Charity Encyclopedia (“the project” or “the platform”) is a digital platform in development, aiming to provide open access to accurate and simplified legal knowledge about the third sector in China. As the number of NGOs in mainland China reaches 900,000, the need for obtaining relevant legal information has grown significantly. Currently, such need is not being fulfilled due to the absence of an integrated platform on charity laws and regulations. Therefore, ForNGO has dedicated its efforts towards making legal concepts accessible and understandable to charity workers, scholars, and professionals in the industry by launching this project.
The ultimate objective of Charity Encyclopedia is to connect stakeholders in the Chinese third sector, using an open and collaborative online platform. ForNGO has made this its mission to foster justice and strong institutions, and promote effective partnerships among various sectors. As there currently lacks a channel in which charity laws and regulations can be communicated and explained, this project will be the first to systematically organize, simplify, and present legal concepts so that they become truly accessible to everyone. In addition, the project aims to close the gap between regulating authorities and other stakeholders in the philanthropy industry, thus promoting collaboration across sectors.
Charity Encyclopedia was framed in accordance with objectives outlined in the SDGs since its initial stages of development. ForNGO believes that the project can foster rule of law and justice in the third sector by ensuring public access to legal information (SDG 16). In addition, by illustrating legal concepts, the platform effectively communicates the current state of law-making and law-enforcement to the third sector, thus setting the foundation for partnership among regulating authorities, NGOs, and the private sector (SDG 17).
In the initial stage of the project, ForNGO has prioritized on developing two segments of the platform, namely “concept dictionaries” and “library of laws”. The “Concept dictionaries” segment involves over 300 entries about concepts related to charity law. The entries take the form similar to that of Wikipedia, including the concepts’ definitions, historical development, practical implications, relevant case law, and other key information. The titles of entries are selected based on their importance and practicality, and once selected, would be thoroughly researched and written by the content creation team. Meanwhile, the “library of laws” segment includes over 300 texts of charity-related laws and regulations. The texts are collected based on government announcements, legal databases, and publications, and are sorted by categories. ForNGO’s content creation team consists of over 30 Pro Bono lawyers and volunteers, who has completed over 130 entries. Moreover, ForNGO has collaborated with 6 internationally-renowned law firms and corporations as pro bono service providers, and has engaged in-house lawyers and associates in researching and creating the entries. In terms of financial resources, the project has received monetary donations of 700,000 RMB (approximately 107,500 USD) from Macau Tong Chai Charity Association, Mana Foundation, and Ginkgo Foundation. ForNGO expects to obtain additional funding as the project reaches later stages. Lastly, ForNGO has developed a set of Standard Operating Procedures regarding writing entries, managing volunteers, and editing content. This allows ForNGO to manage and monitor the progress of the project in a standardized manner.
ForNGO and its collaborators have completed over 100 entries and have collected over 250 texts of laws and regulations, all of which will be presented on the platform. In terms of human resources, ForNGO has gathered a team of highly qualified volunteers consisting of lawyers, legal professionals, and law students who are mainly responsible for researching and creating dictionary entries. In addition, we have completed the draft design of the website and are currently collaborating with one of the project’s sponsors in order to implement design ideas. ForNGO is going to launch the platform in October 2021 and will include 300 entries and over 300 texts of laws and regulations by launch. Further content and sections will be added to the platform in future stages.
The project has received monetary donations of 107,500 USD and the secured funding will be mainly used on technology, platform design and marketing. In addition, ForNGO plans to work with experts on product development, big data and blockchain who will advise on website and backstage design. Constraints of the project include limited human capital and regulatory requirements. As project stakeholders increase, ForNGO requires additional human resources to manage the project. ForNGO also needs to work with relevant authorities to ensure that the project is compliant to all relevant laws and regulations.
After the platform is launched, the responsibility of content creation will be gradually shifted from the ForNGO team to the platform’s users. ForNGO is developing a set of procedures to encourage user-created content, including the development of a point-based membership system in which users are rewarded with points for contributing to the platform, and a professional network in which industry professionals and recognized scholars can network with one another while forming discussions. ForNGO estimates that the increase will largely lift the burden of content creation from the founding organization and enable a sustainable production of knowledge. ForNGO has also largely standardized its work. For example, the organization provides templates, video guides, and in-person tutorials to all members of the content creation team to ensure that all entries cover necessary information and are properly cited. ForNGO believes that such SOP can be replicated for future purposes.
Though the project was not officially launched until late 2020, ForNGO has invested exceptional effort in battling the pandemic since February 2020. ForNGO’s lawyers published 14 articles on various pandemic-related issues, such as analyses on laws regarding volunteer services and receiving foreign donations. The articles received over 10,000 views and were shared by The Ministry of Civil Affairs and China Development Brief. Moreover, ForNGO has cooperated with Philanthropy Online Academy and launched online courses regarding ways to reduce social organizations’ risks of breaking the law during the pandemic. In addition, ForNGO offered over 300 hours of Pro Bono services to donors and social organizations during the pandemic and facilitated donations of over 15.4 million USD.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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Though this platform is mainly intended for Chinese users, it will be accessible to everyone in all geographical areas with internet.