How to involve students in CSO activities

To what extent can universities help in the development of the non-profit sector and what practicexperience adds to the professionalisation of students.


On 21 December, a conference was held at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) on the topic of “Interaction between universities and non-profit organizations: experience, practice, technologies, prospects”.

Generation Z is the one that is currently studying in the second or third year of a bachelor’s degree, prioritising a meaningful life and the desire to independently implement historical processes, said Galina Ivleva, Deputy Director of the Institute for State Service and Management of RANEPA, at the beginning of the meeting. According to her, it is universities that are now generating the most socially active groups.

Oksana Koroteeva, Director of the Research and Educational Centre “Public-State Interaction, Non-Profit Sector and Social Entrepreneurship”, said “At RANEPA, we see our mission as preparing students – future civil servants – to be ready for dialogue with public organizations. And also to prepare them to understand how to develop the non-profit sector.”

What students know about CSOs

Communicating with students, we often notice that the topics of civil society development and interaction with CSOs are becoming more and more interesting to them, said Oksana Koroteeva.

Students know what large non-profit organisations such as “Give Life”, “Vera”, “Nochlezhka” are doing, and they express their readiness to implement their ideas and projects to solve urgent social problems. Another issue is that young people often do not understand what specifically they can do and want to do, since they have never personally encountered the activities of CSOs.

Some CSOs attract students to volunteer, but not all are willing to accept students for practical experience.

“Students have exaggerated salary expectations, while the level of their competences is not up to the tasks facing the organisation,” the speaker noted.

Therefore the majority of CSOs that accept students hire them for project work on a fixed-term contract. The most common specialities for students are project manager, psychologist, sociologist, special needs expert, methodologist and assistant.

How to involve students in social projects

Elena Maslennikova, Head of the Department of State and Municipal Administration of the State University of Management, described how the emphasis on project activities helps students acquire the necessary skills and get acquainted with the work of CSOs even before graduation.

Over six semesters, from the first to the third year, students at the State University of Management take the subject “Project Activity”. Groups of two to nine people come up with their own projects, and often CSOs act as clients and external experts. Thanks to such cooperation, the university is constantly replenishing the pool of partner organisations, where students can then be invited to work.

Andrei Ignatenko, Head of the Centre for Voluntary and Social Activity of Students at Moscow State University of Psychology and Pedagogy, also shared his experience of beneficial interaction.

The curriculum of first-year students includes a university-wide elective “PRO Activity”. According to the plan, once a month students participate in so-called “volunteer tests” – they go to partner CSOs to get acquainted with the social issues and specifics of their work. In addition, educational lectures are regularly held at the university, where representatives of CSOs themselves come to the university and talk about their work, and offer internships.

Such initiatives can solve one of the most pressing problems in the sector – to satisfy the staff shortage, says Olesya Nazaroy, Director of the Center for Youth and Public Initiatives of Pskov Region and Associate Professor at Pskov State University.

“Professionalisation is extremely important for the sector, especially those organisations that work in the field of social services. So in Pskov region last year it was decided to launch a format of continuous practice for students on the basis of local CSOs. This way, we want to solve several problems at once: to give students practical experience, to reduce staff shortages and, of course, to manage some of the social issues. “

The conference “Interaction between universities and non-profit organisations: experience, practice, technologies, prospects” was organized by the Fund for Support and Development of the Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education at the Russian State Social University, jointly with the Scientific and Educational Centre “Public-State Interaction, Non-Profit Sector and Social Entrepreneurship” of the IGSU RANEPA and the Centre for the Development of Civil Society, Non-Profit Sector and SO CSO RSSU, within the framework of the project “Days of Non-Profit Organisations in Moscow Universities”.


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