‘Charity in provincial Russia:challenges and solutions’
“Charity in provincial Russia: Challenges and solutions”: Difficult times are not halting the growth of charitable work
A conference is being held in Moscow today on “Charity in provincial Russia: Challenges and solutions”. Experts from different regions across Russia will discuss changes in approaches to the development of charitable work; what measures need to be taken in times of economic difficulty; how to build relationships with NGOs and businesses in the capital and the regions, together with Government authorities. Federal experts believe that trends in charity are already well entrenched in society and will not go away any time soon.
According to Elena Yasinskaya, Head of the Section for the Development of the NGO Economic Sector at the Department for Social Development within the Federation’s Ministry for Economic Development, businesses have a habit of cutting charity budgets in times of austerity. Elena believes that NGOs are now “flexing their muscles”, i.e. accepting that they are no longer willing to apply to the State for grants, preferring instead to offer social services through subsidies and contracts.
“There are charities in the regions that are fully committed to their work and performing well. Charity can be a fleeting thing in the sense that NGOs react extremely quickly to any situation such as the recent grass fires in Khakassia. In this most recent emergency and without waiting for official word from their headquarters, it was quickly agreed that money be raised independently at local level by volunteers without the State being involved. Charity is indestructible”, says Elena.
Irina Menshenina, Executive Director of the Association of Fundraisers and Director of the “Downside Up” charity believes that when circumstances change, NGOs cannot carry on working as before. The key thing is knowing where change is occurring.
Irina added “We need to take a step back and evaluate the effectiveness of NGO funded programmes in order to determine what can be done to maintain the sector as a meaningful player on the domestic stage. NGOs often try and resolve 50 problems at once without making a decision on which has priority. Now’s the time to decide what we can’t do and what we can do best.” In her view, crises situations are a time for harnessing the resources and efforts of local NGOs, working closely with relevant authorities.
Irina added “When people living in a particular area find out that local NGOs and their municipality are concerned about a certain issue and agree on how best it should be tackled, it really helps break down many of the barriers that prevent progress being made. People are learning to share their resources with the rest of their community.”
Hard times help create new opportunities according to business representatives.
Elena Vishnyakova, Deputy PR Director at “RusHydro”, says that the business community has been developing charity programmes in the regions in recent years. The State is operating in a partnership spirit, as well as agreeing the necessary protocols. Vishnyakova goes on to say that RusHydro has no intention of dramatically reducing its charity budget during 2015, whilst at the same time recognising that businesses are unable to reduce production costs during difficult economic times.
Firms see enormous potential in their own workforce. For example, just hours after fires broke out in Khakassia, their staff were offering material help to the victims.
Despite changes in the political and economic climate, current development trends in charity work at regional level show no signs of diminishing, experts believe.
The “Charity in provincial Russia” conference is a forum where potential business partners and regional NGOs can meet to exchange individual experiences in the implementation of charity programmes at regional level, together with discussing new project ideas. It has been organised by the inter-regional charity “The Siberian Civil Initiatives Support Centre” and the Archangel Centre for Social Technologies, “Garant”.
Author: Yulia Vyatkina