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Second Penza regional civil activism report goes public

14:43 | 17.09.2015 | Society

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Penza, 17 September 2015. PenzaNews. Oleg Sharipkov, executive director of Civil Union foundation, has presented the second report on civil activism in the Penza region during the meeting with journalists on Thursday, September 17, held in the PenzaNews agency press center.

Oleg Sharipkov, executive director of Civil Union foundation

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Before announcing the results of the work that had taken between 8 and 9 months, Oleg Sharipkov thanked the audience, both media representatives and curious visitors, for attending, and briefed them on typical activities of non-profit organizations.

“I spoke with one man the other day and realized the people don’t quite get the field of work for non-profit organizations. In a nutshell: there are three sectors of economy – state sector, business sector and civil sector. The state sector works with large numbers of people – like all pensioners, all youth, and so on. Its notable feature is that it pays no attention to one single person, or barely does so after that person begins yelling at the top of their throat. Such is the state sector. The business sector sees everyone, every single person, and can provide any service, but for money. While the civil sector, again, sees every person and is ready to provide services completely gratis or for a fee practically minimal compared to state and business sectors. This brief model can be applied all over the world, not just in Russia, and it is quite true to life,” the speaker explained.

The second report on civil activism in the Penza region is getting published three years after the first one that encompassed the time span from 2011 to H1 2012, he pointed out.

“This one analyzes the year of 2014 and the first half of 2015. Over this period of time, Russia underwent substantial changes, and the regional civil organization sector substantially changed as well. The former [document] was a digest of expert opinions on various development aspects of the Penza region civil society, while the current one is an evaluation of the Civil Union foundation of how the sector of socially oriented nonprofits and civil communities has been developing. It is based on the work of focus groups in nine fields, analyses of state reports, and in-depth interviews with experts and journalists,” Oleg Sharipkov said.

The 2014 non-profit organizations register of the Russian Ministry of Justice lists 1,900 NPOs registered in the Penza region, he pointed out.

“In comparison: based on the reports of the tax services in October 2014, there are a total of 26,929 registered legal entities in the Penza region. The non-profit organizations comprise 7% of the total registered legal entities in the Penza region,” stressed the executive director of Civil Union foundation.

According to him, to analyze the main fields of work of the socially oriented non-profits, the authors of the report began with the Justice Ministry registry on the Penza region sans the sports and religious organizations, driving schools, educational institutions, industry-related organizations, private preschools and media companies.

“The final list of the socially oriented non-profits was comprised of 444 organizations, visibly skewed towards organizations for veterans, children and the disabled, and charity funds. In practice, when it comes to organizations that actually actively work, most of them are charity funds – about seven. Only 2-3 organizations for the disabled and the veterans are active. 99% of the youth and children’s organizations involve state or municipal support: in other words, they are headed by either officials, or either heads or staff members of municipal bodies. Also, there are organizations whose directors follow the control of the state officials in one way or the other,” Oleg Sharipkov explained.

He also added that only 10% of the registered regional non-profit organizations are active, and 10% of latter ones work on a professional basis.

“We deemed an organization active if it holds its campaign or takes part in general civil or social events at least once a year. As for those who work on professionals basis, these are the non-profit organizations that work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, with a staff of at least two paid workers,” the civil analyst said.

He also stressed the importance of the term “civil communities” and told the journalists about its meaning as implied in the report.

“These are the people who united over a common territory or a common idea on their own accord that do work that is beneficial to the society. One of the realities of work of civil communities in the municipality is mutual disavowal. The authorities think that if there is no legal entity, there is no civil community. The communities themselves also rarely contact with the authorities. Moreover, there is no actual objective information on the numbers of civil communities in Penza and the region, and especially when it comes to numbers of people in them,” Oleg Sharipkov noted.

Nevertheless, he announced that from the evaluations “of Civil Union, based on registration data of people from various communities at such events as the civil community forum, the seminars, the festival ‘Good Penza,’ the forum ‘Poisk Provintsii’ and so on, there are no more than 30 active communities that meet at least once a year and do something for real,” with their overall numbers keeping within 70-80.

“In a way, you may evaluate the activity and the power of the largest civil communities through the numbers of newly registered non-profit organizations. You see, the communities that reach a certain threshold in numbers of people or cash flow are obligated to register as legal entities, and usually they do so as non-profit organizations,” the speaker suggested.

He also discussed the economics of the non-profits and civil communities, listing actual data on their financial support.

“The Penza region has a local program of support for the non-profit organizations. It was rightly criticized by the non-profits in 2011-2012, as only 7 organizations received over 50% of the allotted funds; however, since 2013 and especially 2014, the funds were distributed in a much more sensible and equalized fashion. Numerous smaller organizations that had never received state support before got a chance to do so, and thanks to it, they were able to provide more social services to their clients – either members or target groups. In particular, 28 non-profits received a total of 1.5 million rubles of support in 2013, and 84 NPOs received 13.8 million rubles overall in 2014,” Oleg Sharipkov said.

The speaker also noted that the year of 2015 was marked by the first time in the recent 15 years when the Penza city administration held a social project support contest for urban management organizations and non-profits, with an award fund of some 6 million rubles.

According to the executive director of Civil Union foundation, a budget of a Penza non-profit organization varies from 50,000 to 3 million rubles a year, while the overall sum of their budgets approaches 100 million rubles a year.

“This is a minor part from the scope of the region. We estimate that 1,000 people or slightly more than that are involved in this field,” he said.

Oleg Sharipkov also suggested that the activity of local NPOs and city communities peaked in 2012-2013.

“This peak saw increased recruitment of people from all fields of economy, including business and state sectors, in the civil sector, who gave it a new boost for development. This was the starting point of such Penza non-profits as the Civil Control movement, the fund ‘Helping Hand to Homeless Animals,’ the civil organization ‘For Human Rights,’ the Zarechny city initiatives support fund, and so on. Many city initiatives, such as Jazz May or “Dobraya Penza” festivals, charity plays in Penza and Zarechny, intellectual park ‘Academia,’ ‘Bloggers Against Trash,’ the tea studio and so forth, appeared or grew at that time. But the activity, especially in the NPO sector, took a steep decline by mid-2014. Some of the newly-created non-profits practically ceased functioning. Several formerly strong non-profit organizations that worked on a professional basis, like the Anti-AIDS foundation, began to close down or suspend their activities. The city community field is also in a disarray. Some initiatives disappeared – like ‘Bloggers Against Trash.’ The non-profit and city community events attract less and less people, even though they became better, more professional, and carefully targeted for the audience,” the civil activist said.

In conclusion of the report presentation, he gave recommendations to those non-profit organizations that have to face the changing economy and more rigorous federal law.

“I would advise the non-profits to diversify their money sources as much as possible, right now. At the moment, money pours on you from above – like water from the tap, see. Now it is flowing, gushing out, but one day, and that might even be tomorrow, it will just up and cease for good. Not even a drop. And all the organizations that are just busy laundering money will die off. At once. While those organizations who are mostly funded by government programs will get low very harshly, and will languish in poverty. That means you should right now, as much as possible, as long as the trend continues and the state money flows, diversify the sources. And these are fairly scarce now, too,” Oleg Sharipkov said.

He also recommended them to focus on businesses, individual donations, amassment of special-purpose capital, and cooperation with civil communities.

“Even in the crisis, business continues to donate, and we feel it. They are small, but they exist. […] Individual donations. People grew to donate more, and more often. They are even ready to be involved personally if the problem gets close to home instead of the old ‘donate and forget.’ […] Special-purpose capital, capital of a local body. We’ve gathered a fairly big sum for our level – we have 6,100,000 rubles a the moment, – sent it to a financial management company that will be sending us the annual financial interest we will be using to support those many civil initiatives in question. […] And perhaps most importantly, try to cooperate with the civil communities,” Oleg Sharipkov concluded.

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