Archiving Chinese Grassroots NGOs

Archiving Chinese NGOs

At the pilot stage, the project is focusing on environmental, gender, and health NGO sectors. More specifically, it is acquiring and preserving print materials (such as legal documents, working files, etc.) and online materials (such as organizational websites, digital publications, blogs, message boards, Chinese Twitter, etc.).

The sectors of environmental, gender, and health NGOs have been chosen for the comparative method of difference, which compares cases that are similar in theoretically relevant aspects but that differ in outcomes. For example, all those sectors started in a similar position in the 1990s with support from overseas and urban middle-class leaders. Over time, however, they moved in drastically different directions.

Three theoretical and methodological approaches distinguish this project from existing organizational studies in general and nonprofit studies in particular.

(1) I focus on different NGO sectors as self-contained multi-organizational fields, each operating more or less autonomously with its own origins, issues, actors, structure, and processes. The collection of documents thus provides a preliminary mapping of the landscape of each sector at the meso level.

(2) Instead of highlighting individual organizations, this project concentrates on meaning systems and networks shared within each sector among NGOs, as well as between NGOs and other organizations, such as governments and foundations.

(3) This project challenges the assumption that the proliferation of NGOs reflects the growth of civil society; instead, it examines the relationship between NGO sectors and local communities. The question is whether the development of NGO sectors in China is a political, organizational, or social phenomenon?

This project is currently supported by the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, East Asian Library, and Digital Library System and Service of Stanford University.