepare for evaluation.
2017 saw an upbeat change. Public participation was no longer lacking. This somewhat hindered the implementation of Creative Ideas from the Community in 2016. The plan received more attention and more and more residents began to participate in it and offer more universally- oriented ideas. More practical and colourful projects began to be proposed and implemented. According to Ma Xin, an official who works at the Wangjing Sub- district Office: “In 2017, more than 200 ideas from 22 communities were collected, forming 104 proposals. These included things like environmental governance, security, cultural services and livelihood services. These proposals broke out of the mold of being largely culturally oriented in 2016. After expert review and the voting process, 71 proposals were on track to be implemented. This was a little higher than the 68 that were implemented in 2016.”
In 2017, organisations established by residents in communities began to focus on common issues and developed with a trend toward mutual benefit and public welfare. The professional social organisations working with them helped influence them and point them towards broader goals. Yinlingzhulao (“Elderly Helping Elderly”), an organisation established by residents in Nanhuxiyuan Erqu, consists of elderly CPC members in good health and other volunteers. They care for elderly people who live alone, visit them at home, assist them and offer spiritual consolation. This organisation aims at encouraging more elderly people to participate in social life. It plays a role in promoting a sense of worthiness and advocates a spirit of mutual help. Louyuanguanjia (“Housekeeper of Community”) is a volunteer service squad in Huajiadi Beili. It is an active force in the community monitoring a variety of issues. It deals with things like preventing and removing illegal advertisements, clutter in passageways in buildings, occupation of green spaces and littering. Under the guidance of the community and professional social organisations, the volunteer service squad implemented a project of “micro-autonomy in buildings” to improve the environment in the area, help members become good caretakers, maximise the
efficiency of government investment, promote mutual assistance in the neighbourhood, strengthen residents' participation in community selfgovernance, improve a sense of gain and happiness, and contribute to the sustainable development of Creative Ideas from the Community.
The Creative Ideas from the Community programme has expanded from Wangjing to neighbouring communities. More organisations are being established in communities in Wangjing also as the programme gains more and more traction.
Innovating Self-governance in Communities
There are a wide range of communities in Wangjing, including the highend Wangjing Dongyuan Wuqu, the mid-range Shengxing and the older Huajiadi Xili community. Residents in these communities have different needs and interact with the Creative Ideas from the Community programme in different ways. Detailed, specific and diversified ideas are important for solving the issues of the residents in different communities.
2018 is now the third year of Creative Ideas from the Community in Wangjing. Innovative projects have been carried out. Wangjing has divided its communities into three different types of zones. These are: internationalised communities, green and liveable communities, and communities that need to enhance their environments. Various requirements have been proposed for the different zones. Ideas from internationalised communities need to highlight their international elements. Ideas from green and liveable communities need to maintain and improve their green quality and beautify the area. Ideas from communities that need to enhance their environmental safety need to focus on how to improve their environments. The Creative Ideas from the Community programme has been upgraded to a higher level in 2018. It has gone from focusing on the management and development of communities to emphasising their overall arrangement and environment.
Professional social workers monitor the Kangleyinian and Huizebozhong projects and others. They help achieve residents' self- governance in different categories.
According to Wang Wei: “Unlike the guiding concept of previous years, we are now trying to reduce the number of duplicate proposals, improve their quality and ensure that at least one good idea can be selected from each community.” Twenty-seven proposals have been collected based on the theme of developing colourful and harmonious communities, showcasing strong professionalism and a comprehensive vision. The proposals include things like developing international talent communities in Wangjing, relieving redundant urban functions, improving the environment, developing communities into national sanitation communities and enhancing grassroots CPC organisations. Shuangqiulu Community submitted a proposal to hold painting classes that are open to the public. This is in line with its positioning as an internationalised community. Nanhu Xili put forward proposals regarding the creation of a sanitation community and the development of colourful homes. These ideas match its status as a green and liveable community. Huajiadi Xili is a community that needs to improve its environment. It submitted proposals regarding “Party building and the development of a colourful community” to respond to the call to enhance grassroots CPC organisations.
The Creative Ideas from the Community programme inspires residents' self- governance and realigns their ideas and thought processes so they “pay close attention to their own communities.” implementation in the Wangjing area has been a good start for the programme in Chaoyang District. Some problems have occurred in the last three years. Sometimes, close collaboration between various parties is lacking. Residents may then lose enthusiasm for a plan that works out in this way and have concerns about its future. Overall, the programme is going well though. Community governance shifts various dynamics and makes them more local and empowering. The programme greatly enhances the development of communities in Beijing.
The Creative Ideas from the Community programme improves communities in Wangjing.
A volunteer cleans illegally posted advertisements from a wall.
The Creative Ideas from the Community programme can give rise to a variety of activities that are implemented by residents’ organisations in communities.