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Great Love of the Great Doctor: Zhang Xingru’s Philosophy of Philanthropy (Ⅲ)

【专栏】| Conlumists >微公益 | MicroCharity

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By Yibai, Jointing.Media, in Shanghai, 2010-12-16

Governing by doing nothing that goes against nature
“No organization, but with discipline”

We will not establish a foundation. Once established, it requires dedicated personnel to manage operations, which increases costs and consumes many social resources…We all work on GMX in our spare time, and no one is full-time. Moreover, all core members are all fluid. When one event is over, that’s it (a collective decision to do it next year). We are “unorganized but disciplined” — unorganized, unrestrained.

——Zhang Xingru

The first GMX in 2006 was initiated by Zhang Xingru, Yang Yongxiao, Ms. Jinglian, and Xu Yan. Many people shed tears in Zuoqin Township. Zhang Xingru said that at the time, GMX team encountered a young child in the snow. His shoes were worn out and his toes were rotten from the cold. When asked why he didn’t wear a better pair of shoes, the child answered:”No money for them.” It was the first time for all of us in Xinjiang, almost no one didn’t shed tears.

“The harsh living conditions faced by our comrades in the Tibetan region that we witnessed with our own eyes have left the members of the GMX team heartbroken. The happiness of those who regain their sight and the hope of a new start provide the team members with a sense of purpose. However, merely relying on emotions is not enough.”

Not Being a Foundation, Loose but not Dispersed

After the trip to Zuoqin, the members of GMX reflected and decided to continue the project long-term, creating a four-stop plan: foot of Tian Shan Mountains, old revolutionary base areas, Mongolian grasslands, and Yunnan frontier. This led to the GMX of Qinghe in Xinjiang in 2008, the GMX of Gannan in 2009, and the GMX of  Grassland in 2010. With the initial plan nearing completion, they will plan six more stops for the future.

Since GMX is to be a long-term work, why not set up a special foundation? Zhang Xingru answered:” We will not establish a foundation. Once established, it requires dedicated personnel to manage operations, which increases costs and consumes many social resources. Some people have calculated that when you donate 10 yuan, only 3 to 5 yuan may actually be used for the intended beneficiaries, with the rest being worn away in the process. We want a more convenient operation where funds can be directly utilized without going through more intermediate links.”

“We all work on GMX in our spare time, and no one is full-time. Moreover, all core members are all fluid. When one event is over, that’s it (a collective decision to do it next year).” Zhang Xingru said.

“I trust GMX a lot. Its operation is very transparent, and everyone can clearly see their position and value in the entire process,” said Liu Tao, manager of Bausch & Lomb China who has participated in GMX.

GMX is an intangible organizational entity with strict institutional procedures for action. They manage projects using a “budgeting before final accounting” approach, setting action goals, such as performing a certain number of cataract surgeries, before budgeting and fundraising. After the action is completed, they conduct accounting and publish expense lists to participating parties. The focus is on creating projects first and then procuring funds accordingly.

Who will manage the money? Faced with this sensitive question, Zhang Xingru bluntly said: “As the main organizer, the management of money must be handled by someone who has no connection with me.” It is understood that  the money of last year’s GMX was managed by a volunteer named Qu Fei from a Shanghai company, which was one of the donors to last year’s GMX. A deputy director of the Shanghai Audit Bureau participated in GMX of this year as a volunteer and donor to “supervise” the financial transparency of the event.

Charity and social enterprises require a high degree of professionalism. Professionalism ensures the effectiveness of actions, which is related to the management capability of core members. GMX’s “strict system” mainly manifests in democratic decision-making and personnel selection; “transparency” is reflected in fundraising and the use of funds and materials, with the separation of operations and decisions. The supervisory mechanism plays an important role.

As Zhang Xingru pointed out, GMX does not have a formal organizational structure, but still operates with a sense of order and adherence to rules or guidelines.

Before Managing the Project, Manage the People First

Every year after the Spring Festival, GMX initiates project preparation and decide the departure time. The selection process for medical volunteers with fixed schedules takes priority, followed by enterprise volunteers. Due to variations in enterprise volunteer availability, the final list is confirmed only two weeks before departure. The roster is not changed once it is confirmed, but substitutes are assigned to each position.

The principle for GMX to select team members every year is to blend old and new members equally. Old members are familiar with the environment and work processes, and can guide new members to ensure medical accuracy. “In the past, when the scale was small, we could manage every aspect. But now that the scale has grown, it’s impossible to manage every aspect. And only after updating the team can it last. People’s passion is limited. Expanding access to opportunities can allow more people to showcase their kindness.” Zhang Xingru said.

There are many doctors applying to participate in GMX, but GMX has its own selection criteria. “We need to have a complete understanding of this doctor, otherwise the marginal cost will be very high. If you don’t understand his surgical skills, should he work as a doctor or as a volunteer or assistant? If he has a high reputation but poor actual ability, who will be responsible if something goes wrong?” As the captain of GMX, Zhang Xingru will also allocate team members according to the project, such as the ratio of new and old team members, the industry background of team members, and the resources available to each member.

“In 2008, GXM faced difficulties in medical equipment transportation, and Zhang Xingru pondered, ‘Next time we must bring in a team member with an aviation company background.’ In 2009, Ye Shenglan, a volunteer from Eastern Airlines joined the GXM team. He advocated for expanding the range of industries represented in the team and encouraging people from all professions to participate.”

The analysis of past data shows that the most economical and safest team structure is to limit the number of doctors and volunteers to 45 or less.There are now more than 200 potential volunteers.

Quality Control:Training and Backup

Each position at GMX has a job description. Volunteers are assigned to different teams based on their personal interests and expertise, and receive specialized training before deployment. “Volunteers must be trained. These volunteers who hold high positions in companies or units will be doing very basic work in GMX, such as simply assisting patients and helping doctors prepare for surgery,” Zhang Xingru said.

Hu Dayuan, a professor at Peking University, volunteered in the GMX in 2009, distributing eye drops to patients. In 2010, he was “promoted” to the ward and responsible for preoperative eye cleansing for patients. And Liu Chang, daughter of New Hope Group Chairman Liu Yonghao, was responsible for assisting patients.

Volunteers assisted doctors throughout the operation by registering patients, checking their vision, arranging patients, sterilizing, removing gauze, and distributing medicine. These auxiliary medical tasks do not require a long time of training to reach the standard. However, organizing and coordinating the work requires more management skills. Zhang Xingru’s approach is to fully authorize volunteers once they are assigned to a position, supervise them at any time, track progress, and prepare contingency plans.

“The equipment we move over each year is worth millions, for example, equipment that has been borrowed but malfunctions. There is always a contingency plan in place for critical positions.”

“For timing milestones and material gathering, it’s important to have a buffer of extra time and space. However, there are few things that need remedying because the members of GMX have strong sense of responsibility and execution ability.”

In usual circumstances, corporate executives and decision-makers who hold high positions are accustomed to being commanders. However, in GMX, they inevitably express their own opinions, especially since the company has donated money as a sponsor. Zhang Xingru said that this phenomenon did exist at the beginning, but later everyone reached a consensus on speaking rights: corporate volunteers leveraged their strengths to make suggestions and share management experience on project operations, while medical professionals had the final say on professional matters.

Although doctors and corporate volunteers have their respective roles, the overall direction of action is decided collectively. After each GMX ends, the members will hold a summary meeting to share their experiences and feelings, take turns to criticize, praise, and suggest. The main idea is “What should we do at the next stop? Where should we prepare to go?” The result of the meeting is always “keep moving forward.” Then everyone draws a circle to determine the general direction and confirms the details in specific operations.

“GMX is not a personal matter, it is a collective matter. Team communication and integration are not easy, I want to be inclusive of others,” said Zhang Xingru. He has always wanted to reduce his personal influence on GMX.

Most grassroots and spontaneous public welfare actions rely on the founder’s own influence and network to build a platform. Without a founder who possesses both appeal and inclusiveness, how can resources from different fields and partners with diverse personalities be gathered to accomplish the same vision?

(To be continued)


Translated by MirrorChat and Youdao Translate

Edited by Wind

Yifan Ding also contributed to this article.


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