The Global Environmental Institute (GEI)
by Ji-Qiang Zhang and Christine Tsang
Social and environmental change depends on dynamic individuals and organizations working on the ground for a vision of a more robust and vibrant world. blue moon fund’s giving is guided by this understanding of the importance of effective leaders and institutions. Our work seeks to identify, cultivate, and strengthen a diversity of practitioners and institutions necessary to improve the human condition and to transform the resource-heavy pattern of traditional development.
blue moon searches for local “keystone” partners—nimble, dedicated, well-placed organizations which are able to leverage and multiply the impact of their work through engaged partnerships with government or the private sector. In some cases, these organizations must be created or incubated in spaces where none existed before. So it was in 2003, when blue moon launched an effort to buttress the Chinese environmental movement through the creation of a new organization which would work to pioneer China-specific solutions and strategies. For it to be effective, it would need to work to bridge the apparent divide between economic, social, and ecological well-being. A leader was found in Mme. Jin Jiaman, an environmental expert with years of experience in Chinese government agencies and a desire to work more directly, and effectively, on critical environmental issues. A year later, in 2004, a new organization known as the Global Environmental Institute was born.
At the time of its founding, the Global Environmental Institute, or GEI, was one of China’s only homegrown local environmental NGOs, working at the national level as well as on transnational issues. Registered in Beijing under Chinese non-profit, non-governmental law, GEI’s mission was to “provide market-based models for solving environmental problems in order to achieve development that is economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable.” Emerging in a new wave of civil society development, GEI worked to expand the role of the NGO in China and sought to harness the benefits of the market and the instruments of policy to marshal in a new paradigm of Chinese development and civil engagement.
While the organization continues to mature, GEI’s activities to date have been instructive and encouraging. It has worked to develop local capacity, both by supporting and incubating new NGOs and training current and future government leaders through an environmental curriculum at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party. It has created models for ecologically-sound rural development by helping local communities conserve the ecosystems upon which their livelihoods depend and by establishing market-linkages for rural communities and sustainable rural micro-enterprises. GEI has led efforts to facilitate local and international dialogue on climate change between governments, research bodies, and NGOs and to apply innovative financing models in the creation of energy efficiency service companies and the commercialization of energy-related technologies. As it works from within, GEI has also increasingly looked beyond China’s borders. The organization looks to the profound impact of its country’s widening footprint across its borders and seeks to help China become a leader in environmentally-sustainable practices.
GEI demonstrates the potential of individuals and institutions, as it continues to build toward its vision of a strong and just society which upholds its responsibility to both environment and community.