Internet participation in public welfare, solving problems with efficiency and transparency

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The Internet has changed the operational efficiency of almost all industries, including public welfare undertakings. In 2015, Tencent Charity launched the “99 Charity Day”, 2.05 million people participated, and a total of 127 million yuan was raised. By 2021, both the number of participants and the amount of donations have increased by at least 34 times.


Like other industries disrupted by technology, efficiency gains come with some problems. It has also become easier to incite emotions and spread false information. As early as 2012, as soon as the WeChat public account and the circle of friends became popular, some people proposed the “Echoing Plan” to track charity fundraising with third-party power. But people were optimistic and more willing to believe that the changes brought about by the Internet were mostly good.


Then, something changed people’s attitudes. In the iconic Rolle incident in 2016, Rolle posted his daughter’s leukemia condition on the Internet for help, and received millions of dollars in donations from the public, but concealed that he owned three properties and refused to sell the house to save the daughter. The reversal of the plot made everyone wary of the help information on the Internet for a while. A few years later, another “crowdfunding consultant” started crowdfunding in the ICU ward, taking advantage of dying patients to sell miserably to get commissions.


After several similar incidents occurred, the platforms where they were located were all dealt with. But trust builds up bit by bit, and one deception can make it instantly lost.


Weibo has been around for 13 years and WeChat Moments have been online for 10 years. People are gradually taking precautions against information on the Internet and become noncommittal. Even forwarding has to be evaluated to see if there will be a reversal in one day. No matter how authoritative the speaker may seem, or how true the narrative may seem, people seem to have lost their trust in the past, which has a more direct impact on public welfare undertakings that rely on donations.


Some people will miss the simple days, in an era of slow information flow, believe everything they see. The Internet increases the flow of more information, and also brings greater difficulty in distinguishing. Of course, people will not return to an era of less efficiency and less smooth information. New problems brought about by technology will ultimately require technology to solve.

A “shareholders’ meeting” that doesn’t ask for anything in return


Public companies sell shares publicly, and ownership changes from a few people to the masses. Therefore, all listed companies must hold a general meeting of shareholders every year, disclose the company’s performance and data to shareholders, and accept shareholders’ doubts about the company’s management and management—sometimes even rattling.


Zhang Xiyan, director of the “Elephant Canteen” public welfare project and secretary general of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest Conservation Foundation, also encountered similar doubts this year.


“Why don’t you buy food for the elephants, but give money to the villagers? We are protecting the elephants, not the villagers.” On June 28 this year, at the public welfare shareholders meeting held, this is one of the “Five Questions for Public Welfare”. the first and most acute question.


This is a problem Zhang Xiyan often encounters. He started from the beginning again: “We first have to figure out who is protecting the elephants? It must be people, who? Some of you are netizens who love elephants and animals, but some people are with elephants. People of all ethnic groups have lived in this rainforest in Xishuangbanna for generations. In the past few decades, they paid a huge price to protect elephants, but now they have become victims of elephant protection.”


There were only about 170 wild Asian elephants in Xishuangbanna in the 1970s, but now there are more than 300. By the end of 2021, Xishuangbanna will have a permanent population of 1.3 million. According to the statistics of Xishuangbanna Forestry Bureau, from 1991 to 2016, 650,000 people were affected by wild Asian elephants, 55 of them died, about 85,000 mu of food and 36,000 tons of economic crops were lost.


Environmental protection is ultimately to protect an ecology. Just like economic ecology, any rude interference, no matter how good the original intention is, may bring about the opposite result.


In the past, the local mountain people reclaimed the land according to the method of crop rotation and fallow. When a field was cultivated for a few years, it would be abandoned to restore the fertility of the land. This abandoned land would grow wild bananas, which elephants love to eat. Bamboo, palm leaf reed, etc. When people leave, elephants come to eat these wild foods. In a few years, people will come back to farm, and another piece of land will be reserved for elephants. This is the most primitive and inadvertently born “elephant canteen”.


In recent decades, in order to obtain more income, local people have switched to growing cash crops such as rubber and tea. Elephants cannot eat. The initial solution was to designate protected areas, prohibiting people from entering or leaving the areas where the elephants mainly live, let alone reclaiming them. The “canteen” disappeared without human intervention and was replaced by tall trees, and the forest coverage rate increased from more than 80% to 98%. This actually reduces the living space of the elephants.


So the elephants went farther and farther in order to find food, and even went directly to the villages and towns to forage. In the past few years, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest Conservation Foundation found that wild Asian elephants began to travel north from Xishuangbanna to Pu’er because of insufficient food sources. Last year, a group of wild Asian elephants walked all the way to Kunming for more than a year.


“Human-elephant symbiosis” has become “Human-elephant conflict”. In Xishuangbanna, there were 8 incidents of wild Asian elephants in 4 months in 2019, resulting in 7 deaths and 1 injury.


If the cultivated land is eaten and the houses are destroyed, the villagers can get partial compensation for the direct economic losses, and it is necessary to clearly prove that the losses were caused by the elephants. More indirect economic losses, elephants wandering into the range of human activities, local residents need to stay at home or even move. Sometimes the elephant wanders for one to two months before leaving, and the loss of the shutdown can only be borne by itself.


After thinking about several options, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest Conservation Foundation decided to re-establish the “elephant canteen” and use the funds raised to subsidize the villagers, asking them to give up part of the cash crops and plant elephants in the wasteland and fields around the reserve. edible food. When elephants can eat enough, they will not travel to villages and towns to find food.


Such complex logic cannot be explained clearly in a 140-character Weibo or a 15-second video.


The rescued baby elephant “Sheep Niu” and the breeder

Ge Yan, secretary-general of Tencent Charity Foundation, told LatePost: A charitable organization is not a commercial organization, it cannot use limited funds to set up a marketing department and a public relations department, nor does it have a relevant budget, so it is naturally in a position to speak out. In a weak position, it is difficult to explain the complex project problems and historical causes to the public in a simple manner.


In addition to the public welfare shareholders’ meeting, Tencent Philanthropy’s new project “Public Welfare True Detective” this year to enhance public welfare transparency has invited donors as “true detectives” to personally investigate the progress of public welfare projects. One of the “true detectives” came to Xishuangbanna to inspect the “Tropical Rainforest Restoration” project of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest Protection Foundation.


“True Detective” is rich in knowledge and has done enough homework before departure, but Zhang Xiyan finds it difficult to answer her questions. For example, with regard to the “Tropical Rainforest Restoration” project, after the rubber trees were cut down, why only one batch of sagebrush was planted? To restore the biodiversity of the rainforest, shouldn’t there be more diversity of plants? Has soil quality improved after rainforest restoration?


“These questions are all right, but what Little True Detective doesn’t know is that the final results of many of our projects are actually achieved by compromise.” He smiled wryly. For example, regarding the choice of plants, they also want to mix 20 or 30 kinds of trees, but with limited funds, they can only provide saplings that exist at the moment. All the saplings shipped in this batch are iron sword trees, so they will be planted first. In order to answer the real detective’s question, he once found a professional geological inspection agency to ask for the price, but the quotation for a detailed report was about 200,000-400,000 yuan. The cheapest sapling purchased by the foundation is 15 yuan, and 400,000 yuan is enough for them to plant 26,000 trees, enough to cover 400 acres of land.


After a chance to explain, the skeptics finally understood why Elephant Canteen did it. And Zhang Xiyan also decided to give as much scientific feedback as possible to the project—even if a camera was installed in the elephant food source first?


The natural environment is complex, and so are people.


“Grandma’s Gift” is an early public welfare project of “buying instead of donating”. They provide free chickens to beneficiaries through donations, allowing the beneficiaries to breed eggs, and then the organization will collect eggs at a price higher than the market price. , and give back a portion to the donor. The project has been questioned by many people because the people in charge of production are a group of 60-80 year olds in the mountains.


At another public welfare shareholders meeting, Zhang Xinbin, the initiator of the “Grandma’s Gift” project and the head of the Xunyang Shouwang Dashan Volunteer Association, was asked: “Grandma’s labor is cheap, how can we ensure that the organization will not profit from it?” , “Is it scientific and reasonable to buy instead of donating, and is it more helpful to people than direct donation?”


Zhang Xinbin is no stranger to these problems. He was born in a poor mountainous area. When his grandmother passed away in 2013, he returned to the mountains and saw that the left-behind elderly and left-behind children were lonelier, more forgotten, and their lives were more depressing and dilapidated, which made him determined to do something for them.


At first, he also donated money and materials to the elderly, until he was rejected by several elderly people, or when the elderly insisted on bartering, he suddenly realized that maybe charity should not do this.


The left-behind old people in these mountainous areas rely on hard farming and work to meet their food and clothing. Their annual income is only a few hundred yuan. Poverty runs through the life of many old people, and it is like a kind of scar. They are unable to change the status quo, but they do not want to be Donor object.


What if they had the ability to change the status quo? After thinking about it, Zhang Xinbin decided to change his approach. He used the funds raised to distribute chickens, piglets, feed, etc. to the elderly for free, and then recycled the products to help the elderly make money. They collect all the eggs of the elderly at a guaranteed price higher than the market price, and then return the eggs to donors and sell them to maintain the operation of the organization.


The annual income of old people who recycle eggs by raising chickens has increased from a few hundred yuan to more than 5,000 yuan, but what touches the elderly the most is that they still have the ability to change their lives in their later years.


On the mountain, the old man chops vegetables and feeds chickens

Even if it seems to be the easiest way to help the poor, there are many things to consider in practice, and not all people in need are willing to be handed out in vain. This is very difficult to explain without face-to-face.


Four years of exploration, using Internet technology to solve new problems brought by the Internet


In 2016, the emergence of the “Rohr incident” pushed the powerful social mobilization ability and risk of Internet public welfare to the extreme.


Luo Yixiao, Luo Er’s daughter, was found to be suspected of leukemia successively, and then was diagnosed with leukemia and transferred to the ICU due to organ failure. In the few months, Luo Er published many articles expressing his affection for his daughter and his willingness to treat him, and guided him. The majority of netizens make donations through public account article tips, private transfers, etc. After his daughter was transferred to the ICU, Rolle’s “Luo Yixiao, You Stand For Me” reached the threshold of one-day reward (50,000 yuan) on the WeChat public account for two consecutive days, and he began to ask netizens to add their private WeChat account to continue to donate .


In just a few days, according to the appreciation returned by the Shenzhen Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau to netizens, Rolle has received a total of 2.52 million donations from netizens, not counting private transfers and the rewards for previous and subsequent articles.


In a later interview, Rolle admitted that he owns 3 properties and is a legal person of multiple companies, but he will not sell the house to save his daughter, but will leave it to his son, wife and himself. Luo Yixiao’s hospital bills were also announced. The 100-day hospitalization and ICU expenses included medical insurance reimbursement, foundation donations and social donations, and Luo Er actually paid 1,453 yuan.


The “Rohr incident” shocked the society, and forced several largest Internet public welfare platforms such as Tencent Philanthropy to consider the impact of the Internet on donations: how to verify and reduce false information; how to reduce the risks brought by emotional donations and passionate donations.


In 2018, Tencent Philanthropy launched the “Resonance Plan”, inviting third-party forces such as media and regulatory agencies to inspect the actual progress and achievements of the project on the spot, and display it in the form of reports or reports. However, after running for two years, it was found that this form was too fragmented and could only show a small part of the process or story of Internet public welfare, so it was suspended for a year in 2020.


In the next two years, Tencent Philanthropy made new innovations in financial transparency: introducing the blockchain, using the decentralized nature of the blockchain to ensure that fundraising goes into the correct account and will not be misappropriated by other entities; and Deloitte Accounting In cooperation with NGOs, an audit mechanism was introduced to verify the accuracy of the financial data of charitable organizations.


However, the blockchain is only a small part of the transparent process of donations. Whether the money has been used in the end, the audit can only prove that the financial data of the public welfare organization is correct, but it cannot fully guarantee whether the money is used for the original intention of the project. Whether the method of use is scientific.


When the exploration came to an impasse, a civil welfare event inspired the team.


In 2021, Zhengzhou was hit by heavy rains and caused floods. A “24-hour life-saving document” was widely circulated in the circle of friends and WeChat groups. It marked a lot of rescue information from all over Zhengzhou, and it was transmitted and supplemented by the public. Coincidentally, the tool used by the public is Tencent Docs, which inspired the Tencent Charity Team.


In the subsequent review, they thought about what other tools were available? Think of the Tencent conference. To give donors a deeper understanding of the project and form oversight, is it better to have a face-to-face meeting? So I came up with the idea of ​​imitating the form of general meeting of shareholders of commercial organizations, and set up three necessary links: five questions about public welfare, public financial reports, and answering questions from shareholders.


At the beginning, Tencent Philanthropy invited 4 or 5 charitable organizations to hold a general meeting of shareholders, but they were rejected for various reasons. Some large institutions refuse invitations because of the urgency of time and many affairs; some consider that the operation and operation may not be understood by the public, but will affect the institution’s fundraising and refuse; some are afraid that the questions from netizens will not be answered immediately, which will bring negative effects. and not participating for the time being.


Including Zhang Xinbin’s attitude at the beginning was also a little worried, “What if I can’t answer and affect the project?” He was very worried. But in the end, after communication, he realized that in fact, he communicated clearly with the donors, which is a better development of the project. Even after the opening, he went to the mountains and opened another one with the grandmothers.


The Man Tian Xing Public Welfare, which focuses on the promotion of reading for rural children, is the first organization to eat crabs. Liang Haiguang, founder of the Man Tian Xing Youth Public Welfare Development Center, believes that this is an opportunity to supplement the organization’s capabilities: Does the public welfare organization have the ability to answer the public? He sees it as an exercise.


Children who received library donations from Mantianxing Youth Public Welfare Development Center

From “donate” to “participate”


In 1880, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was built with donations from a group of artists, collectors, and bankers. It was the Gilded Age of America when the gap between rich and poor was at its peak. At the ceremony, barrister Joseph Choate said to the industrial giants present: “Those who are rich in all walks of life here, think about it. If you follow our advice, turn pork into porcelain, crops into priceless pottery, let the What glory will you leave behind when ore rough commerce becomes marble carving.”

Philanthropy in the world used to be primarily a project for the wealthy few. They give back to society by donating, turning wealth into a lasting legacy.


Under this model, foundations tend to be large in scale, with a board of directors composed of well-known personalities to supervise and endorse, and a complete team to communicate with the outside world.


But today, almost all high-efficiency undertakings connect the masses through digital technology, and the same is true for public welfare undertakings. The Internet has gathered bits and pieces of goodwill, allowing smaller projects and more projects to be put into operation, faster and more flexible, and can solve aspects that were difficult for big foundations to take into account.


The “blue-lipped child” on Tencent Charity used to see the big from the small. Patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension are often referred to as “blue lips” because their lips are often blue-purple due to long-term hypoxia. Inhaling cold air in winter with this disease will cause tearing pain, difficulty breathing, and must take medicines, but medicines are expensive and not covered by medical insurance. Some families may use some medicines instead, such as “Viagra”. Because the drugs are taken almost every day, thousands or even tens of thousands of yuan are spent every month.


About 5-8 million patients in China suffer from pulmonary arterial hypertension. One of the patients, Xiaoya, is only 8 years old, and has attracted attention because she went to the pharmacy alone to buy “Viagra”.

Before Xiaoya was exposed, Xiaoya had raised 60,000 yuan for treatment through online fundraising, and relied on this cost to survive a rather difficult period of treatment.


Under the promotion of Tencent Public Welfare, Xiaoya received the medicines donated by Baiyunshan Pharmaceutical Factory, and promised to provide medicines for 3 years. Finally, the Henan Provincial Medical Insurance Bureau included 4 kinds of pulmonary arterial hypertension drugs including bosentan into the medical insurance.


Xiaoya’s parents never knew who the original 60,000 yuan came from. Kind-hearted netizens made Xiaoya be seen, and finally helped a group of social welfare improve. If the group of donors knew about the follow-up, You will feel that the sense of achievement in changing society is huge.


After spending money, consumers get goods or services; people pay their hard-earned money for public welfare, and what they need is to give themselves a continuous driving force: with small goodwill, to promote social problems to be solved. However, this process requires platforms and institutions to continuously collect and transmit information, so that donors can get a clear perception and a sense of feedback, so as to be more motivated to re-donate or participate in public welfare in person.


“The general meeting of shareholders for public welfare may be a solution,” said Lv Chao, founder and director of the Enpai Public Welfare Organization Development Center.


In addition to efficiency, the value of the Internet lies in reducing the difficulty of communication, so that people who donate a few dollars can also directly talk to the organizer and know what their money has actually produced.


On the other hand, the public does not know much about charitable organizations. Many donors only know for the first time through the general meeting of shareholders that people who do philanthropy also need a basic salary to ensure a living.


The members of the Tianxing Youth Public Welfare Development Center basically have a bachelor’s degree or above, and many members come from Sun Yat-sen University, the University of Leeds, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, South China University of Technology and other management, advertising, engineering majors and have master’s degrees. They could have chosen better-paying job opportunities, but they gave up those opportunities and stayed in public welfare projects with a per capita salary of 7,000 yuan. The first large donation they received, but the other party demanded that every penny should not be used as a management fee. The team members just gritted their teeth and kept their promises through the help of the directors.

The Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest Conservation Foundation has only 7 employees, and their average salary is only 2,000-3,000 yuan. Some of them need to work part-time to deliver food to make a living. However, in order to protect the elephants and restore the rainforest, every cent of the donation must be carefully calculated on the economic problems of the villagers.


The per capita salary of the Shouwang Dashan Volunteer Association in Xunyang City is 4,000-5,000 yuan. In order to help the elderly, they purchase the eggs of the elderly regardless of whether they are good or bad at a guaranteed reserve price higher than the market standard; for the survival of the organization, they pay for express delivery, The packaging fee will be used for secondary sales of eggs to supplement the organization’s operation and maintenance costs and employee wages.


“Reversal” is a buzzword today, and with every event that stirs huge emotions on social networks, more and more people are skeptical and waiting for the “reversal.”


But public welfare cannot stand the “reversal”, and it will always require more transparent, direct and effective communication, even if not everyone can understand it.


Just like what Zhang Xiyan said while chatting between the conferences: “I know these words, I have said them a thousand times, but as long as there are still people listening, I will continue to talk. Because if I don’t talk, there will be no one. Yes, but as long as there is one person he understands. This seed, I planted in his heart.”

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