My first three weeks as an intern at swissnex China in Shanghai have already been extremely rewarding and eye-opening in so many ways. Here I would like to talk about three of those ways.
However, before that, I would like to briefly introduce you on what I am doing at swissnex China. Until the end of August 2013, I will be working on a research project on philanthropy in China. The project, which is supported by the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, has three elements. First, the project aims to give a general overview of the Chinese philanthropy sector, its characteristics and particularities. Second, we plan to conduct a survey among Chinese founders about their motives and attitudes. Third, the project tries to take a closer look at the link between philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, and new concepts such as venture philanthropy and impact investing.
By being a swissnex intern, I have tapped a source to a vast network of people with all kinds of personal, academic and professional backgrounds, coming from all over the world. Whether a social entrepreneur setting up homes for autistic children in Shanghai, an ex-consultant at Boston Group Consulting turned philanthropy consultant or a young journalist who tries to connect local Chinese farmers and agritech suppliers, the people I got to meet are truly inspiring, and they are all somehow linked to swissnex.
There is no doubt that swissnex China's network – which is almost synonymous with Pascal Marmier's network – will be greatly beneficial to my future academic and professional path. As a student currently gaining more working experience, I am now learning that there is a lot more to the word «networking» than overused business lingo. Networking can be about finding true common ground for common motivations, causes and goals.
Being in China and meeting new people, however, are not only very valuable experiences for practical reasons but for personal ones as well. Living here regularly makes me stop and reflect, realize how fortunate and privileged my life has been, and generally helps put things in perspective. When you are in Europe, it is difficult to comprehend the sheer scope and complexity of the current social, political and economic changes taking place in China. A beggar, who probably experienced the Cultural Revolution, standing in front of a McDonald's makes you think how far China has come and wonder where it is going.