Happy New Year!
As we inaugurate 2018 and contemplate how we at Asia Catalyst – both as individuals and as an organization — will advance into it, I take a lesson from our recent past. In 2017, our organization faced some of its most significant challenges, both external and internal. It was clear that not all of the strategies we so successfully employed over the previous decade were going to be feasible in the future, where uniquely hostile political, legal and financial realities loomed. As a team, we were able to transform that stressful reality into a satisfying opportunity, first by holding up a mirror the organization and reflecting honestly what we saw. We recognized that we had become something different from what we were at a younger time in our history, and that this new thing we had grown into had even more to offer.
We documented this process through a six-month “theory of change” exercise, and came out with a new skin and renewed sense of purpose. We recommitted to many of our founding principles, such as, being consultative and transparent, ensuring all of our projects and advocacy are community-driven, and making security even more of a priority. We also developed new partnerships and effectively worked with groups and on issues beyond our comfort zone, finding that our tools were applicable well beyond what we had originally imagined. Most of all, we spent time thinking about our China strategy. Please read below for some insights from our Director of Advocacy, Research, and Policy, Shen Tingting.
It is with a sense of resourcefulness and imagination that we enter the Year of the Dog, and a dedication to remaining open to new ideas and opportunities. We hope you will join us on this journey, as we will need communities of strength to overcome the hurdles ahead.
A New Era for International Organizations in China
By Shen Tingting
2017 marks the tenth year of my career working in the non-profit sector in China– five years with a Chinese AIDS non-governmental organization (NGO) and five years with Asia Catalyst. Over these past 10 years, China has witnessed an NGO “boom” — thousands of grassroots organizations were established by passionate leaders advocating for the rights of people with HIV, disabilities, migrant workers, women, LGBTI+ and so on, while international NGOs (INGOs) poured into China with funding, resources and support. With technical support from Asia Catalyst, the Chinese NGO I worked for back then established the first project in China to provide legal aid for people affected by HIV/AIDS. I was a new staff member, and was learning from Asia Catalyst all the necessary skills for an NGO to survive, such as strategic planning, project and financial management, and fundraising. As a young idealist, I naturally embraced the values that Asia Catalyst brought into China: human rights, public participation, and empowerment of communities to have the space and capacity to advocate for structural change. (more…)