Research on voluntary engagement with social problems

Moscow 10 September 2014

According to the Levada Centre voluntary activity in the main urban centres has been developing


Sociologists have published research assessing the scale and quality of voluntary engagement in dealing with social problems in Russia and have discovered a trend towards positive progress in the voluntary sector. In the main towns where people are more knowledgeable about NGOs it can be said that a basis exists for positive cohesive development that is not founded on protest.

A summary of an analytical, consolidated report, ‘The Potential for Lay Participation in the Resolution of Social Problems’, has been published on the website of the Levada Centre. The organisation points out that the task of arriving at a precise conclusion is a difficult . However, it is possible to say that as a rule between a quarter and a third of members of the public take part quite regularly in different socially useful events with over half of them doing so on just one occasion. In the largest cities roughly the same proportion of the population is engaged in communal activities as in small towns.

The research study shows that the larger the town the greater the number of associations, organisations and communal initiatives in which activists are involved. Sociologists conclude that in the largest centres there is a gradually expanding basis for positive communal cohesion that is not founded on protest, dissatisfaction or inability to put up with unbearable conditions. The Levada Centre draws the conclusion that: ‘Collective activity, the goal of which is to nurture interpersonal relations and pleasure in associating with others, fosters the creation of new communal links, which could prove to be of use in the event of misfortune or emergencies.’

Specialists also stressed the weakness of autonomous communal institutions. Even in the major conurbations replies to questions about the best causes to donate to, revealed that government approval was more important than the opinions of independent public figures. The research also emphasised that the small number of NGOs and their minimal direct contact with the population meant that public opinion relied heavily on the state controlled media.

The sociologists discerned two mutually exclusive trends: on the one hand, it was possible  to speak of an improvement in the relations between individual state agencies or departments and communal bodies when it comes to dealing with social problems whilst, on the other, inspections of NGOs under the ‘foreign agents’ statute combined with the accompanying news campaign had evidently launched a process leading to the devaluation of the voluntary sector.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin

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