CiYuan Newsletter | Q1 2012

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In This Issue


The Quest for Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector

As we continue to track the progress of entrants in the “Innovation Award for Nonprofits”—the program hosting the new BSR-supported “Corporate-NGO Partnership Award”—it seems timely to reflect on what it actually means to be innovative, and how this can propel nonprofit sector development.

In today’s feature article, BSR CiYuan Manager Brooke Avory explains why innovation should be encouraged among nonprofits in China.

Later, we reflect on some of the common information management challenges faced by nonprofits; the result of BSR’s research; and outcomes from a workshop with a group of 20 nonprofits, BSR, and SAP earlier this month.

Please forward this newsletter to your colleagues, and send any feedback or comments to Brooke Avory at


The Quest for Nonprofit Sector Innovation

By Brooke Avory, CiYuan Manager, BSR

Over the past two months BSR participated in the selection process to narrow the field for the Intel-driven Innovation Initiative for Nonprofits (IINP) to 50 finalists from 362 entrants. Nonprofits from all over China submitted applications and are competing for 11 awards, all of which have an innovation component. So why are awards such as the IINP encouraging nonprofits to strive toward innovation? What does it actually mean to be innovative?

The Oxford Dictionary defines “innovate” as “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” In the nonprofit sector, “social innovation” tends to be the term used to describe changes in traditional ways of meeting social needs, such as education and health care.

With limited resources and capacity being common challenges facing the nonprofit sector, taking new approaches—through the use of IT, social media, financing, or partnerships—can help to utilize these resources more efficiently and create unique service offerings.

While innovation is not easy to judge, the IINP released its list of finalists last week across three award categories. All of the awards are worthy of mention, but two examples in particular are nonprofits that have embraced fully the concept of innovation in their programs.

Qingfanqie (青番茄) is China’s first virtual library, and it provides free book-lending services to the public. Readers pay a deposit to borrow books; the books then are delivered (and collected) for free across 27 cities in China. The library uses an online platform to list books and their check-in status, and integrates other functions such as a space for readers to recommend books and post reviews. Companies also can get involved by paying fees to set up their own webpages to display recommended books and facilitate lending and reviews by employees.

Shanshui (山水) is a nonprofit committed to protecting China’s environment using methods that integrate elements of Chinese society and culture. After seeing the traditional cultures of communities in western China under threat, Shanshui started a project teaching these communities how to document their culture using videos and other new media tools. The goals of these efforts are to show the public how these communities live, to demonstrate how traditions have evolved over time, and to quantify their connection to the natural environment. The endeavor also provides people in these communities with an outlet to increase awareness about local cultures.

Whether nonprofits are developing new approaches to an old problem, or old approaches to a new problem, both strategies can provide opportunities to reach their target groups, exert influence over stakeholders, and create social or environmental change—with a little innovation going a long way.

While the IINP emphasizes innovation and other factors specific to the different award categories, project entries also are judged on their degree of social impact and sustainability.

For more information on the IINP visit the official website or contact Han Qing.

How else can BSR encourage innovation among Chinese nonprofits?

Please send your views and comments to

In Brief

Uncovering Nonprofit Information Challenges With SAP

By Brooke Avory, CiYuan Manager, BSR

Video conferencing meeting

In efforts to understand information management challenges of Chinese nonprofits and unearth opportunities for partnership with companies, BSR and SAP recently organized a half-day workshop to discuss information management in the nonprofit sector. The event brought together SAP product managers and 20 small- to medium-sized nonprofits from Beijing and Shanghai (via video conference) to hear how SAP software programs and online tools might help address their information management needs.

Information transparency is a hot topic in the Chinese nonprofit sector following a series of scandals during 2011 that affected large government-organized nonprofits. Like in many parts of the world, as Chinese nonprofits grow and establish information management systems, they face challenges in terms of how they collect and use data in efficient ways, improve governance, and communicate information to stakeholders including donors, volunteers, and the public.

To kick off the event, BSR shared findings from a short survey of nonprofit software use and presented on the gaps and challenges in information management. Next, two nonprofits in Shanghai and Beijing enumerated some of their current practices. After that, four SAP product managers gave demonstrations on the various features of the software and their relevance to these challenges. Finally, BSR facilitated a discussion to help explore from the nonprofits’ perspective whether SAP software can address their current information management needs. Two nonprofits, Huizeren and NPI, volunteered to be involved in exploring this further with SAP and BSR.

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the information needs and challenges of nonprofits in China, or to learn more about how BSR and SAP are exploring these issues, contact the CiYuan team.

CiYuan Toolbox

Lessons From a CiYuan Corporate-NGO Partnership

On March 30, CiYuan released its first corporate-NGO case study, presenting findings from a demonstration project between Nike and the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF). The case study, titled, “Empowering Chinese Youth Through Sport,” examines the evolution of the partnership between Nike and the CYDF as the organizations launched, implemented, and redesigned a multicity sports program for Chinese youth. The case study outlines how this partnership enabled both participants to overcome the different cultures and working styles between Chinese nonprofits and multinational companies, as well as the challenges of leveraging a company’s competencies to support community investment programs. The document also spotlights seven recommendations on how to run successful corporate-NGO partnerships in China.

The case study will be available for download soon via the CiYuan website. For more information, contact Lindsey Lim or Adam Lane.


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