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“中国基金会研究基础数据库”(简称RICF)由中美从事中国基金会研究的学者发起、成立及研发,由英明泰思具体运作,浙江敦和基金会资助,华益儿童服务中心协助财务管理。RICF主要功能是向国内外学者提供开放、免费的中国基金会原始数据,为学术研究提供服务。

RICF提供的数据主要有三个特点:第一,关系型数据库,结构清晰、开放,易于不同研究问题和研究者使用;第二,全部原始数据均可免费下载,为宏观实证研究提供可能;第三,在版本控制的基础上,数据质量不断完善。

美国的Urban Institute,Foundation Center以及GuideStar等数据机构,为学者和公众提供了关于美国基金会的详实息础信息,以这些数据为基础产生了大量学术文章,推动了知识生产,而这些知识又进一步推动了整个领域的发展以及政府决策。但在中国,这样的生态还未形成。

学者在进行中国基金会研究的时候,经常因数据不足或难以获取而困难重重。仅有的数据库(基金会中心网和中国基金会网)在设计上也很难满足学术研究的需求,例如:基金会数据都是以单个基金会形式呈现,无法支持学者进行大规模的横向和纵向比较,难以进行宏观的实证研究。经过我们的统计,2004到2015这十年间,在中国核心学术期刊上发表的关于基金会的学术文章不足三百篇,其中利用数据所做的实证研究不足五十篇,重要原因之一就是缺乏数据。

基于以上现状,2015年3月,RICF的创始团队决定开始收集并开放中国基金会数据。

数据库网站上线12小时内,访问量就超过了500个独立IP,访问人次则超过2000。新华社英文版在数据库网站上线当天就发稿进行了报道,环球时报英文版也做了转载;《中国慈善家》杂志、中央一台、新加坡《南华早报》均和团队成员表示希望访谈主创人员。由此我们看到RICF具有一定的社会影响力,符合学术界和业界的需求。


Scholarly interest in civil society in contemporary China began in the mid-1980s. Studies on Chinese civil society have various theoretical and practical implications, for example, the state–society relationship and the democratization process in China. However, although China is becoming an important and rapidly growing political and economic power, our knowledge about Chinese civil society remains limited. The majority of previous studies on Chinese civil society are dominated by paradigms originating in Western political philosophy or the so-called “Anglosphere” cultures, for example, the Tocquevillian civil society paradigm, which regards civil society as a necessary power to check the state, or the “state-corporatism” paradigm, which considers civil society as a dependency of the state. However, none of these paradigms can provide sufficient explanations for understanding Chinese civil society. The lack of cultural diversity and indigenous paradigms is a major challenge but little progress has been made since the 1980s.

A major challenge for making progress on this research topic is the lack of data for empirical studies on which new theories can be built and tested. In the United States, data extracted from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 Forms (Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-PF, and Form 990-N) has boosted knowledge production on civil society and the nonprofit sector. However, unlike the United States, where there are numerous institutions that provide database services to scholars (e.g., GuideStar, Urban Institute, and Foundation Center, etc.), few counterparts in China have emerged and none of them can adequately serve academic research –– the datasets are neither structured for research purposes nor easily accessible.

In responding to this critical data scarcity challenge, we built a database for studying Chinese foundations – the Research Infrastructure of Chinese Foundations parenRICF). The foundation (jijinhui) is one of the three organizational forms of registered NGOs. The other two are membership-based association (shehui tuanti) and social service organization (shehui fuwu jigou, formerly named as minban feiqiye danwei). Among these three organizational forms, foundations are the most developed organizational form and dominant civic power in China, and they are critical for strategically preserving the autonomy of civil society from state control.

The structure of the RICF is designed and normalized according to the Three Normal Forms. The database schema consists of three major themes: a basic organizational profile of foundations (i.e., basic profile, board member, supervisor, staff, and related party tables), program information (i.e., program information, major program, program relationship, and major recipient tables), and financial information (i.e., financial position, financial activities, cash flow, activity overview, and large donation tables). The RICF’s data quality can be measured by four criteria: data source reputation and credibility, completeness, accuracy, and timeliness. Data records are properly versioned, allowing verification and replication for research purposes.