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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).

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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Preparing To Start A New Business: Things To Think About

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There aren’t many people who don’t daydream about becoming their own boss. However, the percentage of those who do daydream about and those who actually do it is a lot lower. What is it about becoming our own boss that stops us from following our dreams and turning a dream into a reality?

For many people, it is the fear of the unknown. Not knowing if you are making the right decision can be the tipping point for many people. Another hurdle is money and, dare we say it; self-belief can be a huge factor in starting your own business. If you don’t believe in what you are selling, then it goes without saying that no one else will either.

Removing all the obstacles you place in front of yourself is the first step to starting your journey to becoming your own boss.

Business plan

Every new start-up and trading business needs a business plan. Why? Well, for starters to steer you in the right direction to making a success for your new venture. Knowing what you want from your company, where it is going and where it could potentially go will give you something to aim for and make sure you deliver what is required to make your company successful.

What exactly does a business plan comprise of?

Essentially it is a detailed list of the projected journey of the company to help you steer it in the right direction. What the plan involves can be different depending on your trajectory and what you are offering, but the following will help you to form a plan and know where to start. 

  • What are you selling?
  • Who is your customer base?
  • What percentage profit can you expect to make in the first year? 
  • What is your initial outlay cost to get up and running?
  • Is there scope to expand in your sector?
  • Do you have a USP? (Unique Selling Point)
  • How do you plan to find and attract customers?
  • Why will your customers stay with your company?
  • How do you plan to evolve the company and expand?
  • Are there ways you can adapt what you do and offer more services/different products?
  • Where do you see the company in 5 years?
  • How do you plan to get your company to that point in 5 years?

A thorough and detailed plan will help you for many years to come, not just for their initial starting period.

Know yourself

And know what you want to do and how you plan to get there. Building a new company for the wrong reasons will never work out well and may end up leaving you in a worse place than you were before you started. With as many as 50% of businesses failing in the first five years, knowing how to succeed and being willing to do what it takes will help you stand the test of time if you are genuinely doing it for the right reasons. 

Combine your goals with your personal drive and perseverance and make sure that you are fully committed to making it a success. Simply starting a new business because you dislike working for other people or you think it is a get rich quick scheme will no doubt be your undoing if this is why you are starting a new business.

Financial outlay

Do you need money to get the company up and running? If so, you need to know precisely what you need and how much money you will need before you start looking for loans or financial backers. Some companies will be able to start up on a very small or even no budget at all. Other companies will need to look at purchasing stock, finding premises, and making sure they have everything they need to run their company successfully.

Warehouses, industrial sheds, offices, and tech for employees don’t come cheap, so factoring them into your budget is essential before you start looking for finance options.

Is there a market for what you are selling?

Who is your ideal customer? How are you going to sell them? If there is no market for your service or product, chances are you may struggle to find suitable buyers or to get people’s attention.

Being able to identify a gap in the market and fill it will help you to attract the right customer for your company. You need to demonstrate a willingness to be able to adapt to meet the demands of a changing market and satisfy the consumer needs as and when they change. Diversifying is something that will help your company stay heads and shoulders above the rest and keep you relevant and able to fulfil your client’s needs as they change.

Having a unique selling point will mean you are offering people something they aren’t getting elsewhere or may not even realize they need. Identify a gap in the market and strive to fill it before someone else does. A great way to do this is by asking current or potential clients what they are looking for and what would make their lives easier. Then, you can adapt what you do to meet this demand.

Keep an eye on the competition

Always know what they are doing and make sure you are competing on the same playing field. Copying them may seem dishonest but staying ahead of the market is essential for your company to survive, so make it your business to know new and emerging trends within your sector. Keep on top of client demands and know exactly who your competitors are and what they are offering.

Make sure to stick to your company’s values and integrate any new ideas, ways of working, or new products/services as and when demand calls for it and emulate the success of your competition for yourself.

Starting off on the right foot with a solid plan in place will give you a better head start when it comes to starting up your business.

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The Smartest Ways to Develop Your Business

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Many business owners who are new to the game sometimes play things a little too safe. They’re just hoping not to fail; but in reality, this mindset sometimes keeps them from fulfilling their full potential. If you’ve already had a semblance of success, then don’t stop there: keep on going! In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the smartest and most effective ways to develop your business. Incorporate these tips into your operations, and you might find that you don’t only bring in more customers, but that you begin to feel more confident and robust as a company.

Streamline Your Services 

It’s tempting to think that ‘more is more’; that is, that the more products or services that you offer, the more business you’ll get. But this isn’t really true. In many cases, it’s better to go with a ‘less is more’ approach. You’ll probably have one or two core services that you excel in; don’t complicate things by adding more services just in the name of expansion. Instead, focus on what you know you already do well. The deeper you go into those things, the better you’ll be able to serve your customers. 

Hiring Employees

You may have begun your business as a one-person operation, but there’ll come a point when you need to bring other people on board. You simply can’t do everything yourself! And in any case, it can often be more fun and satisfying to work with others anyway. If you’re going to push your company as far forward as possible, then you’ll need to ensure that you’re hiring talented, motivated individuals. A subpar employee will only hold you back. So before hiring, take a read up on the best tips to hire the right employee. Or, if you really don’t trust yourself to get it right, you can hand the job over to a recruitment agency.

Outsourcing Tasks

Of course, it’s not as if you’ll be able to hire an employee for every single task at your business. But that doesn’t mean that you should do them yourself. You’ll serve your business better if you’re able to focus on the tasks that you know you do well for your business, rather than the time-consuming or complicated tasks. For those jobs, look at outsourcing. There are plenty of tasks that can be completed by external companies, such as your IT needs, accounting, customer service, and so on. This won’t just make your business look and feel more professional, but will give you the time you need to focus on pushing your business forward in other ways. 

Survey Your Customers

You could significantly improve your business operations if you could simply give your customers what they want. Wouldn’t it be great to implement new operations into your business and know that they’ll be accepted by your customers? Well, it turns out there is a secret weapon that’ll provide this level of insight: talking to them! Surveying your customers is one of the most effective ways to nudge your business in the right direction. While you won’t always get the feedback you want, and getting your customers thoughts can sometimes be challenging, it should be considered a highly important part of your development. 

Monitor the Competition

You’re going to have plenty of good ideas for your business, but it’s not as if you’re going to be the only company doing what you do well. You will, of course, have competition, and it’s important that you’re keeping up with what they’re doing. This can help to guide your own decisions; if you don’t, then you could find that you’re left behind the times. One good way to ensure that you’re at the forefront of your industry is to be aware of what’s going on! A good place to start is by attending trade shows relating to your industry. There you’ll get an insight into what your competition is doing, and where things will be moving in the future. 

Step Up Your Marketing

The more people you can reach, the more you’ll be able to grow your business. One issue that many companies have is that, while they may feel like they’re marketing their business well, it’s not as effective as it could be. So take another look at your marketing operations, and see where you can make improvements. There are plenty of tactics you can use, but they’re not all of equal-effectiveness. Banner marketing is increasingly ineffective. Ringless voicemail and SMS marketing tactics like those offered by Drop Cowboy have been shown to be more effective. Rethink your approach to your marketing, and you might just find that you can significantly boost your business success.

Collaborations and Opportunities

The bulk of what you’ll be doing will be all about your company. But it’s not as if that’s the only option available to you. One great way to develop your business is to look at collaborations with other companies and to explore new opportunities. How this will look will depend on the type of business that you have — but a good place to begin your thinking is to think about working with other companies in your industry who are not direct competitors. This can provide your business with an injection of energy and also expose your business to a whole new audience.

Updating Your Branding

You might have developed your branding pretty quickly in the early days. But now that you’ve gotten some success, could it be time to give it an update? Solid branding can provide a great platform for your business, so it’s not something that you should take any chances with!

Looking Further Down the Line

Finally, one of the best ways to develop your business is to think about further on down the line, and think about the things you’ll do then. Everything might be going well now, but the future is coming whether you like it or not. If you make plans now, you’ll be able to take advantage when the future finally arrives.

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Things Worth Knowing When Starting A Fashion Business

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Starting a fashion business can be very exciting, and it’s something that you definitely want to give a go if you have the talent and skills to create clothing and run a business. You’ll only know if you’ve got both of them if you give it a go. Here are some things worth knowing when starting a fashion business.

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is important and essential for any business that you have, regardless. By knowing who your audience is, you are able to get an understanding of what it is they want from your brand, and hopefully, they’ll end up purchasing what you create. You can understand your target audience more by looking at what type of products you’d like to create and creating your ideal audience of who you think might like your fashion clothing. You might want to consider conducting market research and focus groups to make sure that you are creating for the right audience, and if not, conducting focus groups and trailing it can help you get a better understanding of who your market really is. It’s going to help you sell more further down the line. 

Remember To Protect Your Designs

Your designs are yours, and it can be heartbreaking and frustrating when other brands or individuals try and mimic your design or styles. It’s important, therefore, to clue yourself up on all the information when it comes to branding and fashion brand protection. There’s a lot out there that you can do from a legal standpoint to protect your designs and branding so that if someone were to copy it, you can deal with it swiftly and accordingly. It’s that extra step that might take a little effort to set up, but it will be well worth it.

Start With One Product

Try not to overwhelm yourself when you’re starting off your fashion line. Think about the key products that you’d want to feature on your fashion line and pick one to focus on first. This can be your debut item that launches your brand, and it should be something that stands out and will sell well. So whether you’re selling trainers or dresses, pick your first product wisely as it’s going to set a precedent for the rest of the designs and styles you create going forward. You want to start yourself off in the right way.

Create A Great Website Or Selling Platform

Creating a great website or selling platform is crucial nowadays, especially when it comes to your fashion business. The online world can offer a lot in terms of audience growth and success in general. Try to create a good website and design it in a way that looks appealing. Take time in this design, and be sure your branding is consistent across every platform you’re on. It’s all critical and contributes to the success of your company.

Starting a fashion business is certainly exciting, so use these tips to help bring your fashion business to life.

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