How Russia’s Public Chamber supported the non-profit sector in 2020
Registers, ratings, acts of solidarity: how Russia’s Public Chamber supported the non-profit sector in 2020
On 23 December the Public Chamber (PC) of the Russian Federation assessed its results for 2020. The meeting discussed the work of CSOs, initiatives in the third sector and volunteering.
CSOs and the pandemic
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic CSOs dramatically changed their ways of working. They opened hot lines, collected PPE for medical workers and helped vulnerable categories of people.
In order to help CSOs to get through the crisis, the Public Chamber started to take measures to support the non-profit sector. Among them, being let off some of their taxes and insurance premiums in the second quarter of the year, receiving loans and subsidies to allow them to undertake COVID prevention measures, allowing them to send their reports to the Justice Ministry late, cancelling of inspections, and so on. Forty thousand CSOs received support duringthe pandemic.
“We saw that all the work done by CSOs and the focus on their work led to a rise in confidence in and expectations from them. Statistics from the Centre for Research into Civil Society and the Non-profit Sector at the Higher School of Economics showed that 45% of the population hope for support from volunteers during the pandemic. Almost a third of the population want support from CSOs”, said Elena Topoleva, Chair of the Public Chamber’s Commission on Development of the Non-Profit Sector and Support for Social NGOs, and Director of ASI.
The nature of donations has also changed. People started to donate more for those causes which are essential at the moment. Charitable donations were made not only by citizens but by socially responsible businesses as well in 2020.
A large number of laws and regulations were adopted since the start of the pandemic, some of them initiated by the Public Chamber. Now, proposals are being drafted by it for support of CSOs during the second wave of the pandemic, and to amalgamate two registers of the Ministry of Economic Development into one.
One of the main projects of the Public Chamber in 2020 was a regional survey of support and development of the non-profit sector – ‘CSO Region’. It was presented at the “Community” forum. The Public Chamber hopes that these ratings will become an agent of change and stimulus for CSOs and will encourage the state to support them. “In the first month more than ten regions asked the PC for advice on how to improve the situation in the sector’s development, so as to raise their position in the ratings”, said Elena Topoleva.
The pandemic has proved an important stage in the development of volunteering in Russia. The First Deputy Chair of the PC’s Commission for Youth, Volunteering and Patriotic Education and Head of the Association of Volunteer Centres (AVC), Artem Metelev, commented that in 2020 190,000 people registered as volunteers. An important milestone for the voluntary sector in 2020 was the #МыВместе (We are together) action. Metelev said that now there is an infrastructure for swiftly reacting to crises.
A hotline for psychological help was also opened. This call-centre has received more than 4.3m calls since it opened. According to polling organisation VTsIOM, more than half of Russian citizens (54%) are willing to work as volunteers. The average age of volunteers is 34. The main form of voluntary work right now is in support of doctors. A complex plan for supporting doctors has been developed with the help of the Health Ministry. Volunteers work in call-centres and primary health care centres, buy and deliver medicines, help in hospitals and drive doctors around. Metelev also mentioned how socially responsible business has rallied round. Entrepreneurs helped to deliver 40,000 tonnes of food and goods. President Putin supported the adoption of a law allowing 1% of revenues to be given to charity. Metelev said that “Our main aim is to maintain the potential and continuation of the #We are Together scheme for people to help others. People have come to us who have never before been involved in CSO work. We want to encourage them to work in our non-profit organisations”.
The recording of the live-streamed press conference can be viewed on the Public Chamber’s Youtube