Laojia is a team of Chinese and foreign social entrepreneurs who feel a calling
to see traditional rural communities in China thrive.
As individuals we seek out contact with mother nature and with people that live in tune with her rhythms. We find these things in rural Chinese communities where ancient ways of living persist.
Spending time in these places and building relationships has enriched our lives, given us perspective, meaning, inspiration and friendship. The Laojia project is our manifestation of reciprocating and replicating what we have received.
It started with a house..
And without many expectations. In 2013 we moved into a traditional Chinese house in a rural Guangxi village, and began learning through immersion. We developed a deep connection to this place and its people, and decided to share this rich experience with others. We turned our home into a guesthouse.
Visitors adored their experiences. The guesthouse created jobs for villagers. And as local culture was highlighted, local pride was increased, leading to the preservation of more traditional houses. Soon we found opportunities to replicate this model in other communities. We are still doing this work today.
Our collaborations often still begin with a house, and with the owners of it. Investing in the preservation of a traditional house grounds us physically in the village and commits us relationally to villagers. From here we have a doorway to learn about the past and present of the community, a means to host travelers and students, and a starting point to play a reciprocative role in the community's journey. We are constantly evolving our forms of partnership to increase the ownership and leadership of villagers. We believe this makes for more sustainable collaborations and futures.
Despite the health and wisdom rural communities hold, they often find themselves at an economic disadvantage. The remoteness of these villages is their blessing and their challenge.
Villagers are eager for economic opportunities at home, without needing to migrate for work. They are open to sharing their lifestyles with fascinated outsiders, and creating partnerships with organizations who value their heritage. They know that these things depend on the well-being of their culture and ecosystems.
As cultural exchange happens, stakeholders share ideas, and opportunities that fit the community's vision for sustainable development arise.
Over a 5-year period we co-piloted a project to reintroduce traditional methods of organic rice cultivation. This ensured healthier land and food for villagers, as well as a premium product that Laojia would help them market to urban consumers online. This represented a choice for villagers to benefit from their unique skills and their land, and to find impactful opportunity from home.
This allowed us to organize village-hosted educational programs, providing more jobs for locals, where young students learn about ecogical farming, business, and local culture. Other communities are planning to follow suit, with their own unique gifts and challenges in mind.
In our role as allies to villagers, we: listen to their needs; build on their unique heritage, skills and desires; share our knowledge and connections to an accelerating digital world; and advocate on behalf of villagers, where appropriate, as they create partnerships to make the best of new opportunities.
Why do villagers or partners choose Laojia as a middleperson, a go-between? See our rural liaison page.