Social enterprise helps keep Chinese families together

Social enterprise Shengshi Jingxiu helps families stay together, earn decent wages and preserve their traditional culture amidst the biggest migration in human history.

  • Success: Shengshi Jingxiu, Social Enterprise
  • Industry: Textiles
  • Country: China
  • Key fact: 3000 women trained so far in rural China

61 million Chinese children have not seen one or both parents for at least three months. This is because in the last 30 years, more than 250 million rural workers have moved to coastal cities and factory towns, taking on labour intensive jobs and living in cramped accommodations. The costs of living are much higher, and China's residency laws bar rural citizens from fully accessing urban social services such as health care and education. meaning many leave their children behind. Most so-called “left behind” children live with their grandparents or other relatives, but two million of them have no adult guardian at home. The long separations visibly take their toll as one study found that over 70% of children in rural China show signs of problems such as anxiety and depression.

Shengshi Jingxiu

Shengshi Jingxiu is a social enterprise that addresses this wrenching problem. It creates well paid jobs in the poor, rural south-western province of Guizhou in order to entice prospective migrant parents to stay home. Over 35% of Guizhou’s population is comprised of non-Han Chinese ethnic minorities such as the Miao and Dong that produce handsome traditional handicrafts such as embroidered fabrics, dyed batiks and fine silver wares. To date, it has trained 3,000 women to use these techniques in making fashionable clothing and design products which are sold across China. So in addition to providing employment for women and supporting families to stay together, it helps preserve traditional culture.

According to He Bowen, its Chief Marketing Officer, “What we do may look very simple, but it is actually very complicated. We have organised disparate household craft producers into structured community enterprises [and] developed a very fashionable line of clothing and household goods, enabling us to command high prices and develop a thriving business.”

This year, Mr He expects to train another 1,000-2,000 women and significantly scale up and support more communities because they have just secured investment funding and incubation support from LGT Venture Philanthropy through the British Council’s Social Investment Platform.

Shengshi Jingxiu is one of 15 Chinese social enterprises to garner funding and incubation support worth a combined total of £900,000 from eight British Council partners through the Social Investment Platform. These 15 social enterprises were selected through a business plan competition that attracted 268 applications.

The British Council and its partners have supported the development of social enterprise in China since 2009. Dr. Mairi Mackay, who leads the British Council’s social enterprise programme, explains that, “China’s social enterprise sector has grown healthily since 2009 but access to investment and management training remain the biggest challenges for social enterprise growth.” She adds, “Our platform provides such essential support to established social enterprises such as Shengshi Jingxiu so that they can create more jobs, address entrenched social problems and bring positive changes to their communities.”