Shanghai Qing Cong Quan Children’s Intelligence Training Center: Gaining the Community’s Support

China Development Brief, no. 48 (Winter 2010)

中文 English

This short article provides an interesting glimpse into a grassroots autism NGO and its efforts to build good relationships with the local authorities and community. Like many other grassroots organizations in China, Shanghai’s Qing Cong Quan finds that cultivating good relations with local authorities, the media, businesses and the community is critical if it wants to survive and join the mainstream of society. 

Since its founding as a private autism rehabilitation training center, Shanghai Qing Cong Quan (上海青聪泉儿童智能训练中心) has always been troubled by space issues. Three months ago we suffered a crisis when the landlords ordered us to move, and we almost ended up on the street. Many similar organizations have had similar experiences.

What Qing Cong Quan did was to appeal through the media in order to get the attention and support of the government and community regarding our space issues. It finally found a new building for its organization in Shanghai’s Changning District, at Hami and Tianshan Road. The space is over 500 square meters, and has convenient transportation. Some government departments are paying for 40 percent of the rent, and certain individuals provided support for renovations and relocation expenses. As a result, Qing Cong Quan was able to avert a crisis.

In the face of conflict and difficulties, should civil society organizations complain about society and the government, and put autism families and civil society organizations in opposition to the outside world? Or should these organizations engage with government and society? Qing Cong Quan believes the correct way is to adjust one’s attitude, stop hiding behind closed doors, come out into the open and tell others about our needs. Let people know about children’s problems, families’ difficulties, and society’s responsibility. Two years after the organization was established, we began this call to action. [Editor’s Note: Qing Cong Quan’s dilemma of either distancing itself from the government or working with the government is one faced by many nonprofits. More nonprofits are arguing that they can no longer remain at arms length from the government if they want to become part of the mainstream.]

At first, the district where Qing Cong Quan was located did not have any private children autism service organizations. Also government departments did not really understand or trust it. Over the next four years, Qing Cong Quan actively participated in various activities, such as the Disabled Persons Federation’s Forum on the Special Olympics, and charity sale events for children in disaster areas run jointly by the Street Office’s Party Members Volunteer Office and the district-level Communist Youth League committee. In addition, it always invited local authorities to major activities.
The Deputy Secretary of Changning District’s Civil Affairs bureau once brought his one-year old child to celebrate with our students at our Christmas Party. Through constant interaction and communication, it gradually assuaged the government’s concerns. Today, the Disabled Persons Federation, the Street Committee, and Civil Affairs office all support Qing Cong Quan. [Editor’s Note: The Street Committee is the lowest administrative level in China’s urban areas, and is sometimes known as the SubDistrict Administrative Office.] It has set up a children’s workroom at the Street Committee office, and is able to use many community resources for free. In addition, the Street Committee has been advocating to district leaders on its behalf, bestowing honor on the organization. The Disabled Persons Federation has introduced the organization to public schools in Changning Disrict, and every year gives it funding to develop. The district Communist Youth League committee has also been helping us secure more resources. Currently, Qing Cong Quan and the government enjoy a good relationship.

Qing Cong Quan’s experience over the six years since its establishment is that interaction with society is inseparable from media support. Media is a double-edged sword; its reporting reflects its own perspectives and can have negative effects if the organization does not know how to communicate with them. Moreover, parents of children with autism are extremely sensitive, and it is difficult to convince them to be interviewed, so if there are inaccurate reports, the organization gets blamed. To ensure that media reports have a positive effect, Qing Cong Quan has been using sincerity in communicating to reporters, truthfully speaking about children’s problems, parents’ despair, and the organization’s difficulties, and maintaining a professional attitude toward reporters. Through this process, it hopes to provide more accurate information through the media. The last two years, Qing Cong Quan has been mentioned 30 times in the media, including television interviews, live radio, magazines, internet, and newspaper, and has seen its social influence and credibility grow.

Qing Cong Quan has been seeing more and more volunteers as a result of media publicity. Autism training is highly specialized, and it has been a challenge figuring out how to best use volunteers. After much discussion, it organized volunteers into small groups based on their expertise and time, and delivered different services through these groups. Now, volunteers not only help us with traditional projects such as assisting in training or interacting with children, but have also been a big help in other areas such as procuring teaching materials, making handicrafts to sell, translating written materials, designing a website, organizing large events and engaging in social advocacy.

Qing Cong Yuan’s relationship with the business community has also been improving over the last few years. It began with business employees serving as volunteers, designing excursions where the employees accompanied the children. For businesses, this was an valuable team activity, and allowed them to be involved in social causes. Through this process, Qing Cong Yuan’s contacts in the business community grew. In addition to Korean and American companies, domestic Chinese companies also began joining in, donating materials and funds. They gradually went from participating in short-term activities to providing long-term support. Some companies have even begun to take an interest in our future development, such as teacher training.

上海青聪泉儿童智能训练中心:通过良性互动寻求外界的理解支持
中国发展简报2010冬季刊第48卷
青聪泉作为一家民办自闭症康复训练中心,在创办过程中一直饱受场地的困扰,三个月前我们就遭遇了一场业主勒令搬迁危机,差点流落街头。很多同类的组织一定都有过类似的经历。
青聪泉的做法,是通过媒体大力呼吁,使场地问题得到政府和爱心人士的关注和支持,最终找到了位于上海长宁区哈密路天山路的新校舍,面积500多平米,交通便利,政府相关部门承担40%的房租,爱心人士给我们装修、搬迁款项的支持,终于使我们度过了危机。
在遇到冲突和困难时,是抱怨社会、抱怨政府,把孤独症家庭、民间组织和外界对立起来?还是与政府和社会积极互动?我们认为,正确的做法是调整心态,停止闭门造车,从自闭的小机构走出去,把我们的需求告诉别人,把孩子们的问题,家庭的困难,社会的责任,通过我们传递出去。机构创办两年后,我们开始了这样的呐喊。
起初,青聪泉所在的上海市长宁区并没有为自闭症儿童服务的民间组织,政府相关部门并不非常了解,对我们也缺乏信任,在三年半的等待过程中,青聪泉主动参与各类活动,如残联举办的特奥论坛,街道的党员志愿者工作室,和团区委合作举办为灾区儿童义卖的活动等等。另外,任何大的活动都积极邀请有关领导。长宁区民政局的副局长就曾经在我们圣诞联欢会上带着他一岁的孩子和我们的小朋友联欢。通过不断互动、沟通,逐渐消除了政府的顾虑、担心,契机最终来临。如今残联、街道、民政都非常支持我们,给予很多方便。我们在街道成立了特殊孩子工作室,可以无偿使用社区很多资源,街道也一直在为我们去向区领导呼吁,给予了机构很多荣誉。残联还为我们介绍同在长宁区的各类公立学校,并且每年都对青聪泉的机构建设提供资金支持。团区委一直在为我们寻找各类社会资源。现在,青聪泉和政府建立了良性的互动关系。
此外,青聪泉成立6年来的体会是,与社会的互动首先离不开媒体的支持。媒体是一把双刃剑,它会带着自己的观点和意识来报道你,如果没有良好的沟通,反而会造成一些负面影响,更何况孤独症家长非常敏感,要说服他们接受采访已经相当困难,如果再有一些不正确的报道,机构就会陷入里外不是人的地步。如何让媒体对你的报道是良性的,我们的经验是用真诚打动记者,把孤独症孩子的种种问题、家庭的绝望、机构的困难,如实地说出来,以专业人士的态度给记者耐心解释,希望通过他向读者传递更多的正确信息。青聪泉这两年里接受了大概30多次的媒体报道,有电视台专访、电台直播、杂志、网络、报纸,我们的社会影响力逐渐增强,机构的公信力也渐渐建立。
媒体为我们打开了社会大众的大门,使越来越多的志愿者走进了青聪泉。自闭症训练专业性很强,如何正确运用志愿者也是一个非常棘手的问题。后来我们经过思考和讨论,根据志愿者的特长和时间进行分组管理,在志愿服务内容方面进行了创新。现在,志愿者不仅帮助我们做一些训练辅助、和孩子互动等传统项目,在教具采购制作、手工义卖品制作、文字资料的翻译和输入、网站设计、大型活动和社会宣传等各个方面,志愿者都起到了非常大的帮助。
这些年,我们和企业的互动也渐入佳境。开始的时候,就从企业员工的志愿者活动开始,通过设计一些郊游活动,由企业员工作为志愿者陪伴我们的孩子完成。这对企业而言是非常好的团队活动,也为企业带来社会效应。这样,我们结识了越来越多的企业朋友。不仅有起初的韩国、美国公司,本土的企业也陆续加入进来,从捐物和参加活动,到直接提供资金,从参与短期的活动,逐渐变成长期的支持,有些企业还开始对我们未来的发展,比如师资培训感兴趣。

Translated by Helen McCabe

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