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Russia House in Davos Holds Discussion on Future of Charitable Activity in Russia

Russian experts from the Donors’ Forum spoke at the panel session on new technologies in philanthropy and social investment; the session, organized by the Roscongress Foundation, was held at Russia House in Davos.

Those present were confident that the fact that Russia initiated such a discussion testified to the foundations and companies working in Russia being able to construct a partner dialogue and bolster cooperation with foreign colleagues.

The open panel session ‘New Socioeconomic Challenges and Successful Practices for Overcoming Them’ was held on 25 January at Russia House with the Roscongress Foundation’s expert support and with the participation of members of Donors’ Forum Association of Grantors. The subject was included in the programme of Russia’s official delegation in Davos owing to the growing interest in Russian social investment practices and in the results achieved by philanthropic institutions.

Alexander Stuglev, Chief Executive Officer of the Roscongress Foundation, noted that the world’s problems could not be solved independently, while a friendly dialogue and global partnership should harmonize the world. “Supporting innovative projects and social initiatives has always been part of Roscongress’s mission. At the present stage, society needs a systemic dialogue and consolidation of the non-profit sector at the international level. International and Russian leaders of charities and non-profits and experts in social investment are Russia House’s guests today. We would be very pleased if this dialogue became the starting point of a long-term partnership for positive transformation for the good of future generations. With that goal in view, we offer our limited resources for unlimited development of this subject at all our Russian and international forums,” Mr. Stuglev stressed.

The Roscongress Foundation invited Tinatin Kandelaki, General Producer of Match TV, to be the session’s moderator. Planned as a dialogue on the specifics of Russian and foreign philanthropic practices and social investment technologies, the session in fact demonstrated that members of the global philanthropic sector already had a large number of points in common and that the solutions offered by Russian foundations and companies were relevant and topical.

Leaders of Russian foundations shared their successful practices of introducing innovative technologies into transforming the social environment and people’s quality of life. Anna Yanchevskaya, President of the Sistema Charitable Foundation, spoke about the new generation possessing both an entrepreneurial way of thinking and a desire to change the world through technologies; Maria Krasnikova, Director of the Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation, focused on the government policies currently being implemented and non-governmental solutions to the problem of deinstitutionalizing orphans.

According to Ms. Krasnikova, “pooling the resources of non-profit organizations and the state in resolving the problem of orphaned children in Russia produces a synergetic result: over the last ten years, Russia has achieved qualitative successes. New technologies play a major part in achieving a stable social effect: e-databases are emerging and new digital platforms are being launched that afford a broad range of opportunities in online education.”

Other discussion participants agreed with this assessment of the impact new technologies have on the social environment. “Technological changes are so rapid that they trigger reconsideration of one of the most conservative areas, that of social security,” noted Dmitry Polikanov, President of the Con-nection Foundation, Chair of the of the Donors’ Forum Board. According to Mr. Polikanov, already today, the notion of “socially vulnerable groups”, “disability”, etc. are being transformed. “Gadgets, genetics and artificial intelligence are beginning to compensate for physical impairments, and they sometimes give disabled people super-abilities in certain areas. This means that the philosophy of charity (whom we help) will inevitably be transformed, too, as will be the instruments the sector uses (how we help), including targeted aid. It may seem a matter of some faraway future for a country such as Russia, where regions live in different historical and political times, but in reality, the pace of change is very fast. Already today, we see them imperceptibly becoming part of the sector’s life,” Mr. Polikanov said.

Great attention was paid to the values and the role of philanthropy in building the future. Olga Bashkirova, Chief Executive Officer of the Renova Charity Foundation, spoke about the ways Russian business makes long-term investment, using education as a case study. To preserve a rapid pace of development in the era of technological breakthroughs, the Renova Group is introducing a system of supporting gifted school pupils, developing R&D centres, launching stipend programmes in high technologies for studies in Russia and abroad in order to create a stable system of personnel training for the new digital economy. “Education is an effective instrument for economic growth, but this only holds true if education is commensurate with the rapidly changing challenges. The new generation must acquire the skills for fast and life-long learning,” Ms. Bashkirova noted.

The session’s participants noted that Russian donor organizations used a great variety of approaches to resolving social problems. Irina Efremova-Garth, Head of Corporate Citizenship at IBM Russia/CIS, believes that “today, foundations and companies view their activities not merely as charity but as social investment that should be set the same requirements as regular investment, such as return in the form of increased social capital.” Ms. Efremova-Garth noted that growth of the project culture, using new technologies to manage social investment and introducing a culture of project evaluation into the work of both donor organizations and recipients are mandatory conditions for a successful transition to the new model.

The topic of social impact assessment proved just as relevant for foreign philanthropy. For instance, the Rockefeller Foundation is traditionally involved with problems in such areas as the environment, education and the economy; recently, working with vulnerable groups and promoting programmes that produce measurable results within three-five years has become into one of the principal support areas. International experts, including Shamina Singh, President of the MasterCard Centre for Inclusive Growth at MasterCard, Abigail Noble, Chief Executive Officer at ImPact, Valerie Rockefeller, Chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Board Member of the non-profit organization offering advice on philanthropic issues, spoke about new models of social investment, about new types of inter-sectoral cooperation and about the synthesis of values and investment as the key principle of charity.

Some of Russia’s charity agenda was presented at Russia House in Davos at the photostory exhibition ‘Charity through the Lens’ organized by the Roscongress Foundation and the Donors’ Forum. “We are very pleased with the start of our cooperation with the Donor’s Forum, an organization that runs social programmes in Russia. The significant practical experience and potential of its experts demonstrated during today’s discussions serves as further confirmation that we are steering the right course! I am confident that the productive work in Davos will launch the Roscongress Foundation’s comprehensive work on creating a social platform for promoting and supporting systemic charity in Russia,” said Elena Marinina, Director of the Roscongress Foundation’s Non-Profit Organizations Communications Directorate.

For the Donors’ Forum, cooperation with the Roscongress Foundation is an opportunity to expand the presence of charity foundations and socially responsible companies at the biggest federal events, to involve experts from the philanthropic and donor community in shaping the state agenda and developing strategic solutions, and to present to the authorities and the public the opportunities and the potential of business and socially orientated non-profits for tackling humanitarian and environmental challenges. Joint work in the area started at Russia House will be continued at the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi on 15–16 February.

January 26, 2018