Materials of an International Seminar
Civil society and social development


Listening to the previous speakers I have been thinking that I live in this country and see a great many things differently. Those who live in a given society and those who study it from the outside appear to rarely see eye to eye with one another on the same society. When asked what he needs most, an ordinary man is likely to say something about living a normal and healthy life, having a family, cherishing hopes for a better life in the future, etc. And those who rule or at least have something to do with it are called upon to live up to these expectations. To my mind, today Russia has an opportunity to bridge the gap, since being far from settled the current situation is all too change-prone. In sum, I view civil society as a typical English lawn requiring good watering and mowing all the time. That is why I shall just dwell on those examples that, in my view, graphically illustrate Russia's approach to building civil society.
Last week, Russia introduced a national programme of tolerance and non-violence encompassing 19 agencies, including the Ministry of Defence, and up to 60 regions. It is an educational initiative to promote communication skills and the principles of non-violence and tolerance among the Russian population. It is yet another step towards building civil society wrapped around the ability of human consciousness to be changed through education.
Another example is the Russian Civil Service Academy, with 20,000-odd specialists graduating from its eight major branches annually. It can very well be considered as an absolutely different approach to building civil society.
I also would like to take note of German Gref's Centre for Strategic Research, which has just completed its research project and submitted it to the government for approval. Having read 40 pages devoted to the programme on the centre's Internet site, one may assume that the project suggests using the notorious economic basis as opposed to the superstructure as a means of strategic change, with change in the power structure and reorganisation of economy being the key tools. Large financial and industrial corporations are called on to become the subjects of the development process.
Here are another few examples. The Moscow-based representative office of the World Bank Institute sponsors the 'national enterprise' programme, with Academician Fyodorov being its 'founding father', as a new organisational and legal form of ownership offering more efficient stock management. It allows the worker to directly control the production process and participate in joint production management to ensure the development of 'real' economy. I believe it is yet another way towards civil society.
The Social Partnership Centre I work for relies on cooperation between the state-owned, commercial and non-commercial sectors. The centre is engaged in developing a technology of cooperation with government and a social partnership technology, which are supposed to make it possible for social organisations to become directly involved in the country's development. The establishment of different independent structures is of paramount importance since it ensures the movement towards civil society.
Let me say a few words about the Open Society Foundation next. It has held a grant competition between small towns in Russia. 170 towns participated in the competition, with 37 applications selected. The main idea underlying the effort is to work out a town's strategic development programme. Special working groups headed by mayors are supposed to become the subjects of the development process.
Another foundation I am going to dwell on is referred to as Assistance in Local Government and unites big cities in Russia. It is open to cooperation with all parties concerned. It is called on to establish effective partnership relations with heads of local bodies, governors, governmental and non-governmental organisations, financial institutions, civil groups and separate citizens ready to come forward with initiatives which can be used in the best interest of the city. This kind of project draws on cooperation, with the foundation acting as a tool and cities as the subjects of the development process.
It is noteworthy that most of the said strategies to build a civil society are based on cooperation between competing organisations in the shortage environment. Philosophic grounds for such an approach can be found in the tests drawn up by Moren, Hacken and Prigozhin, as well as studies on synergetics, determinated chaos, self-organisation and self-development. As to applying this approach to Russia, there exists another resource used insufficiently today. It can be referred to as the internetworks cooperation resource taking into account that all above projects form a network. So, there is a potential opportunity to build a multi-network - a higher-level and more powerful system. This is sure to save resources, energy and time.
To implement such a project one needs few things to be taken care of. Firstly, it suggests conducting a voluntary 'census' of all organisations and their respective programmes, which declare their own development mission in Russia and possess all required network capabilities for the mission to be successful. Secondly, the project is called upon to develop a data bank on the mechanism of building civil society in Russia. Thirdly, it must provide data exchange between the participants in the process. Fourthly, it requires the consciousness of the participants form an inherent demand for an open nature of the process, appraisal and control on the part of the state and the public, as well as assessment of results as regards their activities on the way towards civil society. Fifthly, it provides for the development of project control mechanisms as well as machinery to monitor and assess the results and consequences of such projects.
The methodological principles underlying the project appraisal effort are intended to prove that it is of much greater value to do something than discuss and elaborate on one's goals and future actions indefinitely. Considering the busy tempo of our life it is impossible to achieve one's goal trying to reach some specific goal. It is to no avail trying to solve a problem tackling some specific problem. One must act only if absolutely aware of the results and consequences of one's activities and in full compliance with the principles of transparency, freedom of choice, clear-cut boundaries, freedom of self-determination and responsibility for the choice made, impartial assessment of results and consequences.
As the ancient saying goes 'The goal is nothing, it is the way leading to the goal that matters'. It is the way towards civil society, of which we, like many others, have great expectations, the vagueness of goals notwithstanding.

About the author
Vladislav REDIUKHIN, the Social Partnership Centre of the Moscow Government