Social innovation in China is set to experience a meteoric growth.
As the country’s economy matures, its business landscape becomes more aware of social entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs look at social issues as new markets. Consumers are willing to spend their money on safe and high-value products.
In today’s post, we will tackle about the state of social innovation in China.
But first, let’s define what social innovation is.
Have you ever heard of factories that hire only disabled people? Fashion brands creating fabrics out of plastic bottles? Cooking oil turned into biofuel? 100% biodegradable plantable paper?
These are examples of social innovations, developed and launched by social enterprises. They are also known as high-impact or sustainable organizations.
Either term we use, they are all part of a moving force that transforms our society. It changes the way they think, act or consume. Social innovation is rising globally, including in China, even if it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when referring to the “Middle Kingdom”.
What are we talking about exactly?
Social entrepreneurship may be the most well-known and hot concept at the moment.
A social enterprise solves social or environmental issues in a profitable way. Unlike NGOs relying on donations, they use business practices to maximize a positive impact and bring value to the society.
Simply put, they build a bridge between the economy and philanthropy. They are creating a more responsible way of doing business.
But we need to look at this entire movement from a larger scope. It encompasses any grassroots initiatives working toward a more sustainable and human-based world.
These initiatives can mobilize concepts as zero waste, shared or circular economy, low-tech, veganism, organic, inclusion, etc. They integrate them to innovative business models. And they use these business models to serve the most vulnerable sections of the population and the planet.
If you look at them all together, they create meaningful and ambitious paths to change.
The Chinese ecosystem of impact initiatives is changing fast.
The social entrepreneurship sector in China is still at an adolescent stage. It evolves fast, though it still looks for landmarks and role models.
The concept became a trend in 2004, with the first Chinese translation of the best-seller book, ‘How to Change The World’ by David Bornstein.
But if we look back 3 years ago, the field still seemed to take its first steps. Only a few social enterprises existed and events were rare. The opportunities to engage through jobs or volunteering are hard to access as well.
Of course, this point of view has to be put in perspective with a “laowai” status. This has a tendency to make anyone short-sighted.
Still, after a few years, one can recognize a fast and deep mutation toward a more dynamic ecosystem.
Today, you can attend different events every week. Here you can meet people who are passionate about building a better future. It’s also easier to find a job with impact or to do volunteering.
Above that, WeChat gives you access to a 24/7 source of valuable information and inspiration. The content comes from strong communities and reaches to us via Wechat groups, discussions, and articles.
This ecosystem has the opportunity to shape the sustainable future of China.
Today, China appears as the country who takes quick actions to fight climate change.
For example, China opened the world’s largest floating solar power facility. The country also built a 250-acre solar farm shaped like a panda.
Although important and welcomed, these measures seem to be part of a bigger picture. It keeps the illusion that pollution is only a matter of energy transition, not a matter of individual responsibilities.
In Western countries, it’s hard to say that governments always play a major role in encouraging grassroots initiatives. But, at least, they support them, leave them space to be. Also, they don’t shout out loud: “Please people be sure to not get involved in saving the planet, we are taking care of everything!”
We can argue about what is best or less bad. But the point is that a long-term sustainable change won’t happen without individuals taking action.
In China, in a context that disempowers people, there is not a lot of space for individual actions.
But yet they exist. And above all, they are spreading. They are the contribution of the civil society. They are the key element of the fight against climate change, poverty, and social exclusion.
Each grassroots initiatives is a micro revolution. They disrupt all sectors from food to fashion, education or tourism.
They offer sustainable alternatives, raise awareness, educate people and consumers. They are planting seeds on the field and for the future. That is a tedious work and it’s only the beginning.
Corporates should watch the initiatives emerging from this movement.
Why? Because the main purpose of these initiatives coming out of reflects the economic risks. Risks that are brought by climate change or social exclusion. They contribute to building a new world, based on more sustainable values and practices.
It’s already hard to ignore the phenomenon in Europe or in the US. And China would not make the exception. We can assume that the growing interest in social enterprises is linked to a stronger will for change and concern for the future.
In that way, the answers offered by sustainable organizations are shaping the future trends of consumer’s behaviors.
Discover and explore the Chinese ecosystem of change with Feiy.co
Feiy connects people with high-impact initiatives. It has been their mission for the last 2 years. On Wechat, they have shared hundreds of stories, events and job offers related to change and sustainability in China.
This summer they launched a new online platform, feiy.co. This platform aims to federate and empower the community of high-impact organizations and social enterprises in China. They can use this space to display their projects, events and job offers. They can grow their visibility here as well.
For Feiy, gathering sustainable organizations in a single place is vital. It makes the whole ecosystem more accessible and transparent for people.
In conclusion, social innovation in China might be in its early stage, but it surely has a bright future. More organizations are starting to get recognized. Slowly, they are making their impact on the society, which will definitely bring a greater change in the world.
This article was originally written by Pauline, founder of Feiy.co
Feiy.co is the first China-based international platform that connects and inspires a new generation of social dreamers. It’s a hub for high-impact initiatives to share their initiatives, events, and jobs.
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