Survey: 66% of Russians have faith in NGOs and civil society organisations
The Research Centre for Civil Society and NGOs at the Higher School of Economics has published the results of a study monitoring the current state of civil society:
It seems we’re living in not unfavourable times
A survey of the adult population in 43 constituent territories in the Russian Federation was conducted in February 2017. It showed that people’s awareness of the work of NGOs and civil associations has increased since 2014, as has their level of trust. This year, 86% of those asked said they were aware of the existence of at least one NGO. 66% have confidence in them and 28% are involved in their work.
Irina Mersiyanova, the Research Centre’s Director, said that level of trust often depends on what the media tell people about NGOs and how they promote their agenda. This view was reflected in 35 – 58% of those asked. Mersiyanova suggests that the increase in 2017 is linked to the plethora of articles and statements made about volunteers by the Russian President. At the end of last year, Vladimir Putin spoke of the need both to remove barriers that are getting in the way of the development of volunteering and charity and to offer full support to SONGOs.
According to Mersiyanova, a sample of people interviewed in April could suggest that a reduction in trust levels is linked to television programmes that describe the activities of rogue charities which can generate doubt and unease among the public. “So, let’s remember these figures: 28, 66 and 86% are a reflection of a happy and stable environment where people have few worries”, the expert said on social networks.
The research team also asked Russians if they were willing to act as volunteers (i.e. not being paid for their work) or make donations to charity. Half of respondents would agree to be volunteers and 47% to give donations. In 2014, these figures were 29 and 33% respectively. “Volunteer potential is pretty high – it only remains for NGOs to decide whether they’re willing to tap into this source of good will”, said Mersiyanova.
42 and 25% of Russians said that they had acted as volunteers last year and last month respectively. “Why such a large percentage? Could it be that people are more socially aware and are now seeing themselves as volunteers? This doesn’t mean that they have suddenly started volunteering, but more that they are now better informed and have embraced the idea of being a volunteer. Perhaps we’ve always had such numbers of volunteers in our country”, the expert suggested.
Middle-aged people, specialists and managers are more engaged in voluntary work. Almost two-thirds of respondents were informal volunteers in that they were not involved with any one organisation in particular.
49% acted as volunteers for State organisations, 17% for commercial bodies and 15% for NGOs. “NGOs are still lagging behind the others when it comes to mobilising volunteers”, said Mersiyanova.
What motivates people?
Personal interest is a principal motivating factor, with 25% willing to become volunteers if their family and friends do likewise. 22% volunteered in order to serve the public good. In all, 2% see volunteering as an advantage when applying for higher education places (6% of people aged between 18 and 30).
“In the meantime, the State has spent a lot of time discussing what kind of rewards and credits should be given to those who act as volunteers. In fact, there should be no incentives at all. For example, promising a volunteer a guaranteed university place would ruin everything that’s considered fair in our society, so let’s not tarnish the image of a volunteer in such a way”, said the expert.
“Indeed, there have been a lot of changes in recent years. The issue is how we interpret these fluctuations and how we deal with the new reality. All the more so given the many political decisions that are now being made and the laws being developed in this sector, including preferential admission to higher education institutions”, said Elena Topoleva, Director of the Agency of Social Information.
This study is conducted annually and was carried out in 2017 for the 12th time. More detailed information on the research study can be accessed via www.asi.org.ru