China Citizenship and Social Innovation Seed Camp for Chinese Overseas Students
As the second biggest economy, China is the world’s rising power. The future of this most populous country will be critical for the stability and prosperity of the whole world. Despite massive economic growth and relative social stability in China within the past decade, recent Chinese government report projects that this past may no longer be the precedent for the future. Within the next ten years, social conflicts are expected to ensue and worsen, further exacerbated by the projected future economic slowdown. The Chinese government has begun to recognize its own limitations and the necessity of citizen participation in solving some of China’s most pressing social issues. In recent years, new central and local policies have encouraged and supported the creation of new citizen sector organizations that targets developmental problems, such as education, environment, and migrant worker issues. China and the world have witnessed an exponential growth of civil society organizations in China over the last decade and “social innovation” has become a new social focus.
While the younger generations of China are beginning to focus on tackling China’s many social issues, some of the most gifted and talented of China’s youth may not be. More and more Chinese youths have chosen to pursue study and careers overseas. While these youths tend to be the first among Chinese youths to be exposed to the concept of civil participation and activism that is essential to the West, these youths are distant from the theatre of social changes in China and lack the understanding and network to take an active and effective part in promoting the prosperity and social equality of China.
- Mission, Vision and Theory of Change
Recognizing the unique potentials and position of Chinese overseas students, we propose to create a distinct program that discovers, trains, and supports socially inspired Chinese overseas students in pursuing China oriented social innovations. Our mission is to nurture the seed of social change-making among this potential group of next generation leaders, focusing on four key qualities represented by SEED: Social responsibility, Empathy, Empowerment and Dedication.
Our goal is to create a cross-boundary learning community for socially inspired Chinese overseas students to learn and grow in terms of personal character, social understanding and leadership skills; for them to interact with rising young social innovators and entrepreneurs from China and thus grow together with them into world-class social change-makers. We believe the path of social innovations that the program advocates will help channel the energy of idealistic and proactive Chinese overseas students towards productive and creative work that addresses practical social challenges. The skill training will empower them to pursue their social inspirations through their practice. Connecting them to the networks of social innovators and entrepreneurs in China will help ground their aspirations to the realities in China.
We hope that after the training, the participants will become more practical social change-makers with an enhanced sense of China’s reality and strengthened conviction of social responsibility. It is our vision that through our program, it will become a norm for Chinese overseas students to take it on themselves to safeguard social justice and approach China’s social problems with practicality and creativity. Additionally, true social innovations shall know no boundaries, be it geographical, sectoral or themetical. The growing troupe of social innovators in China are mostly focused on developmental themes. If we could help expand their perspectives by pairing them with the socially minded overseas student leaders, we will help unleash potentials of domestic Chinese social innovators, a positive force for good in China.
- Program Overview
To achieve the above goals, we propose a multi-year training and incubator program in both China and Harvard targeted at selected socially minded Chinese overseas students, which will lead to the creation of a cross boundary community of young social innovators for China. All participants will become members of the SEED Community for long-term communications and mutual support.
The first SEED Camp (SEED 2012) will take place at Harvard University from August 19th to 25th, 2012. It will bring together distinguished scholars and social innovators and entrepreneurs from both China and the U.S., who will, from a global perspective, examine the current development of civil society and social innovation in China. Meanwhile, selected young social innovators in China will be invited as SEED Senior Fellows, who will join the whole course of the camp, interact, share their experiences and form a long-term partnership with the student participants.
In concert with the Northshore Society (Harvard GSAS China Study Group), the Manager of the Nonprofits in China Program of the Hauser Center for nonprofit Organizations at Harvard designed and operate this program. The China Society for Voluntarism Education and Research based in Beijing serves as our key local partner in China, which will facilitate a multi-party interactive platform in China in support of the program. An advisory board, consisting of prominent scholars and practitioners in China and the U.S., will provide strategic support to the organizing committee from student admissions to curriculum design.