Forum discusses need for resource centres for SONGOs
During the final meeting of the Community citizens’ forum, NGO experts and Government agency representatives discussed the prospects for creating infrastructure support for socially orientated NGOs (SONGOs), in particular the development of a system of resource centres to help NGOs gain entry to the social services’ market.
Infrastructure support for SONGOs, in particular resource centres, forms an important part both of the “road map” and the package of measures aimed at providing NGO access to the social services’ market, said Herman Vetrov, Deputy Director of the Department of Strategic Development and Innovation at the Federation’s Ministry of Economic Development. Vetrov stressed that the provisions included in both documents should be put into effect relatively quickly, with most measures due to be implemented in 2016.
In May this year, a package of measures enabling SONGOs to access State funds set aside for providing social services to the public was approved by the Russian Government, which subsequently endorsed the “road map” for “Supporting NGO access to the provision of services in the social sector”.
According to Vetrov, the entry of NGOs into the social services’ market represents a new qualitative leap forward. NGOs must conform to market rules, as well as having the necessary level of expertise and desire to provide social services, not just now and again but on a continuous and sustainable basis.
In order to implement the provisions of both documents, regions have already been sent training material to help in setting up and supporting national SONGO resource centres. The information explains the purpose and functions of these centres, as well as how their activities will be assessed. Vetrov stressed that this was a framework document that provides a sound basis for moving forward, adding that there were 80-100 companies in Russia that perform the functions of resource centres, of which 20-30 are strong resursniks with which the Ministry of Economic Development has a close working relationship.
A resource centre infrastructure cannot function properly without a dialogue with those responsible for the administration of State funds, says Galina Karelova, Deputy Chair of the Russian Federation Council. It is vital that these resource centres are “integrated” within the social protection sector this year, given that preparatory work on the Russian Government Order for 2017 is already under way, Karelova added.
In Karelova’s view, the Moscow oblast, Bashkiria, Novosibirsk oblast, the Perm district, Tyumen, the Khanty-Mansiysk region and the Khabarovsk district are all examples of best practice in involving NGOs within the current system of social service provision. However, she recognises that the process for including NGOs in social service provision is proving very difficult given that social workers are often concerned at seeing their functions transferred to NGOs who are perceived as being one of the community’s “watchdogs”.
Karelova has called for the third sector to be included in work to refine and extend the range of services that NGOs are able to provide and for these to be entered onto a register of “providers of socially useful services”. She explained that a Government-approved register would only be a first step in the process and called for cooperation between State agencies and NGOs in compiling such a register.
It is important to create a support system for well-established resource centres that are responsible for developing a resursnik network, as well as training new members of staff, says Marina Mikhailova, Director of the Archangel’s Regional Charities Centre for Social Technologies organisation Garant, adding that well-established resource centres simply do not have the means to help the creation of new such facilities. Resursniks need a different kind of support system and centres shouldn’t be forced to compete with those to whom they provide services.
According to Mikhailova, a resource centre cannot simply be registered – it can only grow. She has warned against including the “resource centre” concept within NGO legislation and is also sceptical about the idea of creating a “typical” resource centre. “All regions have their own expectations and requirements. On the one hand, there’s one resursnik organisation that takes all responsibilities on itself and on the other there can be a whole range of organisations”, said Mikhailova.
A map of resource centres is being put together as part of work being undertaken by the iGrajdanin platform, according to the site’s project manager, Andrey Davidovich. The map is being developed to meet the needs of three main target groups, i.e. the resource centres themselves, State agencies for whom such a map will help in determining which areas need resursniks and NGOs that require the support of these centres.
In preparing this map, a special questionnaire is being drawn up and sent to community resource centres for their input. It will be up to the community of resursniks to decide what can and cannot be classified as a resource centre, said Davidovich. In future, we plan on creating a platform for NGO requests for resource centres and vice versa, he added.