Plotting China’s Social Entrepreneurs

As part of our work to define and support the efforts of China’s social entrepreneurs, the Collective Responsibility Social Entrepreneur have been working on a series of exercises. Exercises that are mean to begin developing a framework that defines what is a social enterprise (non and for profit) is in China, as well as to develop a stronger understanding of the constraints that these entrepreneurs and organizations operate in, the challenges they face, the potential scale of their ideas, and areas where they can be supported in their endeavors.

The first exercise was a simple one.

Take 25 of China’s most well known social enterprises and place them on a chart to measure their potential scale (size of bubble), their primary mission (X Axis), and their financial model (Y Axis).

And as you can see in the chart above, there is a wide spectrum of organizational structures, financial models, and scale in China’s social entrepreneurs. With the more nonprofit group found in the lower right quadrant (Hands On Shanghai, 1KG, Huadan, Golden Bridges, and others), it was clear that the perception was that the more socially focused one’s organization was, the more reliant on fundraising and event based revenues it was. While, on the other side of the spectrum, groups like Shanghai Organics, Naked Retreat, and Bambu Home have developed (in the eyes of participants) a financial model that is focused more on profit, and has a stronger product or service model to support operations.

More interesting though was that when we plotted the perceptions of participants against those of the founders, what we found was that there were a number of groups who had clearly done a good job of communicating their mission and message externally, and others who had not.

That, and I will use my own first social venture HandsOn Shanghai, as the example, there were a range of opinions about the potential scale of HandsOn Shanghai. For some, a volunteer platform was something that offered limited scale, while for others, they took the view that volunteerism in China held large potential. Mission wise and economic model wise, we were nearly in line (at least everything was within the same quadrant).

However another group, who I will keep nameless, had a very different set of perceptions. That, even though they are one of the more well known social ventures in China, they have largely created a name for themselves without creating a name that had a managed focus in the minds of participants. That, even though they are perhaps one of the more well known brands, there is wide range of perceptions about their core mission, their economic model, and their scale. And that confusion was even shared by the cofounders (red dots).

In the end, and the above charts are only a fraction of the existing body of work, the trends we are beginning to see are quite interesting. That in general, the more profit driven the group, the increased perception of scale and economic sustainability exists, while those on the NGO side (lower right) are seen to have a smaller potential scale. And that while there are clear cluster patterns emerging, there are still a number of hybrid organizations that exist and are creating a bit of gray space between the black and while.

If you would like to participate in the first exercise, feel free to send an email to [email protected] and we will send you the file to be completed.

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