Upward in Life, Forward in the NGO sector

中文 English

Editor’s note

Last weekend, Xiaoxue’s second child was born. Looking back on the path she has taken while embracing this new life, Xiaoxue presents us with a touching story of how a NGO worker grew into her role. In the article we can bear witness to her relentless search for justice and the meaning of life, and her aspirations for social reform—only sophisticated and sensitive souls could possess a spiritual world of such richness. She has never stopped trying for the better, encouraging us to have faith in the future of the Chinese NGO sector.

My Childhood

I grew up on the black soil of North Eastern China. It was the decision for China and the former Soviet Union to jointly create new farmland(中苏共建友谊农场) that sent both of my two grandfathers to the land of forests and meadows. My mother’s father had fought in the Chinese War of Liberation and the Korean War; as a retired soldier, prudence and integrity had marked his life, and he had never taken advantage of his position for the benefit of his family. My father’s father was an educated technician; he was a hard-working and righteous man who, during a period of time, suffered from political persecution because of his honesty. My environment growing up might have cultivated the strong desire for fairness and justice which I have had since I was young. I would stay at each of my grandmother’s homes one day and switch to the other’s the following day, and I would not change this schedule during my vacations. People would see me every time fights broke out in school, because I was always there to stop them.

During the 1990s, with the increasing population flow and the migration of workers, the business in state-owned farmland was declining. My father started to leave home for work when I was in 6th grade in primary school, and he went in turn to Laos, Libya, and Shandong and Yunnan provinces; two older female cousins who were ten years older than me also left to work in Beijing. I was a “left-behind child” in today’s terms. I did not acknowledge the meaning of their leaving at the time, but I admired them for going to far-away places. But they seldom wrote or came home, and I remember me and one of my elder male cousins writing letters to blame them for that. Looking back now, I think maybe they did not write back because they were not in the mood or were tired; after all, we did not know anything about their life back then.

My College

My teenage years ended with my successful entrance to university. I got an offer for a popular major —electronics and information engineering at the China University of Geosciences(中国地质大学)in Beijing. My middle school Chinese language teacher strongly suggested that I choose to major in Chinese literature, and I didn’t listen; but a few years later I stepped into education, so maybe it was just meant to be.

College life was colorful. During my freshman year, as the secretary of the Youth League branch(团总支部书记) in my department, I devoted myself to organizing student activities. I got bored with student activities as a sophomore, so I started taking up part-time jobs like being a selling agent on campus, events organizing and writing. I had got fed up with part-time jobs too by the time I entered my junior year. Then I accidentally joined the campus debate club, where I met the love of my life who I later married. During senior year I prepared to apply for graduate school, and I finally set a goal: the program of economics and administration of education in Beijing Normal University.

The key for me during my college life was to try things that I was interested in. I tried new things; towards some of them I was unenthusiastic, so I stopped doing them; some I found fascinating, so I kept on trying. During this process I discovered myself, I explored myself, and I found myself. I think this is what college means to Chinese youth— it means granting them plenty of time and liberty to explore their true selves, worn down by the previous 12 years of exam-oriented education. I believe this is not just a waste of time: utilitarianism does not lead one to success, and a person’s success does not have to follow a linear path; as long as you do it with your heart, what you have done will benefit you eventually, even if it seems irrelevant at first glance. This is what my experience has taught me.

My six cousins were also fighting for their future while I was in college. Going down different paths, we have all found our places in society. I think it is because of the optimism and the desire to make progress that my family possesses. Influenced by my family, I believe one has to strive to support oneself, and blaming other people is not a solution.

Entering the field of philanthropy

Above are my earlier experiences, and you can see that they have nothing to do with my current career in philanthropy. Indeed, it was only after my senior year at college that I started to come into contact with this field. It all began by accident. One day my counselor said that I was going to receive a philanthropy (公益)award. I was confused, thinking: “Why would I get an award for craftsmanship (工艺)? Was it because I made a good hammer in the metal processing course?”(craftsmanship and philanthropy are pronounced the same in Chinese). When I received the award I found out that it was entitled “philanthropy” rather than “craftsmanship”. This is telling of how unfamiliar I was with the field. I do not know if it was a matter of “a gift blinding the eyes”(拿人手短), but I have been bound up with philanthropy ever since.

My first experience of philanthropy was in the summer vacation of 2005. The vacation was not stressful for me as I had already been accepted as a graduate student in Beijing Normal University, so I searched the internet to see if there was anything I could do. At the time the Chinese Federation for Corporate Social Responsibility (CFCSR中国企业社会责任同盟) had just been set up. They were recruiting volunteers, and so I went. Some famous enterprises, such as China Merchants’ Bank, Cisco and Vanke were members of the federation, and while they paid their membership fees, the federation initiated projects. The first two projects the federation launched were a volunteer teaching project for poverty alleviation (助教扶贫)(which recruited college students to teach voluntarily in Guizhou province for a year) and a teacher development project which trained teachers from Gansu province in Beijing. At first I was a volunteer, but then I became a part-time worker who was in charge of the recruitment and delivery of the second batch of volunteers, and I also helped with the arrangement of the teacher development project. From my first time in the field I recognized that many factors can affect the launching of a project. The needs of the project’s target group can easily be neglected when time and resources are limited.

After that summer I began my master’s studies in Beijing Normal University, during which I almost by coincidence joined a student group called “the Children of Farmers—the China Rural Development Association (农民之子—中国农村发展促进会). The group was permeated by an atmosphere of democratic debate and its weekly meetings were always full of fierce debates and different opinions. The different sides would usually be unable to reach a consensus, and the following week the situation would be the same. I am an objective-oriented person who values efficiency and results. Their style of discussion and decision-making was new to me at first, but it later became unbearable due to their low efficiency. I had thoughts of leaving many times, but I carried on.

It was after several years that I found the group had reshaped my values. One of the incidents that impressed me most deeply was the time when we came back from a field research in Hunan. A senior student complained with indignation that a woman had been forced to have an abortion because her baby was a “child in excess”(超生). I disagreed with him and could not help rebutting, saying that the planned birth policy is necessary for the development of the country, that the woman had violated the policy first and I could not understand why he was so angry. He fired back at me: “do you think a policy should ignore basic human rights? Have you seen what she was like? What would you do if that woman was your sibling?” I was shocked by this conversation. I realized that a person could easily lose their empathy when they were exempted from the sufferings of others, which in this case was turned into far-away examples and figures. It also hit me that although personal striving is necessary, it is far from enough: only with just social structures and social rules can one’s efforts truly pay off.

Affected by the “Children of Farmers”, I paid more and more attention to social injustice. The thesis of my final dissertation was “the integration between migrant children and local children”(流动儿童与本地儿童融合状况的研究) . I designed a measurement scale using a social nomination method to see if the children’s selection of friends was affected by where they were born or their registered residency. My result was that it was basically not affected. One time on a bus, a woman caught sight of me while I was reading my draft. I introduced my topic to her and she was thrilled by it. She told me she worked for the commission of education and she thought my topic was worth researching. Hearing her words, a stream of delight poured through my heart. Just as I was about to explain further, her face turned angry and she raised her voice, saying: “those migrant people have taken up too many resources in Beijing, I think they should all be sent back.” I was too dumbfounded to say a word before she got off, feeling deeply depressed: she was all smiles just a minute ago, and she works for the commission of education! It occurred to me how serious the problems of social discrimination and social injustice are. Comparing students’ indiscriminate attitudes in making friends with the discriminatory views that woman held, I understood the importance of social context: people who think like that woman are influencing the attitudes and values of the next generation.

In the society

Time went by fast. After I finished my master’s degree, I started conducting research about social attitudes at the Horizon Research Consultancy Group (零点研究咨询集团). This is the kind of research that I like: it concerns the public and society, and it reflects the genuine opinions of the public. Once Horizon undertook a project financed by the Ford Foundation, which provided chances and help for college students to run philanthropic start-up businesses (it became known afterwards as the Black Apple Youth黑苹果青年). The project sought to enhance the abilities of college students and to cultivate talent for Chinese philanthropy. I happened to be the project manager. It was different from the usual research projects conducted by Horizon, and I had few previous experiences for my reference, so I had to consult people who work in the philanthropy sector while at the same time doing and discovering by myself. My job at the time was primarily involved in publicizing our projects at colleges, filtering project proposals, and organizing review meetings and trainings to mentor the implementation of the projects. With good luck, the projects soon began to gain in reputation, and my boss, Yuan Yue, began to receive requests for interviews and invitations. But as the project entered its second phase, my boss and I had some disagreements.

I thought Horizon should make an effort to improve the trainings and the quality of the project, after which we could expand them to more students and universities. I worried that it was too early to enlarge the scale of the project and that its quality would suffer, and our resources would not allow us to support such a plan. Yuan on the other hand believed the project should try to cover as many colleges as possible, in order to attract more students to sign up and expand our influence. Her logic was that there would be no funds and resources coming in if we did not elevate the scale of the project. Looking at the cycle of “scale-influence-resources”, Yuan held that we should not wait for resources to come to us before upgrading, but rather the other way round. Now I can understand his point of view, but at the time I could not convince myself to follow what he proposed, and so I chose to leave Horizon. This happens a lot: people always understand things better when they are not directly involved in the business. But to be honest, I would do the same again if I were given a second chance.

I became a full-time philanthropic worker at the Narada Foundation (南都公益基金会) after I left Horizon. As my journey in the field of Chinese philanthropy is unfinished, I can not claim that my comments are particularly objective. Speaking of NGO workers, I adored people who work in philanthropy before I entered the field. I admired their moral stature and their spirit of sacrifice and could not accept anyone looking down upon them. But when I became one of them, I found the quality of NGO workers to be uneven. I realized that it is not a person’s profession that makes their reputation, but rather their work ethic and the value they create. Speaking of the philanthropic sector, philanthropy appears to be a sublime mission with great expectations, yet in the current phase, the sector in China lacks fundamental competitiveness, and the professional ability to effectively intervene in social problems; the sector also needs to improve its marketing and enhance its influence, along with its operational mechanisms, in order to guarantee the continuous working of its institutions. It is like the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” — the brainless cornfield scarecrow, the woodman without a heart and the cowardly lion all manage to find ways to fight the evil wizard and win back their wisdom, love and courage. In the process they unleash their potential and fight with great unity. So I wonder if China’s philanthropy is moving along the same path: some of us have already fought down the wizard, some are struggling on the way there, and some have only just started…

A friend of mine once asked me if I regret any choices that I made. I think there are two things that I will never regret: studying education and working in the field of philanthropy.

【来自基金会的TA】生命向上,公益向前

2015-11-12 14:05:24  来源:中国发展简报  作者:刘晓雪    点击数量:1589

编者的话  

刚刚过去的这个周末,晓雪的第二个孩子来到人世。迎接新生,回望往昔,晓雪以意味深长的文字为我们呈现了一部真实的公益人成长史。在文中,我们可以看到她对公平公正的寻找,对人生意义的探索,对社会变革的追求——唯有深刻敏感的灵魂,才可见如此丰富厚重的精神世界,而她始终未曾停歇的向上努力,亦能点燃我们对生活和公益的信心。

 

童年

我生长在东北广袤的黑土地上,1954年,毛泽东和斯大林“中苏共建友谊农场”的一纸电文将我的爷爷和姥爷送到了那片满是森林和草甸的地方,在上面开荒垦地建设起全国最大的现代化、机械化农场——友谊农场。我姥爷是转业官兵,曾参加解放战争和抗美援朝战争,一辈子血气方刚、公正廉洁,从未借职务之便为家人子女谋任何私益。爷爷是技术青年下乡,一辈子勤勉专研、刚正不阿,曾因仗义直言被打成坏分子,遭受很多迫害。也许与成长环境有关,我从小对公平、公正就有强烈的追求。记得小时候一放寒暑假,我就轮流去姥姥、奶奶家住,每家住一天,不偏不倚,雷打不动。学校里如果有打架的,也能看到我前去拉架的身影。

到了上世纪90年代,全国性的人口流动和打工潮开始,那时国营农场的生计日渐衰落,我的爸爸在我小学六年级时开始外出务工,先后去过利比亚、老挝、山东、云南等地。大我十岁的两位表姐也开始到北京打工。我成为现在所谓的留守儿童,但那时并没太多意识,反而觉得去远方是一件特别美好的事情,非常羡慕。表姐外出后很少回家,也很少写信,记得当时我和大我2岁的表哥还写信指责她们。现在想想,我们并不了解她们那时的生活,也许那时她们既没精力也没心情。

 

我的大学

儿童青少年时期就这么懵懂的走过,它以高考的胜利告终。我考上了位于北京的中国地质大学,就读当时热门的电子信息工程专业。虽然报考时,我的语文老师极力建议我报考师范大学的中文系,说特别适合我,但我那时并不想和老师有什么瓜葛,未从,只是没有想到若干年后我还是重又自主选择了教育,也许这就是命中注定吧。

大学生活是丰富多彩的。大一那年,我在院系担任团总支部书记,全情投入开展很多学生活动;大二那年,学生活动对我而言已了然无趣,便做起各种社会兼职,校园代理、赛事组织、兼职撰稿人等等,唯独没做过家教;大三那年,对社会兼职也淡了,想让自己清静清静,却偶然参加了校园辩论赛,在那邂逅了爱情,并且修成正果。大四那年,准备考研,最终选择了北京师范大学教育经济与管理专业作为目标。

大学之于我的关键词就是“尝试”,尝试各种有趣的事物,有些试过不喜欢就放下了,有些还不错就再继续试试,在不停的尝试中发现自己、找到自己。我想这就是大学之于中国青年的意义,可以有这样奢侈的时间和自由去探索和发现那12年应试教育下可能被磨灭的自我。我相信这不是浪费时间,人的成长不是线性、功利式的发展。而且我的经历告诉我,天下没有白费的努力,不管你曾经做过什么,即便它和你将要做的事情看起来没关系,只要你当时是用心的、投入的,它都会成为你的一部分,成就未来的你。

在我上大学的同时,我的兄弟姐妹们也在自己的人生道路上探寻(两个表姐、一个表哥、一个表弟、一个堂弟),虽然我们六人的人生道路完全不同,但都在各自的路线上各得其所。这种发展当然受益于整个社会蓬勃发展的大环境,但同时,我觉得我们家族骨子里有一种乐观的精神和向上的力量。不管在什么境遇下都会努力冲破限制,向上生长。也因此,我特别信仰个人奋斗,觉得一切都要仰赖自己的努力,无需怨天尤人,唯有自强自立。

 

 

与公益结缘

这是我的早年经历,你看出来了,这都跟公益没什么关系。是的,我和公益的缘分姗姗来迟于行将毕业的大四。那一天,辅导员说系里有个公益标兵的名额打算给我。当时我挺疑惑,心想:“工艺标兵”为什么给我呢?难道我金工实习时那把锤子做的好吗?结果证书上面写的是“公益”而非“工艺”。可见,当时公益之于我是多么陌生。但不知是不是“拿人手短”,从此以后我就开始和公益处处结缘了!

先是2005年暑假,因为已经考上北京师范大学的硕士研究生,这个暑假很轻松,便在网上找些可做的事情,当时北大光华管理学院成立了一个叫中国企业社会责任同盟(CFCSR)的组织,正在招志愿者,我便应征加入。同盟的会员是一些知名企业,比如:招商银行、思科、万科等,每家企业每年缴纳一定会费,刚成立的同盟则需要开展一些项目。最初启动的是两个教育项目,助教扶贫(招募大学毕业生赴贵州支教一年)以及西部教师培训(上百名甘肃教师入京培训)。我先是志愿者后来成为兼职,负责第二批志愿者的招募、派遣,以及西部教师培训的安排。这次公益初体验让我认识到一个公益项目的推出是受到很多因素影响的,在资源和时间都有所限制的情况下,服务对象的需求往往最容易被忽视。

之后我便开始了在北师大的求学生涯,并机缘巧合地加入了“农民之子——中国农村发展促进会”这一学生社团。社团有着浓厚的民主辩论之风,每周一次的例会总是吵翻天,各种观点横飞,但谁也说服不了谁,然后继续如故。这种议而不决的风气对我这种目标导向、强调效果和效率的人来说,先是新鲜,随后就变得难以忍受。曾多次想要逃离,但还是坚持下来,而若干年后,我发现我的很多价值观就是那个时候被重塑的。印象最深的是一次湖南调研回来,某师兄愤然评论当地一女性因超生被强制引产的事件。我当时按捺不住反驳了他几句,大概是说:“计划生育是国策,控制人口是国家发展必须,是她先违反政策,我不能明白师兄的愤慨。”那位师兄把我劈了一顿,记忆最深的几句话是:“政策可以漠视人的基本权利吗?你有亲眼看到那人的状况吗?如果那人是你的亲属姐妹你还会这样吗?”这次讨论不知为什么深深震撼了我,它让我认识到,当你与遥远的苦难相隔,让每个活生生的苦难成为数字、案例时就很容易丧失同理心。同时也认识到人是社会结构中的人,个人奋斗是必须的,但只着眼于个体努力是不够的,还要有公正的社会结构和社会规则。

在农民之子的影响下,我对现实社会的不公越来越关注,毕业论文也选择了《流动儿童与本地儿童融合状况的研究》,当时还挺用心,设计了测量量表并用“社会提名法”来看中学生建立朋友关系是否因户籍和出生地不同而有区隔。结果发现:基本没有。一次我在公交车上看着论文草稿,被坐在旁边的一位大姐注意到了。我告诉她后,她特兴奋地对我说她在教委工作,这个问题真该好好研究研究。当时我心中滑过一股暖流,刚要和她再说,只见她眉毛立起,嗓门高八度地说:“就这些流动人口挤占北京资源,就该把他们都撵回去。”我惊愕的没等缓过神她就下车了。当时心中真是无尽的悲凉,这可是做教育的人啊,教委的工作人员竟然是这样的觉悟,而且前一分钟和颜悦色,后一分钟面目狰狞。社会的歧视和不公深入到如此程度真是让我纠心。中学生的无差别对待和“有文化”教育工作者的深深歧视也更让我觉得教育和社会氛围是多么重要,她在默默地影响着下一代的价值观。

 

在人间

转眼研究生毕业,我在零点研究咨询集团谋得一职,做民意调查和社会研究,这是我喜欢的研究——有公共性、社会性又有民间独立性。但又一次机缘巧合,零点申请了福特基金会资助的大学生公益创业项目(即“黑苹果青年”前身),我担任项目经理。其主要目的是推动大学生在大学期间就搭建团队,设计并实施公益项目,为大学生提供成长机会,也为公益培养后备人才。这不同于零点惯常的研究项目,没有太多经验可循,我便一边请教公益界人士,一边摸索着做了起来。当时我的主要工作就是去大学做宣讲、筛选公益创业计划书、组织评审、设计和安排培训、指导公益创业团队的实施。运气还不错,项目做了不久就有了一些名气,老板袁岳开始接到很多采访和活动邀请。但到了第二阶段,我和袁岳的理念开始出现分歧,袁岳认为要迅速地做大规模,覆盖尽可能多的高校,搅动更多学生报名、参与,把影响力快速提高几个档次。而我认为应该稳扎稳打,把如何支持大学生团队探索得更完善再去扩大,我担心过早的规模化会影响质量,而且资源也不足以支撑。但袁岳的逻辑是没有规模就没有影响也就更不能吸引资源投入,在“规模-影响-资源”这个循环圈中不能等着资源到了再做大,而要先去做。现在我能够理解袁岳逻辑的合理性,但当时很难说服自己,最终选择了离开。很多事情都是这样,需要跳出去后才能有更多领悟,不过即便再重新选择一次,我应该也还是当时的那个选择。

离开零点就来到了南都公益基金会,我开始成为全职公益人。因为还没有结束这段旅程,还不能客观的去评论这段经历。只是之前在公益圈边缘做事时,我对公益人是无尽的敬仰,膜拜他们崇高的道德境界和奉献精神,不能接受对公益人的任何微词。真正深入到公益圈后,发现这里也是鱼龙混杂、参差不齐,我开始意识到不应因你属于某个行业而获得特别的毁誉,而要看从业者实际的敬业精神以及创造的价值。而且公益纵然使命崇高、理想远大,但从现在的发展阶段上看,还真的特别需要形成核心竞争力、需要对社会问题有专业干预的能力、需要高效的营销把影响力扩散出去,也需要智慧的运营使机构能持续运转。这是个有如《绿野仙踪》故事一般的行业——认为被夺去了头脑的稻草人、被夺去了心脏的铁皮人、被夺去了胆量的狮子需要和女巫抗衡,找回或加强原本属于他们的智慧、爱心和勇气,将本来就深藏在自己身体中的潜能充分唤醒、激发出来,并且齐心协力,帮助自己,帮助他人。公益正走在这样的道路上,有的已经战胜了女巫,有的正在努力拼搏,有的刚刚起步……

有朋友曾问我是否后悔过某些选择?我想我这辈子最不会后悔的就是这两个决定:一是学了教育,二是做了公益。

 

关于作者:刘晓雪,南都公益基金会项目副总监。

 

【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 Cao Yuqian

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