Welcome guest blogger Heng Qu!
Autumn is my favorite season. It has always been the beginnings of most wonderful things in my life. For example, my first contact with China’s nonprofits happened in the fall of 2005. It was the first time I felt the power and potential of the nonprofit sector in China. Through research about a grassroots NGO that mainly serves migrant workers in Guangzhou, I became aware of NGOs’ capability to fill the gap in social services and their role in democracy. I learned they were hampered by their weak organizational capacity as well as limitations set by the government. The experience starting from that fall motivated me to come to the US to study philanthropy systematically. And this fall, I began to work with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the IU Center on Philanthropy. As a young Chinese woman studying for a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies in the US, I have a great opportunity to do a research project on women’s philanthropy in China. I am quite sure this is just another wonderful event of my life starting at magical autumn.
China’s nonprofit sector and philanthropy have developed rapidly over the past few years. Only five years ago, there were no private foundations in Mainland China and grassroots nonprofits struggled just to survive. They lacked the necessary infrastructure support, management skills, and operating resources. The Sichuan earthquake in 2008 was a turning point for China’s nonprofit sector. It stimulated an outpouring of volunteerism and public donations. Many nonprofits responded almost immediately from all over the country to the disaster. It is believed that as a result of cooperating with the nonprofit sector for the earthquake relief and recovery, the government’s attitude toward the sector began to change. After that, several other major natural disasters along with China’s global “coming-out” events such as the Olympics and the World Expo have stimulated more awareness and attention on the sector than ever before. Philanthropy now has become a hot topic in China. As a result, professional knowledge is urgently needed in this rapidly growing sector.
I am gaining knowledge about nonprofits and philanthropy by studying at the Center on Philanthropy in hope of applying it to the development of nonprofits and philanthropy in China in the future. Working with WPI gives me the first opportunity to combine my knowledge about American philanthropy with my desire to strengthen China’s nonprofit sector. Moreover, at WPI, I am more aware of my gender as a female than ever before. Gender inequality is a bitter reality not only in China but also around the world. On the other hand, it is exciting to know some women leaders are making great impact in the areas such as education, poverty relief, environmental protection, and women’s rights through philanthropy in China. And I can’t wait to inform Chinese women through my research project that they have the power to make an impact through philanthropy, a new way to hold up half the sky.
Heng Qu is from Anhui Province, China. She is a second-year PhD student at the Center on Philanthropy and a research assistant at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.