CSOs’ Open Day in Russia
Open day for civil society organisations (CSOs) takes place in Russia
Why did CSOs open their doors to the public and what lies ahead for this initiative?
On 10 September, civil society and charitable organisations across Russia opened their doors to all comers. The CSO open day was masterminded by the charitable foundation Need for Help, and timed to coincide with the International Day of Charity.
Need for Help wanted CSOs to become more open and more readily understandable to the general public. The open day gave everyone an opportunity to see how CSOs work, talk to their staff and simply put their time to good use. Every organisation had its own programme on 10 September. ASI asked the event organisers and participants how the day went for them.
CSO open day at the charitable foundation “The Art of being close by”
The foundation’s resource centre, Dobry, immediately decided to hold a CSO open day, said its director Svetlana Shifrina. It was an opportunity not only to feel that they were working towards the same goals as other CSOs but also that they were sharing the centre and their work with others.
Families with children with autism who have been helped by the foundation came to visit, as did new parents who had heard about it for the first time. The day included children’s workshops where they built Lego models, cooked waffles and made fabric toys. At the same time, the centre’s methodologist and clinical psychologist gave a talk to parents about how children with special needs move into adulthood.
“And then there were the heart-to-heart talks. It was very encouraging to see strangers coming together around a common theme. I thought it was a very good exercise, so we would like to run days like this in the future,” said Svetlana.
Before they left, the new visitors signed up for classes at the centre.
The Yom-Yom children’s centre also welcomed in parents and their children, offering tours, games in the sensory room and juggling lessons.
“We decided to do the open day because we wanted our networks to reach a wider audience and bring more families together. Not long ago, our centre moved from temporary offices to a new home at 42 Mayakovskovo Street, and our programmes are now underbooked,” said Sonya Kamysheva, the centre’s social medial marketing manager.
Thirty families came to the meeting, most of whom were already familiar with Yom Yom’s work.
The Violence.net centre (listed in the register of foreign agent CSOs) gave tours of its space and explained its work.
“Our team agreed to this in a heartbeat. We’ve always presented the Violence.net centre as an open, friendly space where our supporters can come whenever they want. Plus the centre is run on people’s donations, and we believe that our donors should be able to see what their money is being spent on,” said Yulia Arnautova, the centre’s public relations manager.
According to Yulia, most weekdays are effectively an open day at the centre. You can support its work here.
For the CSO open day, the centre’s specialists prepared interactive games and tests for visitors. But Yulia said they were not needed: it ended up being a long heartfelt conversation about the work of Violence.net, domestic violence and the situation of women.
Several dozen people visited the centre during the day, mostly girls of varying ages. Many of them were at the Violence.net centre for the first time.
“Lots of people also came with questions about a specific situation in their lives or the lives of their relatives. Staff at the centre told them what kind of help was available at Violence.net and how to apply for it. We are looking forward to taking people’s calls this week,” said Julia.
“It was very heartening that so many participants and lots of smaller and regional CSOs joined the campaign. We really wanted to show that the large, well-known foundations (those the media report on most frequently) are not the only ones, but that there are loads more charities out there, and their work is just as interesting,” said Natalia Nikanova (senior PR manager at Need for Help) when talking to ASI.
According to Natalia, the foundation is keen to make the CSO open day a long-term project, or at least an annual one. The foundation’s team will now be interviewing participants to see how it went, and then thinking about how to make the project more interesting to a wider audience.