A third of Russian CSOs have failed to adapt to pandemic conditions
A third of CSOs have been unable to adapt to the conditions of the pandemic
What problems have been highlighted by the pandemic and how Russia’s third sector has transformed during the crisis.
On 14 October a conference entitled “The Impact of the Crisis on the Development of the Non-Profit Sector” was held at the Higher School of Economics (HSE). The Centre for Research on Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector presented a report.
Lev Yakobson (Vice President of the HSE and Research Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Non-Profit Sector Studies) identified two main types of changes that have impacted the non-profit sector.
The first are technological changes, primarily the lack of personal contact and the increasing role of the Internet. The second significant type of change highlighted by the pandemic is the sharp “focus and implementation of altruism on specific challenges”.
What state is the non-profit sector in today?
Irina Mersiyanova (Director of the HSE Centre for Research on Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector) reports that the third sector has not fared particularly well, with at least 10,000 CSOs ceasing to exist during the pandemic. Moreover, data from the Federal State Statistics Service shows that the number of employees and volunteers in the non-profit sector has also decreased.
Data from empirical studies conducted by the Centre indicate that the majority of CSOs encountered at least three issues when trying to conduct their activity during the pandemic. The three most significant problem areas were related to finance, communication, and personnel.
With regards to personnel, the heads of CSOs report not only a shortage of qualified staff, but also the problem of continuity. The teams of many experienced CSOs are ‘aging’, which begs the question: who will take on their responsibilities?
The heads of CSOs are also worried about legislation. There are concerns that legislation is becoming increasingly unpredictable from the point of view of law enforcement.
The question of adaptation
More than half of non-profit leaders are grateful for the support they received from the state during the pandemic (measures included tax benefits and grants from the state budget). However, one in five heads of CSOs fear that the state is trying to strengthen its control over the sector.
42% of CSO managers are confident they have adapted to the conditions of the pandemic to some extent. Nevertheless, 29% confirm they were unable to survive. The main reason cited was the unexpected need for digitalisation and working online.
According to the HSE Centre for Research on Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector, the score of CSOs on the Digital Competence Index during the year of the pandemic increased by only 0.3 points on a ten-point scale – prior to the pandemic it was 1.8, now it is 2.1.
“If the government and businesses fail to support the digitalisation of the third sector, an insurmountable barrier will develop between the business and non-profit sectors, and CSOs will fall far behind” declared Irina Mersiyanova.