Thousands of people were running a marathon. The powerful sound of footsteps and the cheering from the audience pierced the sky. Some runners wiped their sweat and continued running. Some of them stopped to drink water. Suddenly, a man felt giddy and fell to the ground. A few people in orange ran to him and did emergency service. A few minutes later, the man recovered.
Thousands of people experience emergency situations in marathons every year. Immediate rescue can likely help in saving people’s lives. First Respond does exactly that.
First Respond is a leading Chinese social enterprise dedicated to delivering exceptional first aid training, services, and solutions to businesses and individuals in China. It is an American Heart Association (AHA) authorized training site and currently has two training centers located in Shanghai and Beijing. In June 2016, First Respond became the very first certified B Corporation in Mainland China.
As of June 2016, they have successfully guaranteed the safety of more than 140 race events in 22 different cities nationwide, covered approximately 600,000 runners and saved ten lives from sudden cardiac arrest with a 100% success rate. They have trained more than 30,000 people and worked with more than 100 corporate clients and partners to turn their goals into reality.
How They Started
Like every big corporation, First Respond started small. In the beginning, it was only a group of volunteers led by Mr. Lu Le, now the CEO of the company, providing first aid services to runners in marathon events in China. It was not until later, when they encountered a series of deaths caused by sudden cardiac arrests during race events, that they realized something was wrong. The founding members did some research and found that:
1. In China, pre-hospital emergency care system is nearly absent with significant lack of professionally trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics.
2. A survival rate of cardiac arrest is less than 1% for out-of-hospital patients even in top tier cities.
3. Less than 1% of the Chinese population is equipped with basic life-saving skills.
4. Most public places in China do not have Automated External Defibrillator (AEDs) installed and first aid kits prepared for emergency situations.
With these facts, Lu and his team decided to make a change. They aimed to create social impacts by offering services and solutions to increase the public’s awareness of safety issues in China and promote the idea of “mutual aid” as the new Chinese social norm.
Lu decided to enter the first aid industry from marathon races. He introduced Japanese first aid instructors to educate Chinese volunteers. Japan is known to have a high survival rate of people suffering from health emergencies compared to China. He also introduced first aid classes from American Heart Association and organized groups of volunteers to take the classes.
How They Work
First Respond has three major sources of business: event support, corporate solution and consumer service. They hone volunteers’ first aid skills through events. They provide first aid service for enterprises, consulting services for consumers and first aid training for individuals. Now, their annual financial growth is in line with their annual expectations. Since 2010, First Respond has grown into a for-profit social enterprise, which has more than sixty employees with core management team members from its previous volunteer group.
High-quality first aid training is important for developing a company. By training volunteers in different ways, the organization has ensured that volunteers accurately remember and master all the rescue skills.
Volunteers take classes from the American Heart Association. First Respond holds activity simulations. They arrange volunteers in different teams to play online first aid games to review the rescuing process. Moreover, they invite volunteers to marathon races to expose them to saving lives in real life. By strengthening and improving first aid skills, many volunteers eventually become instructors themselves.
Partnerships and Reaching Out to Communities
Famous corporations like Lawson and non-profits like Red Cross started to cooperate with First Respond. First Respond and Red Cross started a program called PAD where they put AED devices in public areas in China. Red Cross also helped in their follow-up promotion and system maintenance.
As the Internet has developed rapidly in China, First Respond gradually promoted itself in social media platforms. They have partnered with Wechat, Baidu, Tencent and Alipay.
First Respond has also reached into communities. They established spots in communities and spread first aid knowledge. They also provided AED devices. They’ve reached into schools and trained 3,000 teachers in first aid.
Learning From Other Countries
First Respond chief operating officer Robin Lu, attended “Social Entrepreneurship as a Force for more Inclusive and Innovative Societies” conference in Birmingham, UK on 9th December 2016. With an aim to identify and share best practices of how social enterprises can address challenges of governance, financing, innovation, and scaling, representatives from over 10 countries discussed the key challenges faced by each organization and some interesting research findings illustrating unique environments of driving social innovation and creating impact in different countries.
“The social enterprises around the world mostly focus on their localized issues,”Lu said. “For example, enterprises in Europe concentrate a lot on immigration issues. Enterprises in China are concerned a lot about social issues, such as the environment, women rights and children issues. What concerns the society most is related to the development of society itself. We may also encounter the same problem as these countries are doing.”
While China may be a step ahead when it comes to technology, Lu said that he learned from other countries to equally give focus on people and the community.
Challenges and Hopes for the Future
First Respond still faces its own share of challenges. Society is not fully aware of social issues related to first aid. The media doesn’t cover enough about such issues. Moreover, some enterprises aren’t willing to learn more about first aid services. “Let’s promote our brands together and connect to each other,” Lu said. This is his hope for other social innovative enterprises.
He also expressed his future vision for society: to empower individuals and businesses to have the right knowledge and skills to practice first aid and to promote mutual aid as a new Chinese social norm.
“We strive to be a pioneer in using our own business to bring public’s awareness about safety issues and to provide the best solutions to make China a safer place,” Lu said.