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Charity in China; Reforming China’s Non-Profit Sector

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China Red Cross, Source: AsiaNews.it

Posted by Jessica Drun, AsiaEye

Recent scandals involving charity misspending and embezzlement have tarnished the image of China’s non-profit organizations (NPO). News of these controversies has spread like wildfire across Chinese micro-blogs and public philanthropy suffered a blow by alienating potential donors. For instance, China saw an immediate decline in blood donations following the Guo Mei Mei incident, in which the supposed general commercial manager of the Red Cross flaunted her lavish lifestyle on Weibo, a Chinese social networking site. The Red Cross in China now reportedly faces a 30-40% shortage. With Chinese people increasingly wary of corruption, monetary contributions to charities have reportedly more than halved from June to August of this year. The consequences of these trends are grave, as Chinese citizens across the board have called for government reform in the country’s nascent third sector—and Beijing is feeling some pressure to respond.

The economic reforms spearheaded by the late Chinese patriarch, Deng Xiaoping, are largely credited with unleashing market forces that spurred China’s rapid growth. The “opening up” policy contributed to a wide scale privatization campaign, leaving in its wake a debilitated social safety net. These trends, coupled with an upsurge of development-induced social problems, have opened space for Chinese NPOs to emerge at the forefront of the country’s public service sector. Under- resourced and overextended, China’s third sector has been a reoccurring topic in legislative debates in recent years—both in the front lines of grassroots initiatives and among many levels of government officials. The situation presents an interesting contradiction, wherein the Chinese government must face the need to address social problems while at the same time realizing that such a move could detract from its authority.

The landscape of the country’s third sector has changed significantly in recent years. This change is reflected in official government statistics that show the number of registered organizations has shot up over 40% between 2005 and 2010 alone. This increase does not include unregistered organizations, which are blocked from formal proceedings by China’s dual-registration system and strict guidelines. Comparatively, the non-profit landscape was practically barren under Mao’s rule and these types of organizations did not emerge until the 1980’s. This surge coincides with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) decision to defer social management responsibilities to NPOs as a means to promote Deng’s economic policies and encourage market forces. The initial non-profits were directly under government jurisdiction but as social problems emerged at a faster rate than the Party could manage, the central government began to defer control and reform the system.

Approaches to reform have been multifaceted. The central government, citing the importance of preserving social order, has sought to revise the current bylaws underlining non-profit management. The central government has overseen the establishment of experimental sites in Wenzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen to test the prospect of transferring more government functions to non-profit organizations. The National People’s Congress and the CCP Central Committee have dedicated a section of the country’s next Five Year Plan (FYP) to charity management, ostensibly to address rising public discontent towards corruption in NPOs.

In Chapter 39 of the 12th Five Year Plan, the central government called for the development of social organization through a streamlined application process, improved tax incentive laws, and policy support a la legal and regulatory protections. Before final approval in March 2011, the government disclosed the FYP guidelines to the Chinese people through a series of public hearings, seeking e-mail feedback and leaving room open for revision. Consequently, a Charity Law, drafted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA), which has been on the table since 2005, has resurfaced for consideration. In July 2011, the government reopened the draft as the “Guideline for the Development of Charity in China” and solicited public input to give direction to charity growth and expedite processes conducive to the 12th FYP. However, the draft has since seen little movement within the legislature.

Meanwhile, frustrated by government inaction, local and provincial governments have apparently taken matters into their hands. Respective authorities in Jiangsu, Ningbo, Hunan, Beijing, and just recently Guangdong have each enacted their own set of regulations, facilitating registration processes and allowing for more accountability in non-profit management. These moves have been commended by officials higher up in the government. In late 2010, a MoCA representative voiced his hopes that these developments will help guide those on a national scale.

The general consensus on the need for reform paints an interesting picture for future developments of the third sector. The timing of the FYP and its related reforms comes at a critical crossroad in China’s development. First, the 12th FYP coincides with a transition of power to its fifth-generation leadership that will take place in 2012. Chinese leaders seek a seamless power change, but they must address the growing challenges posed by increasing social unrest. By adhering to the tenets set by the FYP and by shaping public interests through the charity law, the Party could mitigate discontent among the masses, while at the same time demonstrate responsible leadership. Moreover, promoting China’s international image should provide further incentive for the government to amend its non-profit regulations by legitimizing the new leaders through social progress. It should be noted, however, that certain types of non-profits within the sector, such as those dedicated to religion and human rights, will see little change in their directive.

These advancements in the third sector may also point to the prospect of more comprehensive reform throughout the country. Grassroots movements empower and educate citizens for involvement in the public sphere, which then calls for a more active and informed society, with its own functions and claims. Larger citizen involvement, enabled by a burgeoning nonprofit sector, could lead to a further decentralization of power. This would be in line with the CCP’s “big society, small government” policy that seeks to create a network of social protections wherein citizens serve as intermediaries between the government and social organizations to sustain and promote a “harmonious society”. In essence, nonprofit reform may equip the citizenry with the capacity to take on the Chinese government’s social functions and become that “big society.” The deciding factor, however, is largely dependent on the direction the central government takes from its current Catch-22: toward third sector reform at the cost of its relative power or the continuation of the status quo at the risk of social instability.

Please share and join the discussion on facebook by clicking the “Like” below. Published with the written permission from AsiaEye (Project 2049 Institute).

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Customers

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As a company owner, you should always be aiming to improve your business by whatever means necessary. After all, when your business evolves over time, it means that you are adapting to consumer habits and staying on top of current trends – giving your business the longevity it deserves. Thankfully, there are also various ways in which you can go about improving your business. For example, this could include: 

  • Hiring new staff with innovative ideas.
  • Retaining staff who make a real difference in the workplace, reducing employee turnover rates.
  • Investing in new employees by offering unique training programs or giving them a chance to develop new skills. 
  • Developing new products or services that cannot be purchased elsewhere. 
  • Moving from working from within your home and opening up a store or office space. 
  • Updating your business plan regularly to account for your growth. 
  • Brushing up on your finances, ensuring that you stay within budget and spend your money wisely.
  • Reaching out to investors who can help you take your brand to the next level.
  • Introducing a new marketing campaign to increase your brand’s visibility. 
  • Developing a better relationship with your customers. 

While any of the above suggestions are a great way to go about growing your business, the most important is developing the relationship you have with your customers. After all, a business without customers will struggle to stay afloat for more than a few weeks.

With that in mind, here are some ways in which you can begin to develop a better relationship with your customers. 

Know who your customers are. This is perhaps the most obvious ways to improve your relationship with your customers – and it doesn’t mean that you have to memorise every name or face that comes into your store. Instead, you should ensure that you have a clear understanding of your target audience and demographic. For example, while you may have a vision of your typical customer in your head – you need to ensure that this is reflected in the people that actually purchase or use your products/services. There are various ways in which you can achieve this goal. For example, you could: 

  • Monitor consumer habits
  • Host focus groups 
  • Ask for customer information when making a purchase
  • Studying analytics on social media. 

Remember, your target audience may be defined by the following characteristics: 

  • An age group.
  • A gender.
  • A geographical location.
  • Special hobbies.
  • Skills and Interests. 
  • Careers.
  • Lifestyles.

Once you have a better understanding of your target audience, it will be easier to ensure that you are providing them with everything they need. As a result, they will develop a closer affinity to your brand as they feel as though it was made just for them!

Make them feel important. Studies suggest that customers are happiest when they feel important. Therefore, you can improve your relationship with your customers by simply ensuring that you make them feel special. For example, you could attach a note to each order that thanks them for their purchase. Alternatively, you could put a loyalty scheme in place or offer discounts to returning customers – which can help you win over new customers while retaining your old ones. 

Make it easier for them to communicate with you. The key to any relationship is being able to communicate freely with each other. Therefore, you can improve your relationship with your customers by making it easier for them to reach you should they have any questions. For example, in addition to a telephone line, you should give your customers plenty of different ways to contact you. This could include: 

  • A postal address.
  • A customer service specific email.
  • An online chat function.

However, managing multiple different channels like this can prove to be a challenge if you don’t have the right technology at your side. For example, you could use dashboard software, such as those provided by Click4Assistance, to monitor different chats and calls simultaneously. For more information, visit this website

Furthemore, you can also improve the way in which you communicate with your customers by being active on social media. Not only does this mean that your customers can contact you through direct messaging or comments, but it also puts your brand on the map by making you visible to a much wider audience. When curating your social media presence – you should ensure that your content reflects your brand. Don’t focus on overly professional language – instead, try to be as approachable and friendly as possible – as this will help customers relate to your brand. When customers find you approachable, they are more likely to make a purchase. 

Another way in which you can better communicate with your customers is by setting up a mailing list. While they may seem outdated in the world of social media, they are a great way to keep your customers in the loop and let them know about any upcoming product releases. 

Admit your mistakes. As a business owner, how others perceive your brand will likely be incredibly important to you. As a result, this means that you may be keen to bury any mistakes you make so that they cannot tarnish your reputation. However, this is not the right attitude to take on if you want to develop a relationship with your customers – as simply ignoring complaints or negative reviews will only drive them away. Therefore, you should ensure that you respond quickly to any negative complaints and reviews – and work with the customer to resolve this issue sooner rather than later. This also means that you need to be honest about any mistakes that you may have made in the past. Holding yourself accountable will actually make yourself more attractive to potential customers. 

Focus on innovation. If you want to retain customers, you need to ensure that you continue to provide them with new goods or services. After all, it’s unlikely that they will continue to buy the same product over and over again. Therefore, you should work hard to ensure that you remain on top of your game – introducing new and innovative products to the market as often as possible. While this doesn’t mean you should rush to launch a new product or service every month, you should always have a new plan or idea in the pipeline. Furthemore, you should also ensure that the products/services you are working on align with current consumer trends. 

Get online. Another way in which you can develop your relationship with your customers is by making your business more accessible. For example, while many customers may visit your store to make a purchase – others may prefer to shop online. In this case, you need to make sure that your website is up to scratch and easy to navigate. The easiest way to draw in new customers online is by improving the user experience of your website.  For example, a broken link or malfunctioning site does not necessarily make your brand appear trustworthy – while a seamless and functional website will demonstrate your professionalism and help you connect with a global audience. 

Furthemore, you should also ensure that your website is as accessible as possible. For example, you could add audio descriptions of products or text so that those who may be deaf or hard of hearing can navigate your site freely. You should also ensure that you caption any videos or add alternative descriptions underneath images. 

Be great at what you do. Perhaps the simplest way in which you can improve your relationship with your customers by being great at what you do – and providing them with the consistency they require. For example, you should ensure that every aspect of your business is always up to scratch – from product development to administration.  Being great at what you do means that your customers will always stick around and invest their money into your brand. 

Similarly, you should never underestimate the importance of good customer service skills – and you must ensure that every employee is trained within the area. For example, they should be bright, friendly and ready to answer any questions that come their way. This means that they need to develop excellent skills in communication alongside a lot of patience and intuition. This is particularly important when dealing with difficult customers who always complain -but will also allow them to develop lasting relationships with friendly customers too. 

In short, there are various steps you can take to ensure that you improve your relationship with your customers – many of which simply revolve around adopting a ‘customer-centric mindset. By making important decisions regarding your business with the customer in mind, you’ll be able to emphasise the fact that they are at the core of everything you do – thus making your brand appear more attractive and improving retention rates. Furthemore, you can improve your relationship with your customers by making it abundantly clear that you care about them and want to provide them with only the best. Doing so will make it easier for customers to trust you and purchase your products or services.

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What Is Cryptocurrency And Why Is It So Volatile?

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Cryptocurrency has recently made headlines, exploding into the spotlight with the same relentless intensity that characterises its value and demand.

However, as they become more mainstream, they may become confusing. It’s money, but there’s no bank looking after it or controlling it; it’s an asset, but it’s not backed up by anything tangible.

Here is a brief overview of cryptocurrency and a quick look at why it is so volatile.

What is it?

In a nutshell, it is the digital equivalent of money. It is designed to function in almost the same way: users have wallets in which they can keep money, which is used to symbolize value in the economy and can be exchanged for goods or services with others.

Cryptocurrency, like much money in today’s traditional banking system, does not exist tangibly; instead, it is recorded as figures in a database that signify how much of a particular cryptocurrency a certain person has.

However, in contrast to today’s banking system, is decentralised. Rather, it is recorded in the blockchain, which is distributed throughout the network and records transactions in a transparent and verifiable manner that belongs to no one individual or organization in particular.

The first of them was bitcoin, which was developed in 2009 by an unknown individual known only as Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, a slew of new cryptocurrencies has sprouted up. These include ethereum and dogecoin. It is interesting to look into the background of these, and ask yourself who created Dogecoin?

Why are there so many?

A cryptocurrency can hypothetically be created by anyone; at their foundation, they are just software, therefore anyone can create one. There is no authoritative body that decides what is and isn’t a cryptocurrency.

As a result, dozens of new cryptocurrencies, known as altcoins, have emerged. Some of them have grown into consistent performers, leading to predictions that they could turn bitcoin on its head and become the most valuable cryptocurrency.

Some of these altcoins aim to provide innovative answers to problems that exist with large players like bitcoin, such as making transactions easier or more efficient. Others, such as Dogecoin, which originated as a joke, are developed solely as alternatives.

They sometimes move in sync, with the entire cryptocurrency market fluctuating in response to certain pieces of news. However, traders occasionally switch between currencies, as when the price of dogecoin soared thanks to the support of figures such as Elon Musk.

What makes cryptocurrency so volatile?

Unlike traditional financial assets like stocks and commodities, cryptocurrencies are not valued in terms of what they can be used for; in theory, they are a bet on a company’s future profits or the usefulness of a given material, but cryptocurrencies are primarily a bet on how interested people are in them.

Cryptocurrencies, unlike traditional fiat currencies, do not have a central bank entrusted with employing monetary policy to keep their value from fluctuating too much.

As a result, the value of cryptocurrencies varies dramatically, frequently and without warning, and without always being linked to evident world events.

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Marketing Practices That Could Remain After The Pandemic

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The global pandemic has changed businesses in many ways, and marketing, in particular, has seen a lot of developments over the last year. Businesses have had to adapt to digital practices quickly, which has changed the way they promote their activities. It has also changed consumer behavior, meaning tactics need to change to reach them in new and innovative ways.

While businesses are beginning to revert to some sort of normality, there are some practices that will continue even after the pandemic is over. Discover some of the marketing practices that could be here to stay.

A greater focus on retaining existing customers

The global pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s shopping behaviors. It’s no secret that brand loyalty has been in decline over the years, largely due to consumers’ preference for convenience – especially in the digital age. But the pandemic has made this even more apparent, with many consumers switching brands as a result of supply chain issues and more. For businesses, putting your energy into retaining your existing customers could yield better results than trying to win over existing customers. 

The resurgence of the QR code

Just over a year ago, people might have turned their nose up at the idea of using a QR code in a marketing campaign. Did people know what they were? What did they achieve? Well, thanks to the pandemic, QR codes have had something of a resurgence. Exploring QR code APIs can help you work out how they can be used in your marketing campaigns effectively to bring the best results for your business. QR codes are capable of generating some great data, helping you measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Localized marketing

The pandemic has shifted a lot of people away from busy cities and urban areas, and into more rural neighborhoods. This has meant that businesses are having to change their marketing tactics to provide a more personalized, local feel that better aligns with changing behaviors. People are choosing to shop locally and choose local-based businesses, and you’ll need to think carefully about how you can form better engagement with those audiences to help spread the word about your business.

Bigger budgets for social media advertising

With people spending more time at home, they are more active online watching box sets, shopping, gaming and more. This means they might be less likely to see more traditional advertising such as billboards and subway signs. Social media advertising can help you reach those audiences, providing a great ROI compared to other forms of advertising. Ensuring social media is a firm part of your marketing strategy can help you reach your audiences where they are, and even save money compared to your spend on more traditional advertising. 
Change is nothing new for the marketing world. The pandemic has seen some major developments, and as we enter the ‘new normal,’ it will be interesting to see what comes next. Staying up to date on current marketing trends can keep your business relevant, and help secure the best results for your business – no matter what’s happening in the rest of the world.

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