Advisory Council on Volunteering starts work

Federal Advisory Council on the Development of Volunteering has begun work

Moscow, 03.08.2016

The Federal Advisory Council on the Development of Volunteering was created under the aegis of the Association of Volunteer Centres with the support of Rospatriotcentre. At the first meeting members of the council outlined its main objectives: the creation of a methodological framework for the development of volunteering, expert evaluation of projects (through grant contests), and participation in forums, seminars and other educational events. The Agency for Social Information asked members of the council and other volunteering experts what they expect from its work. Opinions were divided.

Membership of the Federal Advisory Council on the Development of Volunteering (FAC) was decided through an open competition, which lasted from February to May 2016. In total 229 applications were received from the heads of NGOs, state-run organisations, socially significant projects and public figures. Candidates were selected according to the following criteria: experience in managing a volunteer organisation; the presence of a network structure and regional branches guided by the organisation; uniqueness and innovation of voluntary activities; and experience of teaching or acting as an expert on volunteering or related areas. This resulted in 33 people, representing 32 organisations, being invited to join the FAC. The council includes representatives of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, the All-Russian Student Rescue Corps, the NGO Silver Age, the crowdfunding platform Boomstarter, the Eaglet national childrenā€™s centre, and the Donorsā€™ Foundation. The council also includes representation from several universities: Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University, Moscow State Pedagogical University, the Russian State Social University, and the Higher School of Economics.

According to the Association of Volunteer Centres, this year a number of working groups will be created within the council focusing on the development of different types of volunteering: social, event-led, medical, cultural, emergency, corporate and OAP. They will carry out analysis, identify problems, propose a concrete development strategy and submit it for discussion. It is envisaged that the council will meet quarterly.

The active development of volunteering in recent years, and the emergence of a large number of different initiatives and practices, requires methodological support and legal regulation, the Association of Volunteer Centres believes.

The FAC will create and implement training materials for different types of activities and develop initiatives on the regulation of volunteering. Training manuals for volunteer movements in all types of educational organisations, corporate settings, state institutions and socially-orientated NGOs are planned, together with specialised lecture courses. Members of the FAC will participate in the expert evaluation of projects submitted to the Russian Volunteer contest organised by Rosmolodezh and Rospatriotcentre, and the evaluation of grant applications in the National Youth Contest.

Rospatriotcentre will be a key partner of the expert council, coordinating state policy relating to the development of volunteering. A further main partner is the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, which hosted the first meeting. The expert council also looks forward to cooperation with the media.

In the near future, members of the council will participate in the implementation of one of the key activities of the Russian Movement of Schoolchildren. Students will be involved in volunteering, civic engagement and projects of organisations linked to the council.

October 2016 will see the first All-Russian Scientific-Practical Conference on Expert Analytical Design of Volunteer Initiatives. The FAC intends to invite representatives of structures and organisations developing civic engagement in Russia for a constructive discussion of topics including broadening the demographic of volunteers and the socio-economic effects of volunteering.

Artem Metelev, co-chair of the board of the Association of Volunteer Centres:

Volunteering in Russia is undergoing intensive development. As their habits change, it is becoming firmly embedded in peopleā€™s lives. There is a clear need for expert support, for clear and effective methods, comprehensive studies, recipes which can be offered to thousands of volunteer organisations and associations. As lawmaking changes, there is a growing basis for expert participation of volunteer organisations in regulating the sector. This requires a high quality, balanced, objective approach. The platform of the Advisory Council makes it possible to talk about these issues with representatives of wide ranging organisations and associations from the voluntary sector, to generate joint decisions on substantive issues.

Vladimir Khromov, director of the Union of Volunteer Organisations and Movements:

The Association of Volunteer Centres is the successor to the Sochi-2014 volunteer project. Volunteers are traditionally involved in large-scale sporting and patriotic activities, and the association itself actively receives state funding through various grants, including presidential. No one is against the development of a methodology for volunteering (this is the councilā€™s main goal), but will the council be able to accomplish it? Let us analyse its composition.

The council has 33 members, of whom a third are representatives of universities or government agencies, as well as representatives of organisations and associations with close links to the state. Surprisingly there is very poor representation of the Russian regions, so it is unclear on what basis the council is called ā€˜federalā€™. Also noteworthy is the almost complete absence of significant figures from NGOs providing direct assistance to people in difficulty (the sole representative is Elizaveta Oleskina, of the organisation Ageing with Joy). Although this sector is actively developing, NGOs which could have participated include Give Life, the hospice foundation Faith, the Volunteers for Orphans foundation, the Danilovtsy movement, the Volunteers Club and The Path of Good Deeds. Environmentalist groups such as No More Rubbish and the Chipmunk volunteer centre are also not represented on the council.

In general, the composition of the council reflects the Association of Volunteer Centresā€™ close circle of partners, as well as such specifics as its specialisation in sports and little experience of social or environmental volunteering. Therefore it is unlikely that this council will result in anything really useful for these sectors. As to whether it will yield any other benefits- only time will tell.

Elizaveta Oleskina, director of the Ageing with Joy foundation:

The expert council enables and supports the volunteer movement, and to some extent guides its activities. I consider it important that assisting the elderly is highlighted wherever possible, to serve as an example for those who have not yet decided who to help. Currently there are only a few specialised foundations assisting the elderly, and there are even fewer nursing homes. I would like to see these organisations grow, so it is important to be among the experts, to help volunteers, to nudge them, to warn them of the mistakes that we ourselves have made in recent years.

Vadim Kovalev, first deputy director or the Russian Managers Association:

In my view, the formation of the council is quite logical. 33 people who are engaged in different areas of volunteering. I am glad to join the board, to represent corporate volunteering. For me it is a symbol of recognition as one part of a great movement of volunteers.

Yurii Belanovskii, head of the Danilovtsi volunteer movement:

The Association of Volunteer Centres is what remains after Sochi. I do not see Sochi volunteers getting involved in the social sphere, now or in the future. The social sphere sustains only those NGOs and individuals whose work is really necessary. Organisations for which budgetary funding is not critical can survive. The Association of Volunteer Centres has the resources, experience, and ability, but I have the impression that now they are in a quest for themselves. And most likely the Federal Advisory Council, created by the association, will not engage in social volunteering.

Irina Shvets, director of the Mosvolunteer resource centre:

The Federal Advisory Council on Volunteering is a platform which brings together key players in the countryā€™s volunteer movement. In collaboration with these volunteer leaders, it will be possible to solve problems on a federal level. Each member of the council has unique expertise which they are ready to contribute. I am inspired by the opportunity to contribute to the work of such a strong team. As part of its activities, the council plans to build a unified approach to solving the problems of developing volunteering in the country, to conduct research, analyse the state of the legal framework and make suggestions for the development of legal regulations pertaining to volunteerism. The changing world is creating new challenges for contemporary society and ensuring a timely response to these challenges through the expert councilā€™s activities is an important and demanding task.

Author:Ā Yulia Vyatkina

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