Call for better-quality community services

NGO representatives and legislators discuss problems following the implementation of a local regulation on the work of residents' committees.

NGOs in Shanghai are increasingly engaged by grassroots governments to serve residential communities, but some critics say the overall quality of services is low.

Several NGO representatives were invited to discuss the problem on Thursday with legislators who have been inspecting the implementation of a local regulation on the work of residents’ committees.

According to the regulation, subdistrict or town governments should purchase legal, cultural, sports and other social services from professional social organizations, and encourage and support residential communities to use these services.

Yan Jiawei, founder of the Baiyi community service center in Shanghai, said that on average 50 to 70 such organizations are engaged by a subdistrict or town government, but the number of those providing quality services was small.

“Usually a third of them are totally inactive, and another third have a government background and thus rely on government financing. Among the rest, most provide educational services such as teaching English,” he said. “Those who do really well in senior care and youth development are very rare.”

Zhu Meizhen, head of the community service society of Jing’an District, said: “In some residential communities, officials have no idea who among the residents needs help, and their work is not organized enough to gather and retain community volunteers.”

Zou Ying, director of the Lantu social work organization who once worked as an official in a residential community, said it was a fallacy that some residents’ committees engage services they don’t want to do for residents instead of those they can’t do.

“They often eye short-term and visible results and ignore the fact that our communities need changes to residents’ behavior which could take a much longer time to realize,” she said.

Meanwhile, the subdistrict and town government should provide more help to connect them with quality services which are not always known, Zou said.

Chai Dinghong, a social work teacher at East China Normal University who works part-time in the Liqun social work organization in Minhang District, said about half of the local residents’ committees are not interested in collaborating with NGOs because they’re overwhelmed by administrative tasks.

“In Chengdu, the grassroots governments work with NGOs better because it goes into the assessment of their work performance,” she said.

Gong Shunmei, a deputy to the Shanghai People’s Congress and Party secretary of the No. 7 residential community of Zhenguang Xincun in Putuo District, said sometimes residents’ committees are not willing to use services from NGOs because the use of their budgets is restricted.

She called for more guidance for residents’ committees on the market price of different social services because some services are suspiciously expensive while the budget is not generous enough.

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