Yicang Neighbourhood Mutual Assistance Program

Practices & Experiences

Yicang Neighbourhood Mutual Assistance Program

Lead organization
Chengdu Aiyouxi Community Development Centre
Civil society organization
Asia and the Pacific
The Yicang Neighborhood Mutual Aid Program promotes community-level formal and informal volunteering using traditional Chinese concepts of community and mutual assistance. The aim of the Program is to build vibrant, resilient communities with strong cultures of volunteering. The Program is active in 83 Chinese cities, with over 800 local Yicang groups and one million volunteers. Yicang volunteers support an average of over 10,000 vulnerable families every month through delivering food, donations and other support through home visits, while also organizing regular community activities such as theatre performances. Yicang volunteers manage regular "Hello Neighbourhood" forums to provide spaces for community residents to discuss local issues, and different online spaces and channels to facilitate communication and requests for help between residents. Outside of formal volunteering activities, Yicang volunteers are encouraged to strengthen community social networks in their spare time. An example of this is the ‘one spoon of rice’ challenge in which volunteers knock on the doors of 10 strangers to receive a spoonful of rice from each resident, that is then boiled as part of a community meal.
SDG contribution highlights

Resilient communities are building blocks of sustainable development. However, rapid societal, economic, technological changes of the 21st Century are breaking the bonds of communities everywhere. The Yicang Program uses a blended model of formal and informal volunteering to encourage local cultures of mutual assistance, recognizing that the benefits of volunteering go beyond the top-down delivery of services. Through strengthening horizontal social bonds, Yicang helps to not only reduce social isolation, but also creates new opportunities for stronger, collective responses to resilience stresses and strains. The Yicang model also works to break down the distinction between service delivery and beneficiaries. Vulnerable and marginalized community members are encouraged to become Yicang volunteers themselves, in recognition that participation can boost confidence and develop soft and hard skills. The Yicang Program also works alongside public social services and has been highlighted as a good practice by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and included in leading social work training courses, including at Tsinghua University and Renmin University.

Lessons learned and success factors

Each Yicang team runs a "public service market” in which volunteers advertise their individual services that they will donate for free to community members. To access the market and take advantage of the donated services, members must register with their local identification documents to prove that they are local residents.

More information