Change Magazine January 2018 Issue - Page 52

there have been many parents visiting us who learned about us from the news. They expressed their willingness to send their children to our center. However, due to our limited capacity we could not accommodate all the requests yet. Diinsider: Does the center face any financial challenges? How do you deal with them? Cao Jun: As a social enterprise, our income mainly comes from payment for our car washing services. In addition, we also sell car accessories and include waxing and maintenance to our services. Challenges occur during the rainy season as there would be fewer clients then. Diinsider: Do you follow an operation model? What do you think is the advantage of this model? Cao Jun: The center adopts corporate management models and each center has 10-15 employees with different levels of mental challenges. Two trainers, three experts and one full-time manager would accompany them and provide them with training modules as well as assistance in their daily operations. Our employees sometimes have challenges in learning by themselves, so the center breaks down operations into different and clear modules, and encourage them to evaluate their performances, and assign them to the best positions. When they are free, they tend to take training courses or exercises that help them improve their body. 48 Our center has 3 advantages compared with other similar initiatives: First, it proves to be able to improve employment for mentally challenged people. According to the 2nd census of population with disabilities in China, less than 40% of people with disabilities are employed, and only 10% of people (out of 12 million people) with mental challenges are employed. Even though the government has taken actions to require public and private sector to maintain minimum 1.5% employment opportunities for people with disabilities, many companies are still reluctant to employ them. Our center is here to change the game. Second, our center is replicable, and can provide plenty of employment opportunities. There is a huge need for car washing and one center can only serve its clients within 3-kilometer distance. Change Magazine January 2018 In addition, the establishment of a car washing center is not so costly and training is relatively easier as well. We have also included a set of evaluation criteria for reference of our employees, so that they can track their personal growth. Third, our center strives to provide high quality services to attract more customers, and our employees are encouraged to earn a living with their skills and services, instead of sympathy from the general public. This is more sustainable. Diinsider: What kind of feedback do you get from their families? Cao Jun: Parents are always supportive. Even at the beginning, many parents were already supporting my idea as they thought this would be a feasible solution for their children. So far, our center has operated in Shenzhen for over 2 years, and We are trying to push the government to pay attention and potentially provide subsidies for mentally challenged people to get employed. We are also calling on professional trainers who can spend more efforts in training the employees. This will significantly reduce burden of organizations such as our center. Diinsider: Were there any referable case in Taiwan or other areas when you chose this business model? Did you have conversations with other domestic and foreign organizations and share each other’s experience? If so, in which aspect and what extent were you inspired? Cao Jun: Before founding the center, I made a 1.5 years’ field research in places like Taiwan and Japan, wishing to learn the business concepts and models from organizations which provide employment for the mentally retarded people, as well as their pros and cons. However, few cases were rather implicative due to the huge discrepancies among fields like culture, economics, and politics. During the process of planning and implementing our projects, we remained committed to our original ideas to assist our mentally retarded friends in employment. The fact that they could not find proper jobs only suggests the need to perfect the work like ours. 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