What is sustainable development?

"Sustainable development" is commonly defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The term is coined and popularized by the 1987 Brundtland Report, titled "Our Common Future", a report commissioned by UN. Industrialization has been occurring on an unprecedented scale and speed worldwide; unbridled economic growth in many places has led to environmental degradation, ecological devastation, social breakdown, and worsening inequality. We believe that an alternative path to a more sustainable development, through education, training, and advocacy, is necessary and possible. This is the guiding principle of Zigen Fund.

Why does Zigen emphasize girls' education?

First of all, we believe elementary and secondary education is a basic human right, which should be guaranteed to both sexes. However, in many societies, girls' education are ignored and devalued. The earliest Zigen projects focused on girls' education to address the huge disparity in enrollment rates observed in rural China. Subsequently, research all over the world has consistently demonstrated that investing in girls' education is one of the best ways to promote social development in poor rural communities. Better educated girls tend to stay in the local communities and contribute more to its development as citizens and as mothers. It has been widely demonstrated that education and empowerment of women is the most effective means to improve the livelihood of families and communities. While continuing to support girls' education, Zigen programs and projects have now evolved to include community based development in the village and migrant workers, and training for teachers and rural leadership.

Why should we still help China when it is already so rich?

Even as China becomes the second largest economy in the world, the average per capita income in China is still relatively low (ranked 90 out of 190 countries according to World Bank 1990-2011 data). Moreover, the average income for a large number of people living in rural China still falls below 2 US dollar per day. While we agree that many of the projects that Zigen supports should be the responsibility of the Chinese government, we believe that it is imperative that the unmet urgent needs could be and should be addressed in the meantime.

How can I be sure that my donation will be used as intended, i.e., helping the poor?

Zigen has one of the lowest overhead (or G&A) rate amongst its peers; over 95% of the donations it receives are directed to its programs. The low overhead is accomplished by in-kind donations and labor input by a strong network of long time volunteers and Board members. Zigen's financial statements are audited by reputable accounting firms every year. In addition, donors and friends of Zigen conduct self-funded trips to project sites over the years to monitor the progress and to interact with the local people who are beneficiaries of Zigen's projects.

Can I communicate with the people who receive Zigen’s help?

We understand that you may have a desire to communicate directly with the people who are beneficiaries of Zigen's programs, esp. those funded by your donation. However, we generally do not support or encourage such direct communication (due to potential undesirable effects on the part of those being helped and the extra coordination required of our staff).

How do you decide where to develop your projects? And what projects to support? And the budget?

We select counties with relatively low income level for further project development. One key decision factor is the availability of capable and reliable local partners such as village leaders and school principals who are committed to work with Zigen to develop and implement projects. Typically, the local partners will identify the urgent unmet needs; the local Zigen staff would work interactively with the local partners to develop the scope and budget for review and approval by Zigen's project committee.

Is Zigen related to the Chinese government? Does Zigen work with the Chinese government?

Zigen is founded, supported and staffed by members of the civil society; we are registered with the Chinese government (and other governments including the United States, Taiwan, and Hong Kong) as required by its laws and we operate according to its regulations. The China Zigen organization complies with the Chinese law as a fully registered NGO, the Chinese government does not have direct control over Zigen. For most of Zigen's projects, Zigen works with the local government entities (such as the education bureau, the Women Federation, the health department, etc.) and other local partners (such as the teachers, parents and community leaders) to develop and implement projects. In addition, Zigen does apply to the Chinese government for grants to support some of its projects; in such instances, Zigen works with the Chinese government as one of its donors.