Diageo sponsors further training plan

Updated: 2012-12-24 05:41

By Huang Ying (China Daily)

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Qin Xiuping was busy giving lectures to the new trainees of the British Council's Skills for Social Entrepreneurs Project recently but she still showed great interest in taking more financial management training classes offered by the program this year despite finishing the training course provided by the project two years ago.

As secretary-general of Xixiang Women's Development Association, an organization dedicated to helping impoverished women in Xixiang county, Shaanxi province, to start small business by providing them with small loans and consultancy services, Qin has evolved from someone who had never heard of financing to someone skilled in seeking financing from corporations, foundations, banks and local governments, thanks to the training.

Skills for Social Entrepreneurs is a project launched by the British Council in 2009 aimed at identifying and supporting new generations of social entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions to community-based challenges, including environmental and social issues.

The financial training that Qin intends to participate in belongs to another component of the project - the Further Training Program, which was co-launched on Nov 1 by the cultural and education section of the British Embassy and Diageo Plc, a leading global alcoholic beverages group.

Diageo became a partner of the British Council in the project in May of last year and provided a one-year marketing consultancy service for five selected potential social enterprises in China.

This year, the London-based drinks group will invest 750,000 yuan ($120,525) in funding a further training program, which will support workshops in Beijing, Chengdu, Nanjing and Guangzhou for 120 trainees selected by a panel out of hundreds of applicants.

Diageo sponsors further training plan

Accomplished trainers and expert guest speakers will deliver lessons to these trainees from business planning to financial management and marketing techniques. Additionally, this year's program will also offer creative courses, such as social influence investment and interactive marketing with new media.

"But at the same time, we're planning to conduct direct engagement with social entrepreneurs and our employees, in addition to providing capital support," said Lin Menuhin, corporate relations director of Diageo Greater China.

Unlike general entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs are more motivated by their community aspirations instead of the pursuit of profit. Also unlike normal nonprofit or charity organizations, they tend to depend more on themselves to maintain the running of their enterprises with commercial or corporate operational methods so as to address community-based issues in a value-added way.

Compared with the basic course in 2011, which was based more in the classroom, Menuhin thinks this year the training will be more interactive.

Drawing from last year's experience in working with the British Council, Diageo has learned more about Chinese social entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs-to-be.

"I think an issue these people often face is that they find it difficult to translate their passion - to channel it - into a practical program or project. And maybe this is because sometimes they haven't thought clearly enough," Menuhin said.

"It was not until I took training courses under the project in 2009 for the first time that I realized in order to expand our services to more women we should set out our vision and take part in tenders advertised by foundations to extend our channels of financing, as well as making other specific efforts," said Qin.

The scale of loans issued by Xixiang Women's Development Association annually has grown from 2.7 million yuan in 2009 to 7.9 million yuan this year. Its beneficiary households increased from 300 to 1,500 during this period, according to Qin.

Other problems with nascent Chinese social entrepreneurs include their not thinking to promote themselves or building up a better developed network of social entrepreneurs, through which people could communicate with each other to get more experience, said Menuhin.

Diageo also sponsored the publication of a compilation of excellent social enterprise examples in the United Kingdom. The guidebook also contains contact information for these pioneers. It is Diageo's contribution to supporting the networking.

"As I said, the learning is not just through formal classroom training sessions. The learning is from shared experience," Menuhin said.

"Diageo's support of our project underscores our shared commitment to helping social entrepreneurs address social and environmental issues, deliver benefits to communities and foster sustainable economic growth," said Mairi Mackay, first secretary of the British Embassy's cultural and education section and director of society and development at the British Council in China.


(China Daily 12/24/2012 page22)