Social Innovation in China

Social Innovation - Collective Responsibility

“To be a great company, you need to think about what social problem you can solve.”
Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba

As China’s economy transitions towards maturity, where conversations of balanced growth replace growth at all cost, awareness of social entrepreneurs and enterprises is possible solutions to the environmental, societal, and economic challenges faced. A change in dynamic that will lead to increase opportunities, and markets, for scale.

In fact, as borne through our research, the first organizations are already breaking out. Organizations that were once struggling to be recognized, struggling to find traction in programming, or struggling to find funding, are now finding scale in program portfolios, organizational size, funding, and most importantly impact.

It is a shift of mindset that is also occurring across a range of critical stakeholders:

  • Business leaders are looking at social issues as new markets, and successful social minded enterprises as potential investments
  • Consumers have begun looking for safe, reliable, high value products, and more importantly they are showing that they are willing to pay a premium
  • Non-profit leaders are finding that their organizations are gaining traction as service providers to the government are overcoming their fear of “profit” when planning for the future, and as a result are paying market wages for themselves and their staff
  • Employees are now wiling to leave comfortable lifestyles and jobs behind for the prospect of building a new model for change
  • Universities are forming new programs that move beyond research and into the classroom, with several funding centers and creating master’s levels programs
  • Government agencies hiring social enterprises  and creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs through the government infrastructure, be paid well for their service, and be given access to training opportunities, new programs, and the ability to advocate.

A final trend that we found to be on the cusp of scale is that of Chinese rooted organizations taking their platforms abroad. Until recently there has been very little (if any) interest in outreaching to other countries as China’s own needs have been so large, but this is changing and going forward we see the potential for scaling the lesson and platforms that Chinese entrepreneurs have created into other areas of the world where job creation is a critical need. Where urbanization and settling large migrant populations will be a critical need. Where the expectations of the middle class rise, and new systems for safe food delivery, affordable education, and accessible healthcare are required.

All trends that we believe will provide the foundation for a significant amount of additional traction, and scalability, in the next 3-5 years.

As presented in this report, with opportunity comes challenges, and through our research we have come to understand that the obstacles that entrepreneurs face are often rooted in both the ecosystem that they are operating in as well as in their own business and management models.

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