Launched via Weibo (an alternative to Twitter), FL4C owes its success to its mass reach on social media. Since its launch, the charity has been feeding over 265,000 children courtesy of the generous donations received by the Chinese public.
Having raised over 400 million renminbi, FL4C has invested in building kitchens inside schools to provide nutritious meals to children from deprived areas in China. Due to the lack of basic nutrition, malnourishment prevails within these areas resulting in children not growing, this is precisely the issue the charity aims to tackle.
Although NGO activity in China takes place within an authoritarian context, the use of social media and the desire for change has enabled collective and connective action to flourish. Starting in 2011, Free Lunch began with Deng Fei, an ordinary Weibo user, giving out a message of encouragement to his followers to donate money for his cause. It was only a few days later that Deng registered the Free Lunch for Children Foundation under the China Social Welfare Education Foundation.
Yet NGO’s in China are controlled and supervised by the government leading to a lack of transparency and trust between charities and the public. Consequently, charities face limited resources and are reduced in their ability to influence and reach goals. This is further accompanied by a lack of media coverage whereby charities are strictly kept at low profile.
Despite these challenges, FL4C has succeeded due to its approach of documenting all activity via Weibo in order to keep its followers up-to-date with where their donations go to. Within the authoritarian political regime of China this enforces transparency and accountability, leading to greater trust from the public.