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Over US$1.1 Mln Awarded to 50 Innovative CSO Projects

The China Development Marketplace, an initiative of the World Bank to fund innovative projects of civil society organizations (CSOs) in China, closed on Wednesday with 50 winners receiving over US$1.1 million. Each of the winners received 150,000 yuan to 200,000 yuan to implement their projects.

Entitled "Supporting Grassroots Innovations for a Harmonious Society," the 2nd China Development Marketplace reflects the World Bank and government's efforts to identify and support innovations by CSOs and mobilize social resources to reduce poverty and address various development challenges towards building a harmonious society.

"China has taken an approach of government leadership and social mobilization in poverty reduction. We learn from successful international experience and encourage CSOs to participate in poverty reduction," Zheng Wenkai, Deputy Director of the State Council Leading Office for Poverty Alleviation said in his remarks at the Award Ceremony, "this event is a valuable experiment in mobilizing and identifying innovative ideas and approaches from CSOs to improving the effectiveness in poverty reduction."

"Civil society groups at the grass roots level often have the best knowledge of local needs, difficulties and possible solutions," said Yifu Lin, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. "Despite the great achievements, China is still a developing country with many remaining challenges in social, economic and environmentally sustainable development. To overcome these challenges, we need government leadership as well as participation of the civil society. As an international development institution, we are very happy to provide this platform to promote the role of Chinese CSOs in addressing development issues in China," he added.

Almost 500 applicants from all over China submitted their ideas on how to best reduce poverty, illustrating the large numbers of innovative, local solutions. The 115 finalists with the best ideas were invited to Beijing for the two-day competition to showcase and share their unique ideas. In addition to a grant competition, finalists also participated in a Knowledge Forum to help these groups expand their skills and knowledge and to promote connections among these groups.

A diverse and eminent jury selected the winners during the event. Many of these judges came from China Development Marketplace partner organizations, including government agencies, Chinese and multinational corporations, academia, the nonprofit community, media, and the international donor community.

Representing China's 21 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, these winners propose a range of different approaches to reducing poverty and addressing other development challenge. Some winning projects include creating nongovernmental monitoring stations to monitor the quality of water in the Yellow River and report on pollution; preserving Miao (an ethnic minority group in Guizhou) cultural heritage through school education and extracurricular cultural activities, particularly targeted at the migrant children; organizing a farmers cooperative to develop sunflower farming, reduce land degradation and biogas as a clean energy; and psychological counseling for primary school students in mountainous areas in earthquake-affected Sichuan.

"Through the China Development Marketplace, we CSOs, either mature or young, have received support from corporations and foundations, and recognition from the government. The grant will help us put our ideas to practice. It is great!" said Yuan Xiaoxia, winner of a project that proposes organizing a mutual-help network of 100 poor rural women and teach them productive skills for income generation.

Primary partners are the State Council Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation and Development, Ministry of Civil Affairs and Ministry of Finance. Financial sponsors include major Chinese and multinational corporations such as Red Avenue Group Co, Ltd., Lenovo Group, KPMG, Wal-Mart and Ticketmaster; foundations such as Narada Foundation, China Social Entrepreneur Foundation and the Ford Foundation; and the international community, such as the governments of Norway, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Chinese media has provided support to the process, especially SINA, 21st Century Business Herald and City Pictorial. Other partners include China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, China Youth Development Foundation and Nonprofit Incubator.

"The dynamism and creativity of these grassroots CSOs are an inspiration to all of us," said David Dollar, China Country Director of the World Bank. "Talking to them in the last two days, I learned a lot about challenges that the poor face and innovative approaches to overcoming them."

Click here to see the List of Winner Projects.

(China Development Gateway October 23, 2008)

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