The professionalization of the NGO sector: waiting for the next five years

中文 English

Editors note:

The sustainable development of the NGO sector requires understanding and support from the public. What is most important is the need to “de-moralize” the sector and treat at it as just another professional endeavor. Tao Ran shares the experience he has gained as a professional NGO worker during the past five years, and his expectations for the professionalization of the NGO sector during the next five years.

It is difficult to believe that it has already been five years since I joined the NGO sector. As I pause and look back upon my journey as an individual in China’s developing NGO sector, I remind myself that five years is a phase, and it is now time for some self-reflection before I move on to the next five years.

My decision to join the NGO sector five years ago was one I took after much serious consideration. Back then however, the environment for Chinese NGOs was much harsher. When people asked me what it meant to be an “NGO professional”, I never knew what to reply. No matter what I would say, about half the people I spoke to would see me as some kind of irrational fool and the other half would admire me, because they imagined that I planned to dedicate my life to teaching in a remote rural village. No one understood the relationship between the “NGO sector” and “professionalism” at the time.

Now, five years later, topics such as what a reasonable salary should be for NGO workers are already being discussed. Feng Yongfeng even publicly raised the following question: “do NGO workers have to maintain a dignified poverty?” This surely indicates an increasing diversity that will lead to a more healthy and sustainable development of the NGO sector. We are fortunate to have witnessed a variety of events within and outside of the sector during the past five years, including the disappearance of certain people, for example the infamous Guo Meimei, who has begun to serve her five-year prison sentence. The once shaky Chinese NGO sector is getting stronger.

I did not join this sector by coincidence. Working as a social worker for two years beforehand had equipped me with a thorough knowledge of how NGOs work. In my opinion there is no difference between NGO jobs and other jobs, since both require expertise and professionalism. This turned out to be the most convincing argument I could use to justify my career choice to my family.

In June 2010, two months after the Yushu Earthquake, I arrived at Yushu and began my full-time job in the NGO sector. Since I was the only man in the organization, I was sent to the frontline. The tasks were simple and required no expertise: finding and confirming the identity of children who were receiving donations, and reporting the situation to the donors. All I had to do was to ask the children one by one for their grant-receiving number in order to confirm their identity. It was a repetitive job, but I did it for 55 days.

Following this, I had to carry out another two simple tasks: visiting selected students in their homes and delivering the donations. Meanwhile, the organization’s local volunteers conducted the rest of the procedural work. This model had been operating for five years and was well established. The services of the volunteers were also guaranteed. With all the procedures already set, I didn’t have a chance to improve my professionalism or expertise. In fact, the only difference between employees like me and the volunteers was the amount of time we committed.

A year later I left this social organization, which had been started by outstanding volunteers, and joined a newly established private foundation in Beijing. This organization was active in the educational sector, and also provided services in Qinghai Province. I had the chance to manage an entire project, since the foundation was still new and had many projects running but few volunteers. These projects were assigned to individuals and divided by counties. Despite the lack of much chance to use my own discretion due to the strict project budget and plans, I still made some progress in my project management skills when compared with my previous job.

I frequently compared the two organizations. The most obvious distinction was their different natures. Private foundations were supervised by the civil affairs department through annual inspections,which ensured that all activities were carried out to specific standards. Furthermore, with little external interference, the foundation where I worked just operated according to the rules.

Fortunately, the situation changed soon. The foundation started to seek exchanges and cooperation with organizations like the Pneumoconiosis Assistance Foundation, the Sina Yangfan Plan Fund and the China Foundation Center. Interacting with other foundations, building up sectorial platforms and combining resources became priorities for us. This change of mindset allowed us to stop working alone and drew our attention to the effectiveness of grant-making projects. That was when we realized what the major hurdles for our development were, and that we urgently needed to cooperate with others.

In 2014 and 2015, while we attempted to enhance our own educational projects, some foundations had already begun to understand the soft power of charitable projects. In a particularly impressive seminar I attended in China, I got to know about many highly professional organizations with both specialized knowledge and decades of practical experience in education and other related areas.

As a frontline project officer, having gone through all the experiences described above during the past five years, I feel there is an urgent need for an improvement in the professionalism of NGO workers. Some NGOs have already started to promote the use of professional managers. It is obvious that NGOs require more people with a professional expertise. When we discuss whether NGO practitioners deserve a high salary, I often ask myself whether my competences could actually match such a salary. In my view, the ideal project officers must earn their payment, their reputation in the sector, and the recognition from donors and grant-making foundations of their expertise.

Looking forward to becoming more professional for the next five years.

 

【来自基金会的TA】公益职业化道路上:静待下一个五年

 作者:陶然

       公益行业的可持续发展,需要大众的理解和支持,其中最重要的一点是“去道德化”,应该把公益专职,为与其他工作一样看待。陶然,分享了自己作为职业公益人五年的经历,期望下一个五年,能走的更专业。

时间一晃,在公益专职这条道路上,就走过了五年。停下来匆匆回想这五年,作为个体跟随中国公益发展前行的脚步,领略这一路风景。提醒自己,五年,是一道坎,应该停下来,回忆过去,总结一番,然后继续前行,期待下一个五年。

五年前,虽说作出进入公益行业的决定,是经过良久的思考抉择的,但那时候,中国公益行业从业环境比现在还要艰涩许多。记得那一年,我找不到一个合乎常情的解释回应身边的人的提问——“什么叫公益专职”?无论我如何解释,总会有一部分充满鄙夷的眼神,把你当成“冲动的傻子”,而另一部分人则带着敬佩,以为你是要去深山老林里支教,去体验生活,那时候没有多少人理解“公益”同“职业化”有什么关联

五年后的今天,至少,刚刚过去不久,我们已经在探讨公益行业工资多少才算合理的话题,我们的冯永锋老师还大声发出了“做公益就该守清贫?”的反问。这一切,我想至少表明中国的公益生态环境如今有了极大的丰富,环境多样性带来的是整个生态系统的健康、持续发展,为此我们感到庆幸,五年里,我们有幸见识了这些年公益“圈里圈外”发生的那些五颜六色的故事,还有那些已经消失和正在消失的人;还好,郭美美已经开始了她的五年有期徒刑,而曾颤巍巍的中国公益,已渐现TA粗壮的体格。

进入这个行业,并非出自偶然。在此之前两年的义工服务经历,已经让自己从最初的公益幻想中逐渐蜕变,被公益所吸引,面对公益专职,更多的是将它看做等同其他工作机会一般,这也是当初说服家里同意我的选择时最有底气的理由。

2010年6月在玉树地震后两个月,我到达玉树,开始了自己的公益专职生活。因为是机构里唯一的男生,所以很自然被分配到项目一线。分配给我的工作任务非常简单明确:寻找、确认地震后的在捐孩子,及时反馈给捐助人。每天,我一个孩子一个孩子的问下去,而所谓的确认也仅仅靠着问话,询问孩子上一年领取助学金的编号来判断,几乎没有太显著的技术含量。就这样重复的工作,我干了55天。

随后的日子里,我只干两件事情:入户家访抽查学校申报一对一资助的学生,以及发放助学金,而其余流程上的工作,都是交由机构在各地的义工来完成。由于这种模式已经持续五年,已经具备一套成熟的工作流程,义工的投入又是有充分保障的,因而那时候,专职的功能并不凸显,只是一颗小螺丝钉,甚至都不需要带入自己更多的思考——工作内容被确定,程序预设好,所要做的只是数量的堆砌,而专职与义工的唯一不同在于作为专职,有完整的时间去完成这些工作。

 

 

这种状态持续了一年后,我离开了这家以优质志愿者发展起来的社会组织,去了北京一家成立不到一年的私募基金会,依然是在教育领域,地域也仍然在青海。由于基金会同时拥有多个助学项目,并且因为是新成立的,志愿者资源薄弱,所以基本上这个时候的工作是完整的承担。随之而来的是机构将现有项目分到专人负责,助学区域也采取县域划分,尽管最开始自主性没有那么强,严格按照此前商定好的项目预算和规划来落实,但相比较之前,还是在项目管理上往前走了许多步。

那时常常将前后就职的这两家机构拿来作比较,最明显的不同在于各自性质所属——作为私募基金会,天然的管理屏障即民政局监管,以及每年的年检更是一道关卡,有效保障了机构所有的活动都在一个规范的标准下实现,加上没有太多外部力量干扰,更多时候,机构安静地遵照规范做着事情就好,无须与外界有太多的接触。

好在这样的状态持续没多久,机构内部开始寻求与外界同行的交流与合作,随即与大爱清尘基金、新浪扬帆计划基金、基金会中心网等相继接触,并展开合作,机构外围的同行交流、平台搭建与资源整合,逐渐成为我们沟通的话题。这种意识的转变,带来的是逐渐打破闷头干体力活儿的状态,注重公益项目的有效性。也就在这个时候,我们逐渐意识到自身瓶颈愈发凸出,寻求学习交流成为我们最迫切的发展需求

2014年~2015年,当我们提出教育类公益项目的深化延伸时,我们的一些同行早就已经开始探索公益项目的软实力。印象深刻的是参加过国内阅读推广的一次交流会,与会的大小机构里,不乏专业性极高的机构,对于教育、阅读以及相关领域,既有相应的专业背景,同时更有长达几十年的经验积累。

通过上面浅显的梳理个人这五年的变化,作为一名长期在项目一线的从业人员,我真实感受到来自这行当对我们的职业化要求的压力。当已有公益机构推行公益职业经理人模式时,未来公益领域所需要的人才,应更倾向于职业化和专业性强的人员,这是发展的必然。当我们在讨论公益从业者应不应该享有高水平薪资时,我也常反问自己:我现在的能力水平与薪资待遇之间是否是匹配、合理的?

回到主题,我所期待的项目人员,他更应该以他的项目管理专业素养换取他应有的那份待遇,同时,也应该以他的专业化水平,赢取这个行业的口碑与尊重,收获来自社会捐赠人、资助型基金会对其专业能力的认可,这才是我们的价值所在

期待下一个五年,在公益职业化道路上,更加专业。

 

 

张銮明,公益网名陶然。这些年,结识的伙伴们,也都只认识陶然,不知张銮明。走上公益助学这条道路,起初是因为“共情”,我的求学之路和我接下来这几年所面对的孩子极其相似,我想这正是我五年走下来的动力之一。五年里在两家自认为都很不错的机构待过,一直在教育类公益项目一线上,活动范围集中在西北与西南,擅长与项目地人的沟通协调,最大的特点是能够吃苦,对待公益这份工作,既是糊口需要,更是发自内心的喜爱,它带给我精神与物质的充实,乐享其中。

 

【栏目介绍】作为行业资源汇聚之地,基金会总是能吸引更多目光,然而过往基金会发出的声音大多来自深孚众望的公益大佬与意见领袖,中基层项目官员成为沉默的大多数。2015年,在第七届中国非公募基金会发展论坛的支持下,中国发展简报设计执行了“倾听一线的声音-—项目官员眼中的基金会与行业”项目,通过国内非公募基金会一线项目官员的公益观察或个人故事,展示他/她们的所思所想、所见所得,由此呈现项目官员如何成长、基金会如何运作、又如何对社会议题和行业发展产生影响。

 

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Translated by Li Yuanhui

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