Chinese and European foundations compare notes

A two-day workshop on foundations was held in Brussels in October as part of the 2nd China-Europe Forum, organized by Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme. Hosted by the European Foundation Centre, representatives from European and Chinese foundations discussed trends and challenges in philanthropy in both China and Europe; considered what could be learned from the similarities and differences; and, finally, looked at ways to reinforce Sino-European dialogue.
The Chinese organizations represented were the Narada Foundation, the Shanghai Development Research Foundation, the China Youth Development Foundation, and the Beijing BN Vocational School for Migrant Youth.
Although there is a tradition of philanthropy in China, this tradition suffered a 40-year interruption following the coming to power of the Communist Party. To some extent, the country is now making a fresh start in philanthropy. Because China is still developing and poor, foundation programmes are much more directed towards poor people and social issues than is the case in Europe, where programmes are more focused on culture and the environment. For Chinese foundations, priority issues include education of the children of migrant farmers; renovating schools and tackling poverty in rural areas; and protecting the environment, especially in river areas. In China, everything is still closely controlled by the government, whereas transparency and independence from government are important characteristics of European foundations.
The Forum itself (the first was held in Nansha, China in 2005) ran from 4 to 7 October and included 46 workshops, held in 23 cities across Europe. The 850 participants, 300 Chinese and 550 European, came together for plenary sessions in Brussels on 6 and 7 October. The number of Chinese involved provides an indication of the success of the Forum, since they were obliged to take these days as holiday. It was decided that the Forum should become a regular event and the organizers are now discussing how this might be done.
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