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Calvin Chin: One can produce more value when engage in some tasks he himself is considering meaningful


【观点】| Insight

By Jointing.Media in Shanghai, 2010-04-26


JM: Do you encourage students to go into the field of Social Enterprise? And Why?

Calvin Chin: Yes, I strongly encourage all undergraduates to consider SE. While each person has their own life pressures and may not be able to start a company. They can all consider joining an SE or volunteering for one. In fact, Qifang is always looking for young people to work with us, not only because we think they are smart, talented and bring a lot of good ideas, but also because we want to help encourage people to be social entrepreneurs. Why? Because while I think it is the most rewarding to be working on your own projects, to be working on something where you can really feel that the work that you do has meaning and can make a difference, this is even more the case when you are working on an SE. When you know that the work you are doing can make a difference for society, for our country, or even just for one individual or their family – that can inspire you to work your hardest, to be your best.

JM: How do you define “Social Enterprise (SE)”? Organizations with what characteristics can be considered SE?

Calvin Chin: A friend of mine has a good, simple definition. He says that social entrepreneurship is using using business concepts to solve social problems. But I think it’s kind of a funny term, social entrepreneurship. It makes sense for now, but I think in the future it won’t mean anything. It will just be redundant because we will come to realize and appreciate how all enterprises and all entrepreneurship is social, and how all social initiatives can be run with business concepts to make themselves more sustainable and scalable. You can’t have a successful company in a failing society, and a NGO/NPO that doesn’t think of its efficiency and operations can’t last forever. But for now, maybe it is fair to say that traditional businesses tend to think of profits first and social impact second, while SE think of social impact first and profits second.

JM: What are the major differences between SE and NGO/NPO?

Calvin Chin: Both SE and NGO/NPO think about our social impact and also about how efficient and sustainable we can be. But I think the main difference between SE and NGO/NPO is in how much time and energy you need to spend thinking about fundraising. Both types of organizations need to raise startup capital or seed capital, as most SE do not make enough money to cover their expenses in the beginning too. But if an SE is successful, it’s core model will be self sustaining. By doing it’s work, it will earn the funds it needs to keep going. Most NGO/NPO, unless it has a substantial endowment, need to fundraise each year or all the time.

JM: Is SE the development trend for GRO (or commonly called “Grassroot Organizations”) in China? What qualities are essential for SEs to be sustainable in China?

Calvin Chin: Yes, I think SE is a key trend for Chinese GRO. Today many GRO either don’t register with the government which is not a viable long term strategy or they register as a company. As a company, they face business taxes, capital registration requirements and other constraints that will encourage them to think of models that work in business terms. So SE is a great way for GRO to be legal, but also to take advantage of applying business concepts to the social problems they are trying to solve. SE as a sector need to continue to educate the market – the government, investors, clients, etc… about what it means to be an SE and how they can work with SE and existing NGO/NPO together to solve problems. In the same way, each individual SE must do the same. So a good SE must do all the things that any good startup must do, be organized to listen to the market, be flexible, be efficient, but must also realize they are operating in a space that many people don’t yet understand.

JM: What is Qifang development model and plans in the middle/long term?

Calvin Chin: Qifang will continue to focus on giving everyone a way to pay for their education. But for us that means not just having the funds for loans, but also helping students understand about financial literacy, and helping them with their career development needs. In the short term, we are seeking partners to help with those goals – companies who are active in CSR with students, who are training their own employees, individuals who are sponsoring students, foundations involved in education. We have also started moving from just focusing on university education to other types of education like vocational and job training. We’ve also started working with non-profits who are focused on donation and scholarship programs too. And of course we’re growing and looking for new people to join our team too!

Edited PF

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