Governments are increasingly using the organizations to provide services for communities, as Li Lei reports from Jinan.
On Jan 8, the Ministry of Civil Affairs released a guideline that encouraged local governments to further develop NGOs to ensure they play an increasingly active role in social governance at the grassroots level.
In recent years, the number of government-backed NGO incubators, which identify promising startups and provide training programs, has mushroomed.
Since 2012, one incubator in Jinan, capital of Shandong province, has hatched hundreds of NGOs, which have helped to tackle problems the city government is unable to handle owing to a lack of personnel or professional skills, or both.
Before 2016, when the Jinan government adopted the Qianshou Xiyang, or "Join Hands with Seniors", program, few elderly people in the city's Chengpinyuan community knew each other.
Many "empty-nest seniors", people whose children work in other cities or even overseas, were living isolated lives and had developed serious psychological issues as a result. However, few people, including their families, realized problems existed.
"But after the social workers intervened, seniors began stepping out of doors to join activities such as sports meetings. Those with shared interests formed their own groups. After receiving psychological counseling, many empty-nest seniors opened up and told us their sorrows," said Zheng Yi, director of the Raindrop Public Service Center, the NGO that developed Qianshou Xiyang.
The 22-year-old, who founded Raindrop when she was a third-year college student, registered the volunteer group with the local civil affairs bureau in 2016 and started providing government-funded services in the community.