Pioneering pilot programmes prove replicable – The programmes funded by the Legatum Foundation were successful, pioneering pilot programmes ready for expansion. Funding has allowed programmes to scale up, attracting greater attention and additional sources of funding. Three programmes funded as part of this Initiative have proven to be replicable models and are now being reproduced in other cities with other donor funding.
Chinese government support – Three of the four programmes – Xin Zhi Guan, China Children and Teenagers Fund, and Compassion for Migrant Children – are now well connected with national government bodies and are influencing the national government’s approach to migrant issues.
Model volunteering programme – Compassion for Migrant Children’s system of training and involving volunteers is a model for NGOs in a nation where volunteerism is a new concept. Compassion for Migrant Children recruits college student volunteers, who work in after-school programmes and on Super Saturdays, helping children with homework and providing positive role models. The hope is that – in a country where volunteerism is virtually non-existent – if young people can become exposed to the idea of service, they will develop an interest and remain committed to social work for the rest of their lives.
Little interaction between organisations – The nascent state of civil society organisations in China, a lack of trust within the culture, and an entrepreneurial go-it-alone spirit have hindered efforts to develop a community of practice among organisations in this Initiative. As a result, sharing of lessons learned, resources and good practice is more limited than is ideal. Better networking of NGOs in the early stages of civil society development in China could accelerate the growth of effective organisations, prevent unnecessary duplication of efforts and reduce time spent by different organisations ‘reinventing the wheel.’
Pioneering work comes with unique challenges – A lack of existing resources and infrastructure to address migrant issues forces partners to invest energy and time in blazing the trail themselves. Although to be expected in a pioneer setting, it does contribute to fatigue and staff turnover. In the case of Compassion for Migrant Children, their vocational training pilot was not able to reach as many migrants as expected due to a slower than expected ramp-up phase.
Cultural differences – Significant differences in attitudes and worldviews between migrants who were raised in Beijing and those who grew up in the countryside have created challenges for designing and implementing life skills and vocational training for young adults. Beijing-raised migrant children have higher, often unrealistic, career expectations given their low educational levels. While recent arrivals may be satisfied with training that equips them to work at a retail shop – a big step up from menial labour – Beijing-raised migrants are less satisfied, and instead want a job that affords the high standard of living they see many Beijing residents enjoying.