Author: Steve Koon, Founder of Innovate 99 Impact Investment Consulting
Source: “China-UK Social Enterprise and Social Investment Case Studies” publication
Edited by: British Council Society Team
Like many other parents, Chen Jie could not find a good school for her child when she discovered that he had autism. She realised this was a widespread problem, and so established ‘Xingbao Shangxue’, or ‘Star Camp’, in Shanghai. “Xingbao” means “children from the stars”, which refers to the autistic children, and “Shangxue” means “go to school”, which is the simplest and most direct goal of the project.
In China, less than 1% of autistic children can access proper services, and even then the quality is very poor. Furthermore, in order to survive, the autistic schools take in many different types of students. These children have different problems such as learning disorders, reading or writing problems, Down’s syndrome and autism. From the very beginning, Chen Jie had a more precise target group than other schools, focusing on providing specialist services to autistic children.
With a clear goal in mind, Chen Jie redesigned the brand and management model of her school, taking advantage of the chain business model and social enterprise approach to open up other schools. In April 2014, the first branch school of Star Camp opened in Tianjin with the help of the mother of one of the children at Star Camp.
Through Star Camp, Chen Jie has successfully helped autistic children to enter ordinary schools, and her experience has become a good example for many parents. In 2013, Peking University Press published a book written by Chen called “The Snail Takes Me for a Walk”. The book describes in detail her experiences with the children and proved extremely moving for thousands of parents, becoming a best seller in the autistic children’s market.
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