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As an NGO, We Try to Help the World Better Understand China 

By LI FANGWANGXINGCHEN YUEICHONGQING|Aug 04,2022

Chongqing- “In the early sense of the word, ‘organization,’ which comes from the word ‘organ,’ refers to the body’s structure. A social organization, like a person, also acts as an organic whole. It is always growing, adapting, and interacting with the outside world”, said Chen Fan, the project manager of Yige, a non-government organization (NGO). Focusing on promoting social equality while fostering the international audience’s understanding of China’s practice through intercultural dialogue.

Chen Fan, project manager of Chongqing Yige Social Development Promotion Center. (iChongqing/Yue Xingchen)

Think-tank to support NGO

As explained by Chen Fan, the organization’s name, Yige, derivates from the founder’s inspiration of the word “equal,” signifying its mission in various ways. Since its establishment on July 1, 2014, this Chongqing-based NGO has been important in promoting social development. With an influential think tank backed, Yige has completed 158 special research reports, such as “Research on Public Participation Mechanism of Environmental Protection in China” and “Institutional Mechanism and Policy System for Promoting Integrated Development of Urban and Rural Areas.” Based on research, it offers professional advice for government decision-makers. 

Yige co-organized China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights in 2021. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Yige’s role on the global stage

As part of Yige’s global outreach, a delegation has visited the US, France, Poland, Spain, etc., to engage in in-depth exchanges with local universities, research institutions, and non-profit organizations. In UN Human Rights Council, which holds no less than three regular sessions a year and is also open to NGOs, Yige members often provide China’s perspective on topics such as poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and access to justice for vulnerable groups from the standpoint of a social organization. “We have established connections with many organizations by participating in international conferences or sessions. Thus, we can continue to exchange or cooperate in the future. We are grateful for their hospitality and friendliness. Everyone is open for communication”, said Chen. Furthermore, Yige also serves as an event organizer, hosting seminars and forums to provide a platform for international experts, academics, observers, decision-makers, and other key parties. 

Yige participated in the World Water Week workshop in Sweden. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Challenges during intercultural dialogue

Chen Fan summarized two significant challenges from her experience during intercultural dialogue.

“As people from different discourse systems, we speak not only different languages but also have different historical and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it’s common to have different understandings of a topic. However, being trapped in each other’s narrative or context leads us nowhere. Maybe it’s time to put aside “black and white thinking.” Then comes the other challenge – how to well convey the story. As ‘Know Thyself (your mental health homepage giving you the tools to master your mental health)’ is the prerequisite to understanding ourselves, we need to keep learning about our nation.” Chen added that fundamentally, we are discussing the problems facing human beings.

The advancement of social and sustainable development benefits both people and the environment. The challenges will ultimately be overcome as we are heading in the same direction on different paths. The Chinese have long been an example of harmony in diversity since ancient times. 

Harmony in diversity (iChongqing/Li Fangwang)

How the seed was sowed

When it comes to why Chen chose to become a social worker, she was silent for a while. Even though it may sound heavy, she paused for a moment, “In 2008, I was at university in Chongqing when Sichuan was devastated by the great earthquake. For the first time, I felt the floor trembling under my feet. I can’t forget the day when air raid sirens, cars, trains, and ship horns wailed in grief as the people fell silent to mourn the victims. My desire to do something was strong. From then on, I started to know about a group of people called social workers. It surprised me that China had many social welfare and charity organizations.” She believes social workers play an integral role in disaster responses – their skills, knowledge, and expertise are critically valuable in an emergency and post-disaster recovery. “In the immediate aftermath of graduation, I logically got a job in this field, and I’m glad I found my place in this field. I may not change the world, but I’m so happy that what I do could help create a better future,” said Chen. 

(Zhang Yiyi as an intern, also contributed to this report.)

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