The Miracle of Urban Nonprofit Management Supporting Organizations: : A Political
Anthropological Case Study Of Shanghai NPI1
Zhao Zhao2
Ruan Yunxing
Abstrct: Given the attitude of Chinese government to social organizations coming into the stage
of “admitting” in the context of globalization, the “miracle” of urban nonprofit supporting
organizations is inevitable. The paper tries to reveal the social request, government empowering,
urban“medium” and the interaction mechanism within the miracle through the case study of
Shanghai Nonprofit Incubator(NPI). The author will point out the value of researching the new
type of social organizations with the method of political anthropology in practice and theory as
Key words:
political anthropology
nonprofit management supporting organizations
Shanghai Non-profit Incubator(NPI)
The paper is part of the achievement of Chinese National Social Science Foundation’s Project "the Social Mechanism of
Administration of Social Organizations" (10BSH046). Thanks for the supporting of Chinese National Social Science
2 Ruan Yunxing, Male, PhD, Professor of School of Public Administration, Zhejiang University; Zhao Zhao, Female, Master
Student of School of Public Administration, Zhejiang Univerity
1 The origin of research and the background
1.1 research origin
It is not a long time for nonprofit management supporting organizations (MSO) establishing in
China with legitimate identity, so it is not strange that the participated observation research
towards MSO is limited. However, given the time that nonprofit organizations especially
nonprofit management supporting organizations play a very important role in China’s social
transformation and social construction, the participated observation and theoretical construction
is an urgent topic.
A college student I known wanted to establish a grass root nonprofit organizations in 2009. I
encouraged him to realize her ideal, at the same time; I got a chance to observe an NPO ever
since its establishment. Sep. 2009, the newly founded Hearing Art in Community applied into the
incubator hold by NPI, the nonprofit organization incubator came into our research. The authors
visited NPI, Hearing Art in Community for 5 times in one year.1 Given this background, the
paper based with the material from fieldwork, focusing on NPI, try to provide a social fact and
have some discussion about nonprofit management supporting organizations and city governance
in temporary China.
1.2 academic background
The time for visit were 200910, 2010030-31, 20100701, 20101204, 20110113-14, the second author come along for the first
three time.
The author believes that nonprofit management supporting organizations means organizations
that can integration resources, and provide support for other organizations with the services as
intermediary, consulting, training as well as trusteeship.
From our first stage research, the author thinks that comprehensive supporting organizations
are identified as its social function and cover from foundation to corporation aggregate.1
Considering contemporary method of dividing social organizations in China (foundation, private
non-enterprise unites, social groups), MSO mainly stand in private non-enterprise unites. At the
same time, the function in foundation supporting nonprofit organizations could be seen as the
capital supporting organizations, and there are also some single supporting organizations in social
At present, researches focused on supporting organizations in China are very limited. Xu
Yushan’s paper is an original work about the topic. However, her paper mainly describe the
supporting organizations’ function and the net as well as communication hold by supporting
organizations.3 It is noteworthy that the Public Policy Institute of Renmin University of China
hosted a “supporting organization development forum” recently. And that the idea of “supporting
organizations become the most public welfare and the autonomy of a new type of social
organization” became an consensus in the forum.4
Refer to Shui Bing Ming Qu Yu An Dao: Zhuan Xing She Hui Shi Qi De Zhong Guo Fei Ying Li Fa Ren Zhi Du. Gao
Bingzhong, Yuan Ruijun Blue Book of the development of Civil Society in China, Peking University Press, 2008:62-64
2 We should know that the dividing method in China is a response to the social fact, we must face the problems in it (refer to Shui
Bing’s paper). At the same time, Japan is reforming its system in public corporation. Refer to 新公益法人のすべて.清文社.2006.
3 Xu Yushan the construction innovation of social organizations: the development of supporting organizations. Management of
Social Organizations. 2010:8
4 supporting organizations become the most public welfare and the autonomy of a new type of social organization,
1.3 the overview of the object of field work
Non-profit Organization Incubator (NPI) of Pudong Shanghai has established in Pudong at Jan.
2006. It is registered in Pudong Civil Affairs Bureau with Lv Zhao as its legal representative.
Pudong district locates in the east of Shanghai with 11 town, 12 district offices, 618 residents
committee, 226 village committee.1 In the central and southern part of Pudong district, No. 613
Eshan Rd. there is a “Xing Ling Venture Park”. The park was a factory belonged to Shanghai
Textile Holding Grouping before with four buildings.2 Now, with the participation of Pudong
government, the park was designed and reformed in 2008. The A building is Public Service Park,
and the headquarter of NPI is right in the second floor of A building.
At the present, NPI was delegated the nest of social innovation. Wulixiang Community Service
Center is delegated four communities located in Yangpu district and Pudong district (see picture
1). Our research began at the headquarter of NPI.
Ever since entered the office of NPI, two panels first caught my eyes. The one left showed the
organizations in the incubator, and the one right showed the organizations already out of the
incubator. The other thing should be noted is the purpose of NPI helpful of social innovation,
foster social entrepreneurship. Seeing from the purpose, the aim of NPI is not only do something
good to help others but have deeper think and bigger ideal. The office of NPI is divided into two
parts, one for the staff of NPI, the other part for the staff of organizations in the incubator.
Statistic Yearbook of Shanghai 2009,
Shanghai government information office,
2 the establishment of NPI and social innovation NPI
NPI was registered in Jan. 2006. After five years of development, NPI is now outstanding in
nonprofit organizations in China. However, the developing was not easy, the achievement related
to the quality of the team and the social trends.
The founder of NPI called Lv Zhao. At the end of 2005, Lv Zhao, who was the deputy director of
NPO Information Center of Beijing expressed the willing of founding a NPO supporting
organization to the Pudong Civil Bureau and won the permission. At that time, Pudong district
was just had the permission of being national comprehensive reform pilot area.
NPI meet lots of problem at first. Lv Zhao planed to copy the mode of Beijing in Shanghai, but
the situation of Shanghai is different from Beijing. Beijing has a large number of NPO but
Shanghai has few of them.1 NPI did not find the right mode in Shanghai at that time (FT003).
Though the government have already realized the function of social organizations, as a social
organization, how to find the suitable way for itself is also a problem. It is the character of
temporary China social organizations that although there is a booming trend of NPO, but the
development model and exploration of the road has just begun.
After the exploration of one and a half year, NPI began its first business of nonprofit
organizations incubator, it is also the first nonprofit organizations incubator in China. Then NPI
explored the business of community trusteeship, united way, corporation social responsbility
consulting. The business developed quickly, and the scale of NPI enlarged fast. At present, NPI
based in Shanghai and has agencies in Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen. Now it has seven
The case of nonprofit organizations in China (2009), NPO information consulting center, NPI
members in the council, six managers and four global consultant as well as 18 partners. The
paper will focus on the basement of NPI in Shanghai. The work of NPI earned lots of prize as
well, such as the 5A social organization of Shanghai and the excellent social organization of
The paper focuses on the headquarters of NPI. We will analyze how NPI doing its business to
response to social request.
Ever since its establishment, NPI identified itself as a supporting organization. NPI is adjusting
its strategy all the time. At first, it was a middle organization, now it is called the social
innovation engine. The business of NPI roughly covered the request of newly founded and grass
root organizations. The business is now divided into four parts: NPI Enpai, Wulixiang
Community Service Center, United Way and Nonprofit Organization Management Consulting.
When we look at the business, we can view it as a response to the social request.
2.1 NPI Enpai
NPI Enpai is a center for newly found NPOs, it combines of the incubator, fundraising and NPO
capacity building.
2.1.1 Non-profit organization incubator
Ever since its establishment, NPI is adjusting to find the best way to support other grass-root
NPOs. At first, NPI want to sustain the old mode of NPO Information Center of Beijing, but the
staff of NPI gradually found that the situation of Shanghai is apparent different from that of
See the events of NPI
Beijing. The international nonprofit organizations and foundations has been working in Beijing
for almost 20 years, the frequent international communications and capital supporting lead the
emerging of NPOs in Beijing about 10 years ago. The ten years' development make the NPOs in
Beijing much more booming than that of Shanghai, and the NPOs in Beijing cover the subject of
environment, education, poverty, so it is useful to provide capacity building in Beijing. Compared
to Beijing, the number of NPOs in Shanghai is much smaller as well as its scare.1 Base on the
condition, it is not enough to provide capacity building but to incubate some nonprofit
organizations in Shanghai and help them to develop. So NPI changes the way of work and this
change lead to the first nonprofit incubator in China.2
The incubator was designed at 2006 and began to operate since Apr. 2007. The incubator relies
on the community and call for the supporting of government. There is a professional team to
operate the incubator. And there are supervises form the public. Any NPO which wants to come
into the incubator must pass a series of rigorous examinations, it will cost three to six months. A
NPO will stay in the incubator for a period of one year, during which the incubator provides
services including office space, office equipment, capacity building, small subsidies and
registration help for the NPOs. When the NPO incubated come out of the incubator, NPI will still
provide services for one year to help them recover the problems.
The incubator operated for three times. The first time is from 2007 to 2008, the second time is
from 2008 to Sep. 2009, the third time is under incubating.
The case study of management of nonprofit organizations in China (2009), NPO Information Consulting Center, the Nonprofit
Organization Incubator
2 Seeing appendix 1
The incubator operates well at present. According to the introduction of NPI staff:
Why did we design these five sections? It is because the NPOs need such kind of aid. In the time
operating the incubator, we found it to be really helpful to the NPOs.
Now, this mode of incubation has been copied to Beijing and Chengdu at 2008. At Sep. 2009
the incubator office of Shenzhen began to do the business as well.
2.1.2 Venture philanthropy
Venture philanthropy provides fund for newly found and small scale social organizations,
especially the social entrepreneurs. It also supplies management and technical supports. At the
moment, NPI cooperate with Lenove and ApaxPartners to run the venture philanthropy program.
At 2009, NPI designed and hold the first community venture philanthropy in Shanghai, which is
proposed by Shanghai Civil Bureau. The program cooperate with Lenovo is suggested by NPI
and also be devised by NPI. The corporate of Lenovo provide the material and fund for the
program. The program began at Dec. 2007 and won the attention of NPOs in China. The number
of organization applying for the program reaches 90 each time. The cooperation with ApaxPartners
is patronaged by ApaxPartners, and NPI is response to collect one to two organizations as the recipients.1
2.1.3 Capacity building
In the field of capacity building, NPI focuses on three aspects: enhancing the capacity of
organizations and people, capturing sensitive social issues and establishing research projects for
NPOs, and promoting self-discipline. It is really interesting for NPI to think of promoting
The promotional materials of nonprofit organization incubator
self-discipline as its mission which reflects that the development of NPOs in China is not regular
and need to set the norms for it.
2.2 Wulixiang Community Service Center
In May 2008, NPI became the trusteeship of the largest civic centre in Shanghai. Related to this,
NPI originate Wulixiang Community Service Center which is also a nonprofit organization and
once being incubated in the incubator. At Dec. 2008, Wulixiang Community Center was
registered in Pudong Civil Bureau.
The Community Service Center does not provide community services itself but used other
NPOs to do the actual services. NPI, in fact, became a manager in the community service center.
The Community Service Center take over the hardware, select NPOs into the community to do
the service and supervise the NPOs.
From the establishment to Mar. 2010, Wulixiang Community Service Center has been the
commissioning manager of three communities.1
During the work of being commissioning manager of Sanlin Shibo Jiayuan Civic Center, NPI has
imported social enterprise and other professional NPOs, and also bring forth some program
which have good prospect.
Accord to the director of NPI, the business of being commissioning manager is the largest
business of NPI which means most of the workers are devoted to it and the main income comes
from it.2
The data comes from the website of Wulixiang Community Service Center
The data comes from the interview 20100701
In this way, NPI can help the NPOs to find a way to operate their services and help the
community enjoy the professional service of NPOs.
2.3 United Way
The Public Welfare Development Fund of Shanghai was established at the end of 2009,
registered in Shanghai Civil Bureau. The fund focuses on holding large-scale public welfare
activities in order to provide supports to NPOs. As we all know, capital is very important to
grass-root NPOs. The fund is not only for NPI itself but for all the NPOs in China.
In the interview we had with YJN, he said that at present, the funds in China operate in different
ways. The funds belong to the government usually the money itself, and the funds belong to
corporate do not function regularly. So NPI want the Public Welfare Development Fund of
Shanghai being a example of all the funds in China.
2.4 Corporate social responsibility and NPO management advisor
Corporate Citizenship in Action is an consulting company to help the corporate perform
corporate social responsibility effectively. It was found at May. 2006. CCIA facilitates the
cooperation among corporate, government and nonprofit organizations in order to realize the
outcome multi-win of corporate and community.1
CCIA has some relationship with NPI. The founder of NPI is also Lv Zhao, and it was once
incubated in the incubator.2
The data comes from the website of CCiA:
Seeing in the website of NPI:
3. The social mechanism of the quickly development of NPI
3.1 social request: the transform of social construction and community
governance need multiple governance object
The establishment of NPI is related to the social construction reform and the change of model of
governance. What is more, the successful of NPI in Pudong is also because of the unique
character of Pudong.
Firstly, from the social demands, with the development of market economy and the
diversification of social interests, the social construction of contemporary China is significant
different from the time when P.R.C. was founded. The social organizations are one kind of
governance object now.1
Secondly, it is related to the unique character of Pudong district. During the interview we had
with the Department Head of Pudong Civil Affairs W, he expressed that at the time when Pudong
district was being set up, the economic condition was not good. Additionally, during that time,
the old economic pattern in China clashed and the traditional way of social welfare faded away.
So the government of Pudong district needed to find a way to solve the problems associated with
this period of transformation. It is in such an environment that NPI was welcomed in the Pudong
district. (FT002)
Huang Xiaoyong, Cai Liqiang, Status of Chinese Civil Society Organizations, Their Roles and Suggestions. The Report of
Chinese Civil Society Organizations. Social Science Academic Press, 2008
3.2 government empower: a new type of social organization managers
The author thinks that from the perspective of the relationship between a nation and society,
we can roughly divide the relationship into three stages. First, restrain stage from 1980s to the
end of 1990s; second, admitting / empower stage since the start of 21st century1; third, partner
We can see that NPI is participating governance during doing their business, we have to say this
is related to the background of government empower. We will analyze the nonprofit
organizations incubator to reveal how NPI participate social organizations’ management.
The author believes that the most important influence of the incubator is to foster social
organizations to enlarge the scale of them as for presently China, to enlarge the scale is more
important than to reform what are already exist (FT003).
To establish a nonprofit organization in China is not easy, the founder may meet the tension both
from the policy and society. To register a nonprofit organization is the first difficulty one may
meet. As the society, the majority of people are not fond of public welfare; most people would
not understand why some people choose nonprofit organizations as their career life. In the
interview with Lv Zhao, he told us that, the capability one need to establish a nonprofit
organization in China is not just fond of public welfare but to have the ability to call people to
follow you, one must explain to others for why do such a thing(FT 003). In the observation, the
author also noticed the instable of an organization, the instable not just existing in the business
See Yuan Ruijun, the Impact of Government transformation to the System of Social Organizations’ Management. Blue Book of
the Development of Civil Society, Peking University Press, 2008:31-44; Kang Xiaoguang, the Relationship between State and
Society in a Reform Era: Administrative Absorb Society, 30 Years of Civil Society in China, Social Sciences Academic Press,
2008: 287-377
but also in the team and mental state. For the incubator, it is nearly impossible that an
organization in the incubator could grow ripe enough; the wish of the incubator is that the
organizations could find a suitable way to do their business (FT001).
What NPI has done could be though of foster nonprofit organizations in the perspective of society
rather than state. The effect of society together with the action of government as well as
corporation social responsibility does well in fostering social organizations.
Of course, NPI also takes part in the services of social organizations. Free office space, office
supplies and monthly subsidies is very important and very useful resource for start-up of small,
grass-roots organization NPO. And NPI can supply resources for small organizations to grow
since they can be helpful in find founds and in the time of registering.
In the field of management, if a NPO wants to come into the incubator, it must sign a contract to
regulate the management. In the future operation, the NPO must submit its operation report to
NPI. Additionally, NPI bears another responsibility: to promote self-discipline in public welfare.
The public welfare of China is at initial stage and lacks of regulation, so what NPI want to do
means a lot to the development of nonprofit organizations of China.
From this, we can find that apart from the support NPI is giving to NPOs, NPI in fact bears the
responsibility of management. The management does not come from government but another
NPO (NPI is also a NPO) which has deep understandings of NPOs. To some extent, this kind of
management comes from the public, the third party, in fact, is the management of NPO itself.
Compared with the government, NPI has a better knowledge of NPOs, so the management can be
more effective.
3.3 new medium in city: social entrepruneur1
During the time the author doing the research of contemporary rural organizations, the author
find that an important factor of the growth of this kind of organization is a leader with modern
knowledge and literacy. The author called this kind of people as medium. The medium can
influence others gradually.
For the organizations in the city, the author finds that the difference in structure is mainly because
of the difference in medium. Different medium have different influence to decide the structure of
an organization.
The success of NPI is also related to its medium which we could call them social entrepreneur or
new citizen.
The staff of NPI usually has high levels of education; there are 2 PhD in 35 workers as well as 12
masters degree employees, some of the workers have also studied abroad. New employees are
undergraduate students with work experience from famous universities or having master
NPI is a non-profit organization with business background. According to the interview of deputy
director WZY, NPI's management team has a solid business background; they have worked in
business for at least 8 years, which has resulted in NPI having business characteristics such as
As the principle of social entrepreneur, see Chu Songyan, the Growth of Social Entrepreneur and the Rise of Social
Organizations, Gao Bingzhong, Yuan Ruijun, Bulu Book of the Development of Civil Society in China, Peking University Press,
2008: 430-434; the author think highly of Joseph A.Schumpeter’s opinion that the group of social entrepreneur is important in
social innovation. There is no doubt that the innovation is the character of this group.
2 The data comes from the interview 20091030
being pragmatic and results-oriented. This kind of working style has also made the organization
more attractive to external resources.
4 discussion and conclusion
The topic of social organizations has an important position both in the academic field and politics.
The paper analyzed how NPI response to social request, we find that social request, government
empowers and city medium made the fast development of NPI. As an nonprofit management
supporting organization, NPI connects social and government, help government to perform its
functions and response to social request. The practice of NPI reveals that the cooperation of
government, market, social can foster social organizations and helpful to social innovation.
The paper answered the question that how the fast development of nonprofit management
supporting organizations come through case study of NPI. However, we need to explore how NPI
cooperate with other organizations and the relationship of NPI and local government to answer
the question of the mechanism of nonprofit management supporting organizations’ quickly rose
in cities.
Another question Anthropology must explore is how the medium formed. On one hand, the
question reflect the principle of subjectivity and constructive in anthropological reflection, and
individual research in the method of expanding case study. On the other hand, the question could
help us understand the difference of organizations in rural and urban China.
At last, the author would like to point out that comparative study is important. For example, the
situation of social organizations in Japan and China has many similarities but also many
differences, to clarify the similarities and differences can help us understand the problem in
China and make some contribution in the academic background.
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Firsthand materials
The case study of management of nonprofit organizations in China (2009), NPO Information
Consulting Center, the Nonprofit Organization Incubator
The contract of NPI and incubated organizations
The publicity of New Citizen Living Center
The management rules and financial supervision rules of nonprofit organization incubator
The newsletter of Shanghai Xintu Health Promotion Organization, Sep. 2009
The website of Wulixiang Community Service Center
The website of NPI
The website of CciA
The website of Xintu:
The blog of the new citizen living center:
Interview materials(FT20100701 ,FT20100331,FT20091030,FT20110114)

A Political Anthropological Case Study Of Shanghai NPI