When guanxi meets connectivity. The underlying mechanisms of young adults’ participation in micro-charity

Published date12 March 2018
Date12 March 2018
AuthorXun Lin,Hua Huang
Subject MatterInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information & communications technology
When guanxi meets connectivity
The underlying mechanisms of young adults
participation in micro-charity
Xun Lin
Faculty of Politics and Law, Zhaoqing University,
Zhaoqing, Guangdong, China, and
Hua Huang
Faculty of Education, Zhaoqing University, Zhaoqing, Guangdong, China
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to reveal the underlying mechanisms that drive young adults
participationin micro-charity.
Design/methodology/approach A case study, which formeda large online ethnographic project, was
conducted in which the twin methods of participatory observation and in-depth interviews were used to
access theexperience of a selected group (n= 60) of college students.
Findings The present paper identies that young adultsparticipation in micro-charityis mainly driven
by three underlying mechanisms:the formation of a powerful environment for the distribution of awareness
of obligation, creation of trust towardsothers in distant or weak ties and symbolic construction of collective
identitywith a shared commitment.
Originality/value This paper is an exploratory work which shedsnew light on charity or other social
entrepreneurship developmentin the social media era. Specically, the connectivity of social media and the
pre-existing relationshipsmay work well together and lead to many positive outputs, including distributing
awarenessof social obligation, instilling social trustand strengthening social coherence.
Keywords Young adult, guanxi, Connectivity, Micro-Charity, Wechat
Paper type Case study
Over the past decades, charityhas undergone an E-volution(Goatman and Lewis, 2007)by
adopting the internet-related techniques. Although some theorists such as Ingenhoff and
Koelling (2009) demonstrated that websitescan be viewed as a relationship building tool or
dialogue tool that will promote peoples participation, the E-volution of charity has faced
numerous challenges at its earlystage. For example, Olsen et al.s (2001) critical study found
that internet fundraisingrelatively lacked success mainly for the reasonthat charity website
made it neither convenientnor compelling to donate online.
Over the past decades, the rising social media has become a novel portal for peoples
participation in charity (Guo and Saxton, 2014). Many non-prot organisations have made
use of social media to gain access to massive audiences (Kirk et al.,2016). In China,
according to Yang (2015), more and more people in need have begun to turn to online
charity, also known as micro-charity, to seek help from others either acquaintances or
strangers. Micro-charity is widelybelieved as a remarkable innovation for the development
of social entrepreneurshipin China. Yet this is still an uncharted phenomenon so far. In this
study, we take the challenge to address this issue. In doing so, we conducted an
ethnographical case study on an online charity for autistic children. We restricted our
Received14 December 2016
Revised13 July 2017
Accepted13 July 2017
Journalof Information,
Communicationand Ethics in
Vol.16 No. 1, 2018
pp. 32-44
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JICES-12-2016-0049
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