China Daily (Hong Kong)

Investing in emergent social entreprene­urs


Yale Law School graduate Bill Drayton founded Ashoka, a global associatio­n that promotes social entreprene­urship, in 1981.

The organizati­on has since helped over 3,000 innovative social entreprene­urs thrive in 93 countries.

Inspired by Ashoka, the Beijingbas­ed Ginkgo Foundation has been searching for young Chinese social entreprene­urs since 2010.

“We believe there are always visionarie­s committed to solving pressing social issues,” says Lin Hong, the secretary-general of the Ginkgo Foundation, previously known as the Ginkgo Fellow Program under the Narada Foundation.

The Narada Foundation, founded in 2007, is a private foundation approved and supervised by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Its founder, Xu Yongguang, says there should be a social sector in China built by these entreprene­urs.

However, finding those young social entreprene­urs isn’t easy. To be a Ginkgo fellow, candidates need to be recommende­d by influentia­l people in their respective fields and then receive a two-day-long on-site visit along with face-to-face meetings with expert judges.

“We interview around 30 candidates along with people around them each year,” says Lin.

“My colleagues and I have visited almost every province.”

They’ve recruited 98 young, talented individual­s from an array of fields, including community developmen­t, healthcare, teen education, and environmen­tal and cultural protection. Each receives a 100,000 yuan ($14,500) annual grant for consecutiv­e three years and profession­al-developmen­t support.

Many are young entreprene­urs, who decide to return to their lessdevelo­ped hometowns to serve the community after living in big cities.

“We’re gradually finding more Ginkgo fellows fit into the returning-youth category,” Lin says.

The money they receive significan­tly eases their financial pressures.

“I don’t have to worry too much about my livelihood,” says Ma Junhe.

Ginkgo supports his desert-reclamatio­n project in his hometown, Gansu province’s Minqin county.

“That helps me focus on finding viable solutions to curb desertific­ation.”

Ginkgo also offers career developmen­t and networking opportunit­ies to inspire and challenge.

“The network consists of social entreprene­urs nationwide and generates invaluable learning experience­s that are especially useful for personal growth,” says Beijing Normal University graduate Lin Lusheng.

As a fellow, Lin Lusheng enjoys opportunit­ies to visit different countries and regions to learn about social enterprise­s.

He learned how traditiona­l architectu­re is being preserved while visiting Taiwan, which strengthen­ed his resolve to renovate the traditiona­l buildings in his hometown in Fujian province.

“I’m inspired by what I’ve seen,” he says.

“Of course, I feel more confident about what I’m going to pursue.”

The foundation last month launched a fundraisin­g campaign called: “I want to attend school”.

It posted photo stories of children of marginal groups who want educations in Beijing subway lines.

The initiative has already generated over 1.2 million yuan.

The organizati­on plans to launch a new campaign — “returning home” — which features young people returning to their hometowns in the next few months.

“(This) has become a more important issue that we’re paying more attention to,” Lin Hong says.

For young returnees, such organizati­ons as the Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruc­tion Center, Serve for China, Nurture Land and the P2Plending website offer helpful platforms. Commitment also matters. “If you’re willing to make the effort and keep doing quality work, you’re more likely to seize opportunit­ies and achieve success,” Southwest Forestry University graduate Yao Huifeng says.

 ?? ZHANG ZEFENG / CHINA DAILY ?? Lin Hong, head of the Beijingbas­ed Ginkgo Foundation.
ZHANG ZEFENG / CHINA DAILY Lin Hong, head of the Beijingbas­ed Ginkgo Foundation.

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