Organization: Asia Business Management Program, York University
Location: Shanghai, China
China’s Civil Society in the Information Age: A Case Study of Free Lunch
This Major Research Paper is a qualitative exploration of Free Lunch, an innovative bottom-up initiative that provides lunches to poor rural schoolchildren. Founded in 2011, it relies upon social media, crowdfunding, extensive use of volunteers and cooperation with local governments in 23 provinces. The study is based on extensive field research with key members of Free Lunch in a number of provinces. It shows that a new type of grassroots civil society is emerging in China in cooperation with local governments; Secondly, Free Lunch’s reliance on social media has opened up avenues for increased public participation through crowdfunding and collective volunteering activities. The example of Free Lunch highlights the importance of the rise of social media and their effect on future state-society relations in China.