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Letter from the Executive Director
These first three months as Executive Director of Asia Catalyst have been extremely exciting for me. I thank all of you, and our wonderful staff and Board, for the outpouring of support and inspiration during this initial, challenging period! It is especially meaningful to join the team as Asia Catalyst celebrates ten years of supporting community-based advocacy on the right to health.
Our program staff continue to work tirelessly, crisscrossing the region to train and coach grassroots project partners to strengthen their organizations, bolster advocacy efforts, and provide opportunities to build stronger advocacy coalitions and strengthen human rights knowledge and skills.
In China, we’ve provided intensive on-site training with several of our partners. We conducted advocacy coaching to the Youth LGBT Network and management coaching to the Xishuangbanna Red Ribbon Center. We also held a strategic planning workshop for 15 members of community-based organizations (CBOs) representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, people living with HIV (PLHIV), hemophiliacs and people with disabilities.
We’ve also created space for partners in China to share their advocacy successes with each other and collaborate on joint advocacy goals. This quarter, we did so virtually, through webinars and group calls. Our last call brought together 41 advocates from across the country!
Looking forward, we just launched a new, multi-year rights advocacy-strengthening project in China, including the country’s first Transgender Leadership Project.
In Myanmar, we joined the Myanmar Positive Group (MPG) and Aye Myanmar’s Association (AMA), a sex worker group, for a meeting to discuss the findings and advocacy recommendations from our collaborative human rights documentation project on HIV-related discrimination in healthcare settings. MPG and AMA also conducted a rights documentation workshop to train other leaders from local community based organizations using our jointly produced Practical Field Guide for Community-based Human Rights Documentation.
Throughout the region, we supported several partner groups to submit abstracts on their work for presentation at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa – and presented our own research on sex workers, the police, and HIV.
Back in New York, we participated in the United Nations High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, and worked with other civil society groups to influence the outcome document and protest the reprehensible exclusion of people representing key populations, namely transgender people, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs.
Myanmar: English | (Burmese to be available in August)
Program Spotlight: Crowdfunding 101 for Grassroots Groups
Asia Catalyst hosts a bi-monthly call that offers our program partners in China a platform to share information, learn from each other’s experiences and potentially collaborate on joint issues. On occasion, we invite external speakers to share their expertise with participants.
One of our most popular bi-monthly calls took place at the end of April and featured guest presenter Rick Chen, Co-founder and CEO of Pozible, Australia’s first crowdfunding platform. Crowdfunding refers to raising lots of small amounts of money from many people, typically via the internet. Asia Catalyst wanted to introduce and explore this innovative development strategy, since many of our grassroots partners identify fundraising as an organizational priority.
Rick, an Anhui native, was listed by The Australian newspaper as one of the top 20 Australians to watch in 2013.
During the call, Rick gave the history of crowdfunding and an overview of crowdfunding in both China and Australia. Rick also fielded questions from the 62 participants on the call.
Below are some edited highlights from the Q&A session following Rick’s presentation.
Participant question: Can you tell us a bit about using crowdfunding for a charity organization?
Rick’s answer: Crowdfunding is very popular among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) abroad. It is not much different from traditional fundraising, except that crowdfunding is single project-based. Traditionally, fundraising work for a lot of NGOs is a constant and ongoing process, meaning that the organization can take donations at any time. However, crowdfunding usually is a “one-off” for a specific project; for example, if your region was hit by a natural disaster, you can then start a disaster relief crowdfunding project specifically for this incident.
Participant question: If, as you explained, the first step of communication is to rely on your own network, doesn’t it mean that you can just start a fundraising within your network? What is the strength of crowdfunding online?
Rick’s answer: I think the strength of online crowdfunding is that the effect is limitless, for example, if something starts to spread online, the internet can help it reach to the furthest, which is difficult to realize within just your network. If you’re using crowdfunding properly and if your project is implemented with decent quality, the impact can be maximized with the help of the internet — this is also the ultimate goal for every NGO when conducting fundraising.
Participant question: Do you have any suggestions for Chinese CBOs to conduct crowdfunding on an international platform like Pozible?
Rick’s answer: For international crowdfunding, it is crucial that you know your target donors well. It means that you need to do pre-exercises to map out: Who do I want to reach? Who will be willing to participate? With what sorts of social media can I spread my information to the target people? You need to bear all these questions in mind before starting your crowdfunding project.
The ability to raise funds and carry out programming is paramount to the survival of nonprofit organizations in China and everywhere. Crowdfunding is an innovative, self-determined way to fund specific projects that puts the power into the hands of the CBO. Asia Catalyst warmly thanks Rick Chen for sharing his story and his expertise.