little bird hotline for migrant workers has been offering rights protection service to the migrant community for 12 years

little bird hotline for migrant workers has been offering rights protection service to the migrant community for 12 years

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Through our activities on migrant workers’ rights protection in China, the world will be motivated to pay attention and support Chinese civil society development.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Every year, China’s migrant population grows by 300 million; in 2010, 250 million members of the migrant population worked in cities. They work in the construction and clothing industries, fall between the ages of 16 and 60, and their income falls between 800 and 2000 RMB per month. The ratio of men to women, based on the differences in the city, has some divergence. In Shenzhen, the worker gender proportions are fairly prominent, with women making up 65% of the working population while men make up the remaining 35%. In other regions, men greatly outnumber women. • Over 80% of migrant workers do not sign labor contracts, and 75% of migrant workers live with high risks to their rights and interests, lacking basic medical and unemployment insurance, and not enjoying the government protection provided by insurance and benefit opportunities. Because of restrictions in the household registration system, the children of migrant workers cannot fully benefit from education opportunities in the cities. Upon entering the city, they face many difficulties. • The government, in terms of solving the problem of migrant workers’ rights and interests, sees the needs of workers’ rights-protection as middling and hard-to-satisfy. Therefore, it finds not having a labor contract as a reason to refuse help. The long-term poor state of factory and business working conditions has led to many migrant workers contracting work-related illnesses. Not receiving work-related illness appraisal in a timely fashion then causes economic and health-related hardship, even death. The union system limits worker protests, and as workers occupy a weak position in terms of individual rights, also leads to workers having no method of receiving more help from civil society.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

1. Great demands:Based on a survey by related government bureaus, 72.5% of migrant workers’ salaries suffered varying degrees of default. The root cause of migrant workers’ labor disputes is that government policies lag behind and remain unenforced, and 80% of migrant workers do not sign labor contracts. Little Bird’s hotline service exactly suits migrant workers’ most pressing demands. 2.Inter-city network coverage:Little Bird successfully deploy civil society resources, including volunteers, lawyers, experts from institutes of higher learning, media reporters, and international organizations, and has brought the development and use of these powerful resources into play in order to realize the goal of helping disadvantaged people. This model has been successfully replicated in Guangzhou’s Shenzhen, the Northeast’s Shenyang, and East China’s Shanghai, basically covering China’s four representative economic areas, and with coverage service involving 80 million people. Every year, between 8000 and 12000 migrants are provided with legal and training services. 3. The utilization of media resources: Since its start in 1999, Little Bird has successfully partnered with Beijing radio station, creating a program for workers to come and narrate their stories, allowing people from all walks of life to know their real lives in the city and giving them the right to express their opinions. Meanwhile, it also realizes the organization’s mission. In 2006, it successfully replicated this experience, setting up a similar workers’ stories radio program in Shenyang.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

From 1999 to 2003, during the organization’s early development stage, activity primarily focused on providing fellow workers with free legal consulting services, employment information, workers’ social activities and developing small-scale community service activities. Publicity channels were primarily through Radio Beijing, newspapers and Internet media, as well as mutual communication between workers. From 2004 to 2006, through helping a large number of workers, Little Bird also received extensive news media coverage. This attracted the attention of the Beijing Judicial Bureau, and Little Bird received the authorization of the Judicial Bureau to establish the Little Bird People’s Mediation Committee. From this time, it changed from only providing legal aid as a method; now the organization could meet face to face with employers and help workers whose payments were in arrears with labor disputes. Every year, the organization meets the needs of between 4000 and 6000 migrant workers who come seeking rights-protection help. From 2006 to 2011, Little Bird began opening hotlines in other cities. In 2006, separate offices were established in Shenzhen and Shenyang. In June 2011, the organization opened its fourth office in Shanghai. The objective of the four offices is the same, “to defend the rights and interests of workers.” At the same time, they have also increased general knowledge on legal training to migrant workers, training on assimilating into urban areas, and greatly increasing migrant workers ability to self-protect their rights and interests.
About You
Little Bird Mutual-Aid Hotline for Migrant Workers
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Little Bird Mutual-Aid Hotline for Migrant Workers

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Wei Wei, the founder, is a grant worker from Henan, China. He arrived in Beijing in 1997 and had done many jobs as car cleaner, loader and waiter. During this time, he always had to face the problems of rights violation. Therefore, he wanted to start an organization for migrants. Finally he put the idea into practice in June, 1999. Lack of advanced education and knowledge about NGOs, Little Bird began full of difficulties. Fortunately, the media began to focus on and report about Little Bird’s public activities. By publicizing our hotline number through the media, many workers get to know us. However, in 2003 Little Bird was nearly to be closed due to little financial support. The only economic source was Wei’s income by selling fruits on the road or small donations from the society. At last, Wei turned help to media. One report raised the attention of readers. Zhang Ailing, one of readers came to him, told him that Little Bird could be regarded as NGO and also introduced the important information of a CIDA officer, which helped little bird get the 1st international support. Since then, Little Bird has received funds from 17 international organizations, including CIDA, ABA, US Embassy, Ford Foundation, German Embassy, WB and etc. On May 22, 2006, Wei met German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the German Embassy. In Aug, 2006, Wei visited USA with the support from US State Council. In May, 2007, through China Foreign Ministry, Wei represents Chinese NGOs at a China-European Union Seminar on the Administration of Justice in Berlin, Germany.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

In the past twelve years, Little Bird provided assistances and services to up to 16 million migrant workers. Services provided including, legal consultation, career advice, counseling, job training and labor related disputes mediation. We have helped 40,000 workers recover USD20 Million unpaid wages. Here are the indicators:
(1)Successful media strategy: With a slogan of “Defending the Migrant Workers’ Rights”, Little Bird has gained widespread media reports. With various kind of media outlets, including radio programs, print media, TV programs and so on, the mission has been known by the target group. We work hard to gain wide media coverage, so as to increase the social credibility of the organization. Through media publication, we would like to absorb various social supports. E.g: We have long-term cooperation with the local radio broadcast in Beijing and Shenyang for migrant workers’ story telling program. This can offer a larger say to the worker’s and promot the organization.
(2)The establishment of workers network: While protecting the rights of the migrant workers, Little Bird has accumulated a data base of volunteer and beneficiaries totals 40,000 people. The expanding workers network has played a positive role in enhancing the influence of the organization and organizing training and activities
Example: We make use of the worker’s data base to find out worker trainees for legal training. Workers will be assigned into a small group. Our staff will contact the worker leader in the network and the leader will contact other group members, who will form groups with members from 10-100.
(3)Inter-city platform: Little Bird is headquartered in Beijing but has branch offices in Shenyang, Shenzhen and Shanghai, which is conducive to helping such a migrant community. We hope to expand our service to a wider range of regions and cities.
Example: A migrant worker from Anhui goes to Beijing to work. Two years later, although she goes to Shenzhen or Shanghai, she can still contact with the local Little Bird Hotline.
(4) Recruitment of rights protection volunteer lawyers:
Lack of staff, we have to reply on the volunteers. In 4 cities, we have recruited more than 600 volunteer lawyers. They actively join the routine work of Little Bird, like hotline calls answering, visitors’ reception and offering legal counseling.
Example: Volunteer lawyers can join the work of Little Bird in their spare time, like being on duty or going out for on-site mediation. Provided that every volunteer lawyer has to attend volunteer training beforehand.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

• Little Bird would like to consolidate the work of four offices in Beijing, Shenyang, Shenzhen and Shanghai. In particular, the new office in Shanghai will become our focus work, replicate the experiences of Beijing office one by one, including rights protection, training and cooperation with the media. 2. Since 2006, Little Bird has been financed by International Republican Institute (IRI) and implemented capacity building projects. In the coming years, IRI will further support Little Bird with internal capacity building trainings for the staff in 4 offices, including the part time staff, key volunteers. With such an opportunity, we will enhance the comprehensive capacity and better serve our target group. It is supposed to help more than 15,000 migrant workers per year.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Difficulties:1. Due to lack of favorable NGO policies, limited freedom of associations, difficult NGO registration, extreme sensitivity of NGOs, many organization are only grassroots NGOs. They can not get the government purchasing services, and only rely on the international support which is not sustainable. 97% of labor NGOs is facing challenges for survival and it’s hard for them to develop, let alone helping more target group
2. Little Bird has developed 12 years. Compared to the period of its beginning, Little Bird has already got a better social credibility and also more challenges in terms of its daily work, project implementation. Thus we should enhance the internal capacity. Ideally, staff of Little Bird should be capable in the aspects of protecting migrant workers’ rights, organizing public benefit activities, communicating with the government, cooperating with the media and communicating with international organizations. Indeed, the comprehensive abilities of our staff need to be raised.
Resolutions: 1. We make the work of Little Bird transparent in order to remove the government’ doubts and successfully gain the recognition and support from judicial bureau of Beijing Dongcheng District. To improve organizational social credibility, we set up official website and upload diaries to invite supervision, attention, understanding and support from the public.
2. We successfully get the long term support from International Republican Institute of America (IRI), and undertake a project for capacity building. We aim to provide more opportunities for staff to have training and attend international meetings and raise staff’s confidence of organizational developments by the way of expanding communication.

Tell us about your partnerships

Government: With many media reports, Little Bird has a great social influence. In 2004, authorized by Beijing Dongcheng District Judicial Bureau, Little Bird People’s Mediation Committee was established. Thus, Little Bird has gained legal status, going out of the the office to construction sites and factories to make face to face mediations and help the migrant workers get back deferred salary and all forms of economic compensation with effective results. Up to date, Little Bird has helped migrant workers successfully reclaim RMB130 million (or 20 million USD).
University: Little Bird continuously cooperates with university law schools and legal aid center, such as Renmin University of China and Tsinghua University, in terms of offering legal consultation service to the migrant workers. Besides, Little Bird also cooperate with Guangzhou Sun Yat-Sen University, which has been responsible for Little Bird project evaluation. As an independent third party, it submits evaluation reports to the international donors of Little Bird
NGO: Little Bird cooperates with Gongyifang (Beijing) Financial Consultation Service Co. Ltd. As an independent third party, it is responsible for Little Bird project financial auditing and submits financial reports to the international donors of Little Bird
International NGO: Little Bird has established close contact with Tokyo’s International Labor Workshop, and labor NGOs in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the United States (San Francisco and New York), carrying out regular exchanges, sharing information, and providing services to Chinese workers.

Explain your selections

•Individuals: During the first four years when Little bird’s development, the main contribution is from individuals. Due to the radio programs, the audience would offer a small donation. We also organize the workers to be audience and guest of the TV show to acquire payment which would be donated to Little Bird. With more report from the media and even international media like BBC, the global individual contribution was increased, such as citizens in British, German, USA and Japan. Through the report, they began to know the Little Bird and donate 300-500 dollars.
•Fundations and NGOs: From 2004, Little Bird has begun to acquire the assistant from global organizations. The first global contribution is from Canadian embassy of 100 thousands RMB to launch the train of 100 volunteers and the daily work of the organization. After that, we get the assistant from Oxfam HK, Ford Foundation and World Bank. From 2006, our organization begins to get continuous assistant from IRI and Misereor Germany, which has enabled a relatively sustainable organization development. From 2011, Little Bird cooperates with Right to Play Canada, implementing a project on “kongfu kids” for training the migrant children Chinese kongfu so as to improve their health and cultivate confidence for urban integration. ABA is also a partner of Little Bird. In 2006, it financed LB to implement a project on visiting workers in Shenzhen. From 2011, it finances Shanghai Little Bird to recruit 50 lawyers for rights protection.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

1. Internal capacity building: Little Bird will promote the internal capacity building and increase its full time staff by 18-20, part time staff by 15.
2. Recruitment of volunteers: Our volunteers will increase by 700, which will be distributed among different cities. A large part will be in Beijing due to its greatest demands, then will be Shenzhen, Shenyang and Shanghai.
3. Workers’ network building: 5,000 workers will attend and benefit from the legal and urban integration training. We will make detailed files for the migrants and make research on their demands so as to better our service to for them. Besides, we will offer other support to them, including medical care, friends-making and occupational training.
4. Media strategy: We will consolidate the cooperation with radio station and promote our social influence. While offering service to our target group, we will actively invite media outlets to make reports. Meanwhile, in different cities, there will be many supporting teams and each has 15 reporters at least, which will become a solid media force.
5. Government PR: We will replicate the experience of Beijing Little Bird Mediation Committee and make a good PR effort to the government so as to functionalize the other 3 offices. Keeping a sound contact with the Bureau of Justice, we will try a higher level government PR such as China Ministry of Justice.
6. Try to acquire more aid from foundations and establish partnership with them so as to prepare opening another 3 offices in Chongqing, Zhengzhou and Guangzhou.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Need for regulatory/policy support


Lack of access to information and networks


Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Currently in China, policy restrictions are the greatest obstacle facing NGOs. But through the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and the hosting of the Olympics, NGOs and the attendance of large numbers of volunteers has actively influenced the government’s attitude towards NGOs. Especially in 2009 and 2010, major cities such as Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai have all launched tentative favorable policies towards NGOs, which is turning towards a more open and supportative position.
In terms of policy support, Little Bird has been authorized by Beijing Judicial Bureau, which is a sound foundation for striving for further policy support from the government.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Headquartered in Beijing, Little Bird mainly promotes its work in Shenzhen, Shenyang and Shanghai. Emphasizing on fulltime staff, we will try to gain government support, develop rights-protection volunteer lawyers and build a workers' network. In addition, we will offer trainings to the migrant workers on legal knowledge ad urban-integration. We will expand the social influence through media reports about the routine work and project implementation.
Radio Program in Beijing and Shenyang offices, Worker’s Stories Program, are both current project activities as well as sustainable and fixed activities for advertisement. In Shenzhen and Shanghai, Little Bird will try to invite workers to the radio studio and narrate their fascinating stories, thus expanding the organization’s publicity.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Government: In 2004, the Judicial Bureau of Dongcheng District Beijing authorized Little Bird to establish Mediation Committee, enabling it to offer concrete rights protection for the workers.
NGO: Gongyifang (Beijing) Financial Consultation Service Co. Ltd. is a NGO responsible for carrying out financial supervision and making audit reports.In addition, Little Bird has a close contact with other labor NGOs and hold experience exchange conference at regular times.
University: Little Bird continuously cooperates with university, such as Renmin University of China and Tsinghua University, in terms of offering legal consultation service Besides, it also cooperates with Sun Yat-Sen University, which is responsible for making project evaluation as an independent third party