Reflection on the “Scaling Social Enterprises” China Conference and Study Tour

China has woken up to the concept of social enterprise in the last 5 years. The landscape is rapidly changing and developing with entrepreneurs, foundations and corporates interested in how they can do good while still doing well. This emerging landscape with its goodwill, funding and population represents an enormous opportunity to scale up social change projects that work.

It was with this backdrop that from 6th – 9th November, over 80 people came together in Shanghai to discuss how, practically, the best social change projects can be replicated within and into China. Sessions were a blend of Chinese and international speakers and views, with inspiring success stories from Dialog in the Dark and the Children’s University amongst others as well as hard lessons from things not always going as planned.

Participants from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong as well delegations from the UK and South Africa found a surprising amount in common with the processes required to replicate successfully. However quite a significant difference of approach was noted when it comes to the role of government in aiding aiding replication. Discussions have already planted seeds for one or more social enterprises to expand their model to China.

The conference was followed by a three study tour in Beijing, an opportunity for participants to better understand the world of NGOs and Social Enterprise in China. It was striking to see how social entrepreneurs are overcoming huge barriers when trying to help build a better society. While the rapid growth of an economy is sadly leaving many behind, participants left with a sense of the opportunity to create real change that this growth brings.

With written contributions from Egbert Wessels, The Business Place, Sebastian Fellhauer, Brien Holden Vision Institute and Viviana Cadavid.