Social Enterprise in China

Social enterprise is becoming a hot topic in China; the model of blending the creation of social impact with a business approach may become an important way in which the social needs of Chinese citizens is met, whether it is the elderly, the handicapped, the victims of disaster, the health and wellbeing of the population, the environment and the problems of pollution that are being addressed.

In 2013, CIVA organised a conference in Shanghai on social franchising and a 4-day study tour in Beijing to look at social enterprise in China. We then commissioned research on attitudes and opportunities for scaling up social enterprise which brought together information from over 40 social enterprises that were spreading or thinking about spreading their work more widely. The research was published in 2015 sponsored by the British Council China, the Leping Foundation and the China Philanthropy Research Institute.

In November 2014, on our own initiative we also undertook a piece of action research providing 2 days of consultancy to 17 organisations in 5 cities over a period of 9 days using a team of 13 consultants (12 of whom gave their services pro bono). This explored whether the organisations were replication ready, what might be needed to be done before any replication started and what structure should be adopted for the scaling up. A report was published in 2015. This work was funded by the Narada Foundation working with NPI (Non-Profit Incubator) as our partner. NPI then obtained funding from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to provide support and consultancy on scaling up to nearly social enterprises in China, and in 2017 the Narada Foundation established a scale up centre as a platform for continuing this work

We have been promoting the concept of “Business for Good is Good for Business” encouraging companies to address big issues through their mainstream business activities rather than through a traditional Corporate Social Responsibility approach. We have been doing this through talks and workshops with business associations, business schools and at the China Charity Forum. With the Do School as our partner we have assembled a consortium of business and social sector organisations in China to spread this idea more widely and to help companies in developing Business for Good strategies and plans.

In June 2015, we organised the first Asia Environmental Innovation Forum in Shenzhen to encourage the sharing of ideas and innovations addressing important environmental issues and concerns. In November 2016, we organised a second Forum, also in Shenzhen, and are currently developing plans to make this an annual event.

In 2016, we also assisted the Berlin-based Do School to establish programmes promoting social entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship in Greater China. Partnerships have been developed with the Hong Kong Jockey Club, with the Narada Foundation and with others to further develop these programmes.

Our work in China will continue to develop over the coming years.

You can obtain copies of our report on “Scaling Social Entrepreneurship in China” and our Action Research report by emailing us at