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Participatory Governance of Learning Community: from "Whale" to "Octopus"

(People's Daily Online)

14:17, July 28, 2011

Community, the primary unit for social activities, is a platform for education, guidance, improvement, transformation and innovation. China can learn from Singapore's experience in community management and change today's "whale" management system into an "octopus" one. Under a "whale" system, the government provides all community infrastructure and services including community clinics, household service centers, nurseries and kindergartens. In contrast, under an "octopus" system, the government withdraws from massive community affairs and changes its role to regulator-promoter, who provides plans and invites the private sector and civil society to participate. This new system intends to create a new concept and development theme featuring community culture.

To realize Octopus Management, government should require investors to present an advanced comprehensive community management idea and seek multi-innovative ways of design, with a purpose to realize the basic function of learning-oriented community. Currently, Chinese real estate development regards hard design as the priority and tends to ignore community culture construction. As the house price goes higher and higher, the original concept of "people-oriented" disappears. And an octopus management can help to change this situation in China.

Singapore's party and government insist on the idea of "government direct and organization strengthen, unified instruction and democratic self-governance, people oriented and social participation " to build a civilized community bearing political and economic value. In community management, Singapore put great emphasis on community plan, public houses and welfare facilities. Their communities have complete basic infrastructure and organization with community management features, such as people association, citizen inquire center. Those organizations, together with neighborhood committees and the major part, form a complete and flexible management system featuring neighbors, civil defense and race committee. Community is the most important platform for representatives, party members and volunteers where the means of participation become more and more regular and systematic. These are all preconditions for constructing a learning community. Leaning is the core of community life in the 21st century. Community in 21st aims at reconstructing national value including love, filial piety, modesty, honesty, hard work and thrifty on the basis of new Confucianism and gives new meaning to Confucian ethics .

To some extent, significant improvement has been made in Chinese community management, especially in its hard design. China should not only go further on its path to reestablish the protective meaning of community, but also make effort to build up a regular and systematic work pattern for people's representatives, party members, and people committee members. Combining Singapore experience and China's situation and development concept, 21st Century Learning Community is a process of building communities that are learning centers of Chinese culture including the philosophy of human and heaven unified as one, sustainable development and harmonious creation and culture and economic development. This center is modernized to provide a learning situation combining reality and fancy, make learning jump out of the restriction of time and space, offer education chances, seek innovation and cultivate citizen's awareness and ability to renew learning resource.

Government should build a community think tank to propose plan, review development concept and establish some schools, libraries and learning resources. Government does not have to involve too much into community but to leave daily management aside and using community as a platform for party members, enterprises and individuals study by promoting the idea of "life-long learning, open-learning, fair-learning, active-learning and group learning".

Under the background of faster urbanization and residents service development, community employment is on increase. By the end of 2009, community employment entities reached 135.210 , increasing by 13.8%. The employment number reached 2.676.000, new employment 405.000 (urban new employment of the country reached 11 million). Female employment rate reached 47.8% of the total. According to the development need of the community, it is urgent to build up a community learning center.

China's aging population is on the rise and proportion of retirees who live in the community is increasing. In 2009, the national average rate is 75.2%, provinces like Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Shandong already exceeded 90% . As a result, elder citizens learning shall also become a tendency and continuously showed its signs. Schools, culture centers, and volunteer service centers for elders begin to work.

With its strong intellectual support and government policy support, an Octopus learning community construction will provide a necessary platform and service for people learning and life-long learning and form a people-oriented system during the process of addressing the aging problems and urbanization issues. "A learning pattern that is directed by government, self-administrated by community, opened to all people, and provide service for people and elder citizens" is a major choice for future development.


1.The "whale-style" community management is defined in this article as "the government and state-owned enterprises cover all facilities within easy reach of ordinary people including nurseries, kindergartens and family services in a planned economy".

2.The "octopus-style" community management is defined in this article as "the government is only responsible for overall plan, public platform establishment, thought and policy support as well as connection design within community. Specific affairs and community services are relatively left to socialized management."

3.Peng Houde, Experiences and Revelations from Singapore's Community Construction, Study Monthly, No. 2, 2011.

4.China Labor Statistical Yearbook 2010.

5.China Labor Statistical Yearbook 2010.


Leave your comment2 comments

  1. Name

OpJwqWpy at 2011-08-23184.107.155.*
Stllear work there everyone. I'll keep on reading.
eKaVelbBtraCyjdrk at 2011-08-22195.137.173.*
Haahhhaa. I'm not too bright today. Great post!

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