Russia: CSOs should be able to strengthen their resilience through social entrepreneurship

“Now is the time to give non-profit organisations more freedom to develop entrepreneurship.”




How CSOs can strengthen their resilience without relying on outside help.


On 12 April, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation hosted a round table entitled, “Entrepreneurship as a Way to Strengthen CSOs During Sanctions.”


Freedom for the entrepreneurial activities of CSOs


Non-commercial organisations currently face many difficulties with their work, in no small part due to a decrease in the collection of donations and an increase in prices, says Elena Topoleva, chairwoman of the Civic Chamber commission for the Development of the Non-Profit Sector and Support for CSOs. One possible way non-profit organisations can reinforce their financial stability is through entrepreneurship — there are many examples of how CSOs can become more independent and successful by developing activities that bring them income. In addition, the same people are often social entrepreneurs, who create CSOs to maximise their resources and opportunities.


Tatyana Evlampieva, the head of strategic development and innovation in the Ministry of Economic Development, notes that CSOs’ tendency towards entrepreneurial activities provides undeniable advantages and leads to stability. At the same time, the department can offer expanded infrastructure to support social entrepreneurs and organisations — through various educational programmes, for example.


Evlampieva is confident that “now is the time to give not only businesses — but also non-profit organisations — more freedom to develop their entrepreneurship so that there is an incentive for the economy’s development.”


Common support structures


It is also pertinent to consider bringing the concepts of CSOs and social businesses closer together, and creating common support structures for them, says Julia Zhigulina, executive director of the Our Future Foundation for Regional Social Programmes. These could be tax benefits, state-sponsored services, and other support programmes that currently only apply to businesses.


“As a result,” Zhigulina says, “it may be possible to apply the concepts of social entrepreneurship to commercial and non-commercial organisations and create a new economic sector, where the main measure will be the social impact.”


Olga Sidorova, Deputy Chairman of the Public Chamber of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug–Yugra, agrees that the main measure of an organisation’s performance is social initiative, not the form of ownership. For the second concurrent year in Yugra, the practice of issuing grants to anyone, including individuals, has been active — anyone over the age of 14 can participate in the competition. Through voting based on a project’s social significance, local residents determine the winners themselves.


Another important project operating in the region is the School of Social Entrepreneurship, in which individuals, CSOs, and representatives from commercial entities and the authorities study. As a result, participants often collaborate and create joint projects.


“All benefits, grants, microloans, and other support measures are provided according to the same rules for everyone. If you have an idea for a social service — create an organisational structure that is convenient for you and solves the problem, and we will support everyone equally,” says Sidorova.


Sidorova is certain that, at the same time, it is vital to continue popularising the possibility of CSOs engaging in entrepreneurship. Some government officials and employees within the non-profit sector still believe the stereotype that CSOs cannot make money.


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Translated by: Spencer Michaels




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