By Dr. Michael Zhiqiang Chen,
President of HANDA Social Service Development Centre
Board member of PM4NGOs


What is the current status of NGOs/projects in China?

The development trend of China’s development and humanitarian sectors is fast but unstable. After the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, especially after the Wenchuan earthquake, China’s NGOs and development and humanitarian sectors have achieved rapid development. However, in recent years, due to the external environment, policies and other reasons, the development of NGOs has slowed down. The biggest bottleneck affecting the development of China’s NGOs is the talent problem, especially the serious shortage of project management personnel. NGOs, especially service-oriented ones, will find it difficult to survive and develop if their staff cannot develop and manage projects effectively. The shortage of project management talents will limit the diversified development of China’s NGOs and make them even less dynamic. In addition, another problem in the development of social service organizations is that most of them are resource-oriented and exogenous, rather than socialneed-oriented with clear mission. This situation will affect the development of the whole development and humanitarian sectors.


What are the causes of these situations?

There are several reasons for the current difficulties in the development of development and humanitarian sectors. First, NGOs are still relatively new in China, and there are no majors or courses specially designed to train NGO management talents in Chinese universities. Secondly, in the whole training system of social services, the training of project management is seriously insufficient. Although there are some project management trainings in this sector, there are three problems with these training: (1) Theory is divorced from practice; (2) The fragmentation of training content cannot solve the problems faced by project manager; (3) The training only talks about skills or tools without reasoning, mainly focus on how to implement the project but less addressing to the needs and how to identify and define a meaningful and valuable project.
Lack of the systematic project management education, not only caused the lack of professional project managers and the vast majority of the NGO employees are lack of project management knowledge and skills, but also caused the service purchaser and resource providers failed to recognize the potential good project and provide guides for project implementing NGOs to have better project design and management.
In fact, the international development and humanitarian sectors has a very comprehensive and systematic body of knowledge in project management (Project Management for Development Professionals Guide), but there are still very limited number of people in China who aware and studied this useful knowledge system. Therefore, we do hope that more people can participate in the promotion of this systematic project management guide and help more NGOs and NGOs practitioners improve their project management ability to develop and effectively manage projects and social services.

What is effective project in development and humanitarian sectors? How can NGOs contribute to the effective development of social sectors?

 The essence of project in the social sector is to be able to solve social problems and respond to needs. Therefore, effective philanthropy and social services must:
(1) Clearly identify the social problems or community needs to be addressed (whose problems, what problems, to what extent)
(2) Specific strategies addressing to the issues (effective strategies aimed at the root of the problem)
(3) Clear and measurable project objectives (the results that will be presented when the problem is solved, and they must be measurable)
In a simple word, effective project must have a clear and specific outcome which addressing to the needs. A meaningful or valuable project, it must have two critical factors: clear needs and specific outcome. Just as Drucker stated nonprofit organizations exist for outcomes. However, many NGO leaders, project managers, and even evaluation experts lack the concept of outcome. In addition, according to Drucker, the effectiveness of a project begins with the design. If the project is poorly identified and defined without clear objectives, no matter how well the project is executed it is meaningless. Projects that do not produce results will not only waste money and resources, but may also mislead the NGOs about what is an effective project should be. NGOs, like enterprises, exist to create customers and meet needs. In order to achieve these two goals, NGOs must have two basic capacities. One is to develop and successfully implement projects and to present the clear outcomes through marketing strategy. The other is to keep innovating. Especially after the pandemic, it is urgent for NGOs to strengthen capacity and train a large number of effective project managers.
In order to promote effective social services, there is much to be done and should be changed in China, from policies and systems, to resource providers and leading organizations, and the NGOs and NGO practitioners. On the one hand, we need to cultivate and build awareness of effective social services, and cultivate a sense of critical thinking and need-focused. On the other hand, we should learn and master the systematic thinking and knowledge of project management, and use the systematic thinking of project management to promote and cultivate the awareness and ability of effective social service.

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