When we began our work in China fifteen years ago, I don’t think a term like “social enterprise” even existed. In fact most of the healthy NGOs were actually GONGOs, or government-operated non-governmental organizations. Most ordinary people I met in the early days were just struggling to get by and provide for their families. I work in state-run children’s welfare institutions; most people didn’t even know such places existed.
What philanthropy occurred was of the traditional variety – family first, and once future generations were secure, the rare wealthy entrepreneur (usually overseas Chinese) might endow a school or hospital in his ancestral home. But the massive outpouring of public donations, volunteerism, and all-around goodwill that followed the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake seemed to bring about a new social awareness and ...more