The third sector: how to achieve systemic solutions

Systemic solutions in the third sector: What helps and what does not


On 4 December, a discussion on “The third sector: How to achieve systemic solutions” was held at the International Forum for Civic Participation #MeVmeste in Moscow.

Is a society without CSOs possible?

Ekaterina Shulman, assistant professor of political and legal studies at Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Studies, is sure that if you can imagine a society without CSOs, you will have assumed that society has solved all its social problems. But where there is a social reality, there are bound to be serious conflicts.

According to Shulman, more and more functions will be transferred from the State to the third sector precisely because “charity” organisations have long ceased to be charitable – they are now social service providers, dealing with an infinite variety of issues.

What helps systemic work and what does not

According to Nyuta Federmesser, founder of the Faith hospice charity, if anyone initially thought that they had to create a systemic organisation, they would be too scared to leave the house! “For me, the main thing is not to know in advance how much work is involved as the scale of change can be overwhelming”, she added.

Nyuta believes that one important aspect of systemic work is to create the demand for change, as happened with palliative care when people realised that their final days could be spent with dignity. Bringing CSOs together is also vital for creating systemic change, which is a “terribly difficult thing to do”.

“For a long time, it seemed to me that we were all finally coming together to fight for the common cause. But now the law on foreign agents is threatening the very existence of the sector, preventing new organisations from emerging”, said Nyuta.

Different types of organisations and public interaction

Oksana Oracheva, CEO of the Valentin Potanin Foundation, believes that systemic solutions come from the bottom up in organisations that address particular problems. She says that the systemic nature of the sector was built on different types of solutions and organisations – from small family-run bodies to larger ones that can provide resources for the rest.

When we think about what is wrong with the social system, the first thing that springs to mind is a lack of funds, says Svetlana Makovetskaya, CEO of the Centre for Civic Analysis and Independent Research. However, at a number of strategic sessions held during the year, we came to the conclusion that budgets weren’t really the issue and that the problem lay elsewhere.

“Citizens and their associations are not involved in the process of decision-making nor in the provision of services, with the State used to communicating with a digital image of a person from “State services”. A modern system for managing the social sector in this country must include meaningful dialogue with the public”, saysSvetlana.

How to achieve systemic solutions

There are three elements that increase the chances of achieving any goal, says Catherine Schulman. The first is the core of an organisation which means you have a structure. The second is a legal component as this means that the organisation will most likely have to participate in the legislation-making process. And the third is publicity. Only a combination of all three will work.

Oleg Leonov, a member of the Russian State Duma and coordinator of Liza Alert projects, says that in order to achieve systemic solutions, an organisation must have theoretical thinkers who can pursue a course of action methodically, rather than in an uncoordinated way.

Svetlana Makovetskaya believes that plain civic pragmatism is most important. You don’t have to like or hate anyone – you just have to do positive things. Our organisation amended 192 federal regulations in two years simply because we were the only ones to go onto the website and submit comments on newly introduced Bills – not just with “likes” but with detailed advice.


Translated by Neil Hailey

Get involved

Share This