«Charity in Provincial Russia»

Russian Federation 18 April 2014


‘Charity in provincial Russia’: business and charity in the regions — with or without NGOs?


At a conference — Charity in Provincial Russia: Opportunities and Outlook —  representatives of regional NGOs shared their experience, presented the most successful projects and talked about approaches to and the practical aspects of working in partnership with business.

The Archangel Centre for Social Technologies, Garant, has been successfully co-ordinating the efforts of different organisations and creating favourable conditions for the development of NGOs and communal initiatives for 18 years now. The director said that its most effective undertaking had been to conduct open competitions to select projects worthy of support. This constituted a serious stimulus for development and also offered an opportunity to attract a wide circle of participants.

The director added that the centre did not prescribe who would be eligible to receive finance but simply announced a theme allowing organisations to apply independently. Everyone knew the procedure and if they did not succeed one year they could review their ideas and apply the next. That approach offered an opportunity to reward the best. At the beginning of 2000 there was a debate about supporting those who found the process very difficult. The conclusion was that supporting the weaker organisations would tend only to increase their number. If the active ones who wanted change were supported, there would be more of them. She said this was an important principle.

The director also observed that allocation on a competitive basis advantaged not only the competitors but also the company financing a project through the NGOs’ resource centre. This meant that business enterprises did not have to waste their time setting up internal structures for charitable work. Besides the competitions offered the opportunity for a business to put their resources together with those of other donors working with the centre. In particular, Garant had over time earned the confidence of the local authorities which allowed them to arrange for a winning project to receive finance from both business and public sources.

Some examples of businesses carrying out various types of voluntary work were presented at the conference ranging from helping children in need to tackling environmental issues and searching for missing people.

The situation in ‘company’ towns where there was just one employer was mentioned. There was liable to be a strongly paternalistic atmosphere combined with an apathetic population given to passivity. When such an employer closed down high unemployment resulted. An example was given of co-working between an NGO, Siberian Renaissance,  and a company, En+ Group, that were aiming to promote enterprise and skills in Baikalsk where the sole enterprise, a paper plant, had closed down.

Author: Daria Shapalova


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