Russian NGOs should move from grants to service provision

Experts say NGOs must change their mentality and move away from grants to social procurement


Moscow, 15.04.2015

NGOs should move away from a project-based approach to a more systematic development level. That’s the message from those taking part in a round table event on “Social procurement for the NGO sector – Practical State support in the new economy”, held at Moscow’s Chamber of Commerce on 14 April.

During the event, representatives from State, public and non-governmental organisations, the business community and socially-orientated NGOs discussed the need for implementing social procurement. According to Nikolai Antilov, Chair of the Russian Youth Association, one of the main obstacles that are getting in the way of State support to socially-orientated NGOs is the mind-set within the NGO sector. Nikolai added “The world’s moving on, so it’s important for us to change our approach as a matter of urgency. We can no longer persist with the stereotypical behaviour of the past 15 years where the role of NGOs has been merely to organise, when everything was done on word of honour, with lots of energy and an open heart. Now, things are quite different”.

According to Nikolai, approaching Government using the word “give” with the emphasis on grants is the wrong way to go. Every NGO has huge potential to offer by participating in the Government’s procurement system. Another problem is the so-called “planned economy system”, i.e. when Ministries and Departments say “there’s no money available for your idea this year”. The trick for NGOs is to convince civil servants of the merits of their proposal and push for it to be included in Government plans for the following year. Agreement needs to be reached on how this can best be achieved, either through subsidies or by e-trading, he added.

Antilov stated “A new and important system is emerging of mutual cooperation between NGOs and the State. We’re becoming part of the Government’s procurement scheme in which our performance has been shown to be more effective because we don’t rack up 200-500% profits, unlike commercial enterprises”.

The NGO sector has provided social services for many years now. Consequently, it has to move away from writing grant applications every year to supplying services on a regular basis, according to Nodar Khananashvili, Vice-President of the National Charities Association.

For busy organisations operating on a regular basis which rely on constant support (social procurement), there are a number of essential elements to be considered. A grant is a valuable component for identifying problems and provides a means by which issues can be resolved in one way or another, says Nodar. Organisations need to have a clear understanding of the needs of the group(s) they’re helping; how their performance can be measured and whether their actions have brought improvements in the quality of life of their target group(s).

A second vital element in the process is determining the cost of services which will in future be transferred over to social procurement. A third component is the know-how and technologies used by NGOs.

There’s another consideration, namely developing a system that identifies activities using computer technology; and what one member of staff needs to do to ensure that this service can subsequently be performed by someone else.

“And then there’s a set of prescribed services that need to have a medium-term life span. Organisations that engage in social procurement should do so for 3-5 years, subject to additional reporting and information gathering requirements”, Nodar added.

Author: Yulia Vyatkina

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