Settling the Drifting Body and Mind


In the mainstream economy, the person can be reduced to an economic being. This particularly holds true for the migrant worker, who struggles at the bottom strata of life in China’s urban areas. Without a real neighbourhood or other natural links, migrant workers live at the assembly line by day and in a tiny cubicle by night, with the body and mind unsettled. Their emotional, cultural and spiritual needs are often suppressed and neglected.

PCD stands alongside partners and migrant workers to reflect on the impacts that the mainstream development paradigm has on both people and the environment. By continuous efforts to address diverse needs, we hope that migrant workers adrift can have inner peace and a settled life.

From 2013 to 2016, we invited community workers and scholars to share their experiences with various community economy models; small grants were also offered to organisations providing services to migrant workers. In 2016, we supported the formation of the Beijing Community Economy Learning Group to strengthen the network of five migrant worker community organisations, all in Beijing, and to consolidate their learning and resources.

Beijing Mulan Huakai Social Work Service Centre (Mulan) and Beijing Hongyan Social Work Service Centre (Hongyan) are two partners of the learning group. Encountering problems in implementing community economy projects in the past, Mulan and Hongyan have since identified the need for learning; in the second half of 2016, support projects were launched in partnership with PCD, including training with experienced community facilitator who adopts the method of action research. Three workshops in community economy strategy, concepts and organising have also been held since 2017.

Participants have started to think out of the box. In the beginning, it was inevitable that they were bound by the term ‘economic’ and tied it with business operations and transactions and the like, perceiving that their own economic model and development path needed to follow international and domestic ones, such as co-operatives and second-hand shops. Through the learning group and the three workshops, participants have broadened their views on community economy, which is no longer one particular model, but appears in a myriad of forms. The key lies in the philosophy embraced and the values upheld.

Mulan and migrant workers are currently in the process of developing their own model. Along the way, closer community relationships have been forming through various community-level discussions and activities, such as a support group for fathers, collective purchases of food from migrant workers’ hometowns, and a community school bus scheme – these not only bring warmth and ease for migrant workers but are also a kinder economics in action.

Hongyan acknowledges that nurturing members can be a slow and meticulous process. Yet this is exactly what community economy does best. Over the past two years, the Hongyan team has learned together with domestic workers about chemicals in detergents. They have formed The Beautiful Aunties, a group of people who make eco-soap and market their handmade products. Through the process, domestic workers’ self-agency has deepened, as has their sense of belonging in the migrant worker community. They communicate better and more closely with each other, and feel they are better listeners. Emotionally and spiritually, they live with more patience and modesty. Through co-learning, co-making and co-marketing, Hongyan and domestic workers have created an unexpected enrichment of life.

(from Annual Report 2017-2018