Assesment of government-funded NGO projects
Recipients of subsidies from the Ministry of Economic Development put forward ideas for the development of NGOs
Socially-aware NGOs, which received support from Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development during 2012, have published the results of their projects. During their public presentation that took place in the Federation’s Civil Chamber on 15 July, NGOs explained how their funds had been spent, together with details of their successful programmes, and the challenges encountered during their implementation. The presenters stressed that, in order for NGOs to be more effective, federal authorities needed to encourage more regional cooperation with non-profit organisations, and for NGOs to publish a more qualitative assessment of their performance.
The projects that received financial support covered the following themes: “Preventing social orphanhood and support for mothers and children”; “Improving the quality of life for the elderly, social adaptation for the disabled, help for the homeless and those who’ve fallen on hard times, and prevention of socially unacceptable behaviour by the public”; “The development of pre-school and secondary education , together with lots of sporting activities to promote healthy life styles and transnational cooperation”; “Development of the NGO sector (i.e. local community charities, information support, provision of legal advice)” and “Activities in inter-regional and local resource centres”.
The “Zapovedniki (Nature Reserves)” eco-centre provided resources aimed at encouraging people to volunteer to take part in ecological projects on wildlife sites, as well as on environmental education programmes. Experts organised training seminars for 300 volunteers, convened round-table events with Government officials and specialists, together with producing educational material for use by other NGOs.
The aim of the “Social Network for Volunteer Initiatives” (SNVI) project, supported by “Business Russia” and the “Agency for Strategic Initiatives”, is to create a resource hub for cooperation with NGOs and socially responsible businesses in developing corporate volunteering and charity work. Efforts are already underway in many of the areas listed above, but also involving small and medium companies in implementing joint social projects with the help of volunteers.
According to the results of a programme undertaken during 2012-13 covering 17 Russian regions, 16 resource centres for corporate volunteering were created in regional SNVI offices. Support was also provided by 13 regional offices of “Business Russia”. A website, www.sosedi.org.ru, has been set up in order to keep people informed of details of collaborative work between NGOs and businesses, which, through the efforts of 2,000 volunteers, has helped 12,000 vulnerable people, i.e. the elderly, disabled and children living in difficult conditions.
As part of the programme, a project was set up to provide help to those regions in the Far East which were badly affected by major flooding in 2013. Those taking part in this relief effort were successful in raising 1,300,000 roubles, distributed more than 20 tonnes of humanitarian aid, and helped more than 80 flood victims with large families living in 24 community areas.
Public presentations such as these need to be made by both the NGO community and Government authorities as they provide valuable and essential feedback for both parties, according to Atrem Shadrin, Director of the Department for Innovation and Growth. Atrem added “It is extremely important to bring together a round-table of relevant professionals when undertaking projects on specific issues. This year, we want to organise a high-profile event to publicise the results of our work, which will showcase the achievements of those NGOs that have received Government subsidies. We would like to invite you all to post information and presentations on the NGO section of the www.sosedi.org.ru website”.
According to NGO representatives, further support from the Ministry of Economic Development is essential if improvements in the performance of the non-profit sector are to be delivered, as well as building effective working relationships with local authorities “It would mean a lot if a message was passed down from federal agencies to encourage executive agencies to be more proactive in participating in, and keeping an eye on, what’s happening in the NGO world” said Aleksey Rudov, a teacher at the charity for foster parents “Families”. NGO members also drew attention to the need for improving the quality of information on the outcome of projects, including expenditure of funds.
According to Natalia Danilina, Director of the “Zapovedniki (Nature Reserves)” eco-centre “To a large extent, a guarantee of success for major projects is when NGOs develop a collaborative partnership with Government authorities by offering to help State structures. The opportunity for promoting their own ways of working and implementing them through State structures will significantly enhance the effectiveness of projects and strengthen State potential. It is important to build on such work and, in so doing, pass on knowledge gained to other NGOs”.
Sergey Rybalchenko, Chairman both of SNVI’s Coordinating Committee and “Business Russia’s” Social Policy Group, suggested that “Project expenditure should be spelled out more clearly in the agreement with the Ministry of Economic Development, as the question of how money is spent is always cropping up. We think that a recommendation could be made for reports on expenditure incurred to be more transparent, e.g. placed on the website”.
The results of NGOs’ performance in delivering their projects should not just be limited by using quantitative assessments, according to Nodari Khananashvili, Vice-President of the National Charities’ Association. “There are a number of very interesting reports compiled by NGOs, but when you ask in what way these have measured change, it turns out that few quantitative measurements have been employed. As a rule, everyone talks of how many events were organised, together with numbers of attendees. However, the level of expenditure incurred does not equate to changes in quality. In establishing an appropriate methodology, an important consideration is developing a system for identifying qualitative change. Otherwise, everything comes down to numbers. Everyone learns by experience, so even a bad one is of immense value to NGOs. The greatest threats to best practice are not written down. Consequently, a person doesn’t see life, merely a glossy image”.
According to Aleksey Rudov: “There are now a large number of emerging NGOs offering their services, but whose professional standards leave a lot to be desired. The question of professionalism is of the utmost seriousness, so it is vital that efforts continue to be made to teach and disseminate practical experience to NGOs, as well as emphasis on training and on work to raise standards, to avoid NGO performance being seen as amateurish.” Marina Mikhailova, Director of the Archangel Centre for Social Technology, believes that professionally trained civil organisations are needed to sit on civil councils within Government agencies which have been created during the past two years.
These NGO proposals will be submitted to the Ministry of Economic Development for their consideration.
Author: Yulia Vyatkina