Social Entrepreneurship in China – Findings of the Chinese Social Enterprise Survey

While in some countries, social entrepreneurship has been growing for years already, it has only recently begun to emerge in china. This explains why there is still little understanding about the current organisational structures, size, origin, scope of work and impact of social enterprises in China. Since around 2004, social entrepreneurship has begun to gain advocates, incubators, impact investors, academic researchers and the media.

In order to fill the current knowledge gap and better understand the social entrepreneurship movement in China, FYSE has conducted an annual survey among social entrepreneurs in China for the past two years.


Findings of the Chinese Social Enterprise Survey

  • 95% of the survey respondents started to get involved in social entrepreneurship after 2006. A major driver was the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 which boosted the creation of social enterprises even further.
  • The recent interest in social enterprises is also reflected by the youthfulness of the sector. 54% of the surveyed enterprises are under three years old and only 38% are older than five years. The survey also found that the percentage of mature enterprises is on the rise. While social enterprises older than five years constituted 15% in 2011, this number rose to 38% in 2012. Overall, the sector is still limited in scale and economic impact, mainly due to its youthfulness.
  • 71% of surveyed social enterprises are still very small and generate less than 500,000 Yuan (approx. 75,000 USD) in annual revenues and while they are growing in size over time, even older social enterprises are still quite small in scope. Only two survey respondents stated that their company achieved a turnover above 10 mio. Yuan (approx. 1.5mio USD).
  • 63% of surveyed social enterprises operate on a village or city level only and are therefore limited in geographic scope. 13% operate on provincial level, 17% on national level and only 8% on international level.
  • Social entrepreneurship in China is very centralised. Beijing and Shanghai have become major hubs, hosting two-thirds of the headquarters of surveyed social enterprises. Just a handful of social enterprises operate out of China’s smaller cities.

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