The Ministry of Civil Affairs recently published the Guidelines for promoting social organizations in communities, with the aim of promoting community services in urban and rural areas by expanding government service procurement (in this context the word community refers to the 社区, a loose form of neighbourhood units found in China). Communities are in this way supported to provide low-income families, people in dire poverty, empty-nesters, left behind people in rural areas, children in difficulty, the disabled and other people in need with volunteering projects covering daily care, medical care, entertainment, culture and sports, and professional services including psychological counselling, humanistic care, spiritual consolation and mental health care, and guidance on improving the self-service capabilities in rural areas by reviving the tradition of helping one another, supporting senior citizens and aid in the neighbourhood.
The guidelines also highlight the intention to successfully nurture a considerable number of community social organizations by 2020. It is expected that on average at least ten organizations will be seen in each urban community, and at least five in each rural community. The administrative system for social organizations in communities is also expected to mature in another 5-10 years, in a more effective, powerful and orderly manner. Specifically, the guidelines ask community social organizations to make an effort to provide community services, motivate the participation of residents, nurture community culture and promote community harmony.
In recent years China has witnessed a rapid development of social organizations within communities, and they play a significant role in improving and innovating social governance. However the organizations are generally still not mature enough, lacking adequate coordination, policy support or participation of residents, and thus their current performance and effects are still far from satisfactory. In order to tackle the problems above, the guidelines suggest a series of policies. Firstly, they prompt the development of social organizations that aim to provide services for daily living and mutual help, and attach an emphasis on those that offer special aid and care for those in need. It is also stated that the government will back these organizations in various ways, including government procurement, welfare lotteries, integrated service platforms, incubation funds etc… Additionally, capabilities will be boosted by tapping into talent, enhancing coordination, elevating project development abilities, fostering brand influence and standardizing fund management and other activities.
The guidelines also call for setting up associations and service centers as hubs or coordinators, offering assistance in terms of resources, projects, fund management and training. When it comes to implementing the guidelines, local civil affair departments are asked to take the responsibility as leaders, supervisors and communicators. They should be widely engaged in the activities together with the organizations, and contribute to a sound environment and atmosphere for social services.