Role of ‘infrastructure NGOs’ in developing charity sector in Russia

The impact of ‘infrastructure NGOs’ in developing the charity sector


Research has been conducted into the ways that resource centres influence the development of the Russian charity sector.  The research was jointly produced by the Information and Analysis Centre for the Development of Public Initiatives, the company Progress Consulting and the Siberian Centre for the Support of Public Initiatives.

Researchers focused on so-called ‘infrastructure NGOs’, in other words, the organisations which identify significant social challenges and shape the development of civic society.  NGOs are key because they were established as resource centres but over time they have transformed into development institutions.

The research was carried out between June 2019 and January 2020.  It was based on interviews with the leaders of influential infrastructure NGOs from different regions across Russia as well as with experts in charity development and the heads of resource centres.

Which infrastructure NGOs have the greatest impact?

Those questioned named 58 infrastructure NGOs as having a major impact on the development of the Russian charity sector.  Generally, they are NGOs that have been in operation for over 20 years, mainly in Moscow and St Petersburg.  They have supported NGOs on many levels, including staff training, promoting collaboration between NGOs and business and the media, increasing the involvement of corporations in charity work and positioning charities as ‘collective partners in power’.

Information space

When the resource centres first appeared, there was no internet.  Periodically, some infrastructure organisations would raise their profiles by producing their own books and journals.  In recent years the number of these publications has fallen and NGOs have changed their ways of working. They now tend to liaise with journalists who can raise awareness of upcoming public events and they produce online reports on social issues on a regular basis.

The training of NGOs

Resource centres were the first to use technology to improve the charitable grant system and they have established the legal foundation for the awarding of grants.  The newly created Russian School of Grant Making, run by representatives of the leading infrastructure NGOs, has now become popular among NGOs.  The school provides training and consultancy on setting up NGOs, advises on their management and organisational development, evaluates projects and provides support with fundraising, finance, PR and technology.  Infrastructure organisations also seek to build close links between NGOs and lay on forums, conferences and seminars.

Cooperation with the authorities

Research has shown that over time, despite some initial reservations, NGOs have developed important partnerships between business and government agencies. Public advice chambers have been established and people in business have begun to join the boards of NGOs. In recent years government bodies and business have begun to seek advice from infrastructure organisations on social issues while NGOs have encouraged a growing number of businesses to get involved in charities, voluntary work and social programmes.  Leaders of major NGOs believe they have brought about change because they have been able to provide the kind of services that are needed and have delivered them in a systematic, reliable and effective manner.  Click here to read the full text – исследования


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