The growing role of NGOs in PR China

An international Workshop in Hangzhou / Zhejiang Province

Also available in Deutsch, 中文

Together with the Culture and Education Section of the German Consulate General in Shanghai, KAS Shanghai jointly conducted a workshop on the growing role of non-governmental organizations in PR China. The workshop brought together members of Chinese and International NGOs, as well as scholars and representatives from institutes and foundations.

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Group picture of all participants in Hangzhou

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are becoming more and more important in the People’s Republic of China. Chinese citizens get increasingly engaged in the fields of environmental protection, climate protection and social aid. But the lack of a legal basis, insufficient funds and deficient management limit the impact on society and decrease the quality of their work.
In order to increase the efficiency and impact of NGOs in China, the KAS Shanghai together with the Culture and Education Section of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Shanghai jointly held a training-workshop in Hangzhou. Members of Chinese and International NGOs were brought together with scholars and representatives from foundations and institutes. The workshop aimed to enhance the impact capacity and international network of Chinese NGOs. Young leaders of Chinese NGOs were trained through lectures, discussion and training-sessions.

At first Consul Dr. Claus HEIMES, Culture and Education Section of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Shanghai, and David Merkle, project assistant of KAS | Shanghai, welcomed the participants in Hangzhou. In his welcoming remarks, Mr. XIN Hao, Executive Director of Green Zhejiang / Hangzhou Eco-Culture Association and local partner of KAS | Shanghai, emphasized that - against the predominant opinion in China – NGOs do not function as problem-creators but rather as problem-solvers.

In the first session on the topic “Improving the political and legal framework of NGOs in China”, Mrs. ZHANG Lanying (NGO Advisor, Beijing) gave an overview of the legal and administrative framework of NGOs in China. The legal framework does allow the registration of NGOs in China, but in practice this is very difficult due to lots of regulations. In order to gain legal space NGOs need to learn how to be transparent and accountable.

Mr. NGUYEN Trung Dung from People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), Hanoi/ Vietnam, gave an overview of the cooperation of state and international NGOs (INGO) in Vietnam, which are mainly oriented towards challenges of local development. He explained the contribution of international NGOs to the establishment of local NGOs. He sees a big problem in the fact that some local organizations were only established to attract external sources of capital.

Professor Dr. Berthold KUHN (School of Public Affairs, Xiamen University) commented on the existing regulatory framework for Chinese NGOs and their future development.

In the afternoon Jeffrey PHILLIPS (International Republican Institute (IRI), Hong Kong) introduced fundraising strategies. He stressed the importance of establishing personal relationships with the donors. He also gave hints how to write winning proposals: the format has to meet the announced criteria and one should avoid language-mistakes in the text. According to his experience, many donors expect detailed plans for expenses as well as a clearly structured project planning.

Ms. LI Li (EnviroFriends, Beijing) expressed her wish that foreign organizations should better inform themselves about the specific circumstances in China and set up a more cooperative approach toward NGOs on grassroots level. Dr. Claus HEIMES pointed out that it helps a lot to provide very detailed information even during the first contact with a donor. He stated that convincing concepts attract foreign organizations most.

In the next session “Increasing effectiveness through cooperation” Dr. Patrick Schroeder (Advisor, China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO), Beijing) introduced recent developments in global networking of NGOs. He reported that Chinese NGOs are increasingly participating in global networking. Examples are their contribution to the “Proposal of World Civil Society Organizations” and to the Rio climate summit, where the report “China goes Green” was published. Afterwards Ms. LI Lina (Greenovation Hub, Beijing) called attention to the fact that the fluctuation of NGO-staff is very high, which makes it difficult to maintain long-term cooperation with other organizations.

Dr. Andreas RICKERT (CEO of PHINEO, a German research institute and consultancy organization, Berlin) described three major development trends of the social sector, namely Transparency, Professionalization and Cooperation. Hereby Cooperation is most important, because it can increase labor efficiency of NGOs through knowledge-exchange and consultancy. He stressed the benefits of intersectoral cooperation.

In his training on “Improving Communication Strategies for NGOs” at the second day of the workshop, Mr. TANG Damin (Greenpeace, Beijing) introduced strategies for NGOs in dealing with media and highlighted how much both sides can mutually benefit from professional relations.

Later Dr. Andreas RICKERT introduced the “IOOI-Model” in his training “Evaluation and Impact-Measurement”. This Model is about splitting up a project in Input, Output, Outcome and Impact. It works as an overarching framework that enables a detailed analysis of the project, which in the end leads to an increase of its impact. After his introduction, the participants used the IOOI-frame to analyze the impact of projects.

The mix of lectures, discussions and trainings enabled the participants from different regions in China and abroad to exchange their knowledge and experiences vividly. It was revealed that many Chinese NGOs face similar challenges. There is still need for improvements in terms of the legal and political framework. The practical-based panels and training-sessions provided recommendations for concept-oriented and strategic working. The workshop is meant to be the beginning of a deeper exchange with actors from the civil-society and political decision-makers in order to deliberatively accompany the development process of civil society actors in China.


David Merkle

Publication series

Event Reports


China, May 14, 2013


Tim Wenniges