An Evaluation of Wildflowers Institute’s
Programs in China in 2004

Yunxiang Yan
Professor of Anthropology
University of California, Los Angeles
February 16, 2005

This report is also available in PDF format.

           In this report I will review and evaluate the work of Wildflowers Institute (WI) in China from late February to December in 2004, using data that I collected through participant observations, sitevisits, in-depth interviews, and small-scale surveys. Dr. Hanmin Liu’s site visits to Beijing and Shanghai in early February, 2004, and their immediate effects has already been reviewed in the previous evaluation. One of the important decisions made during the 2004 February visit was to recruit Ms. Song Qinghua as a special trainer for WI’s programs in China and, for this purpose, to bring her to the United States for an intensive training program. This decision proved to be strategically important and fruitful because it turned a new page for WI’s work in China, as will be shown below.

In the first section of this report, I will examine the methodology of Ms. Song’s training in the United States and then discuss the effects of this training, especially how Ms. Song applied her training to the actual work of curriculum development in China. While meeting WI’s original goal of developing a teaching manual for community leadership in China, Song’s work also resulted in a successful training workshop for socially sustainable communities and leadership development in late December in Beijing, which represents a new step forward in WI’s China program. More important, by way of the Beijing training workshop, Dr. Liu visited Ningbo, a coastal city in southeast China, and established a new partnership with the local government that will yield more work for WI in China. Almost every step in this direction of work was characterized by high efficiency and fruitful outcomes, a huge success indeed.

In the second section, I will review WI’s continuing projects that grew out of previous projects in 2003 or earlier, which include the project on the social health of elderly people in the Sitang community, Shanghai; the research on dietary patterns and public health conducted by a group of scholars at the Capital University of Medical Science, Beijing; and the International Leadership Training project with the Meiyuan community in Shanghai and the Guangwai community in Beijing. The rate of progress in these projects varies from one case to another, but they all produced positive outcomes.

I conclude the evaluation report with several more general comments, all of which are concerned with WI’s operation and programming in China.

In short, WI’s 2004 program in China was a tremendous success that exceeded expectations. When WI finalized its work plan in early 2004, its only aim was to complete the three continuing projects (see the second section) and the special training program for Song Qinghua that helped her understand the WI theory and tools and prepare for writing the training manual in China. The completion of the training manual was expected to be part of the 2005 work plan. Most noteworthy are the Beijing training workshop and Ningbo site visit, both of which were not even in the original work plan. When we compare WI’s actual achievements with its original work plan, we see that WI’s China program did extremely well in 2004 and that its success will lead to an expansion and deepening of its work in China in the near future.

WI’s 2004 success may have important implications at a macro level of community building because Chinese society is undergoing rapid changes under the combined impact of a globalizing market economy from the outside world and a radical transformation of social norms/values from within the society. As a result, Chinese communities are facing similar challenges as are their counterparts in the United States, such as the rise of ultra-utilitarian individualism, social isolation and alienation, loss of meaning in life, decline of social trust, increasing generation gaps and crime rates, and the lack of security and safety in communities. But, unlike the United States, China does not have a strong tradition of civil society and public participation, which makes community work even more challenging and urgent. WI’s work China, therefore, is both timely and much needed. Building on its achievements in 2004, WI will very likely reach a much higher level through its training center in the city of Ningbo and other projects in 2005.

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