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Regular version of the site

Summer School on Innovation in Civil Society Completed in July

The Third Summer School of the HSE’s Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector (CSCSNS) took place in July. Its topic was ‘Theoretical and Empirical Studies of Social Innovation as a factor for Developing Civil Society, the Nonprofit Sector, and Volunteerism’.

According to Irina Mersiyanova, Director of the CSCSNS, it is very important today to find and support social actors whose work will serve as a catalyst of social modernization. That is why this year decided decision was made to make the main aim of the Summer School to familiarize participants with innovations in the nonprofit sector.

Together with experienced researchers and professionals in the nonprofit sector, university lecturers and NGO staff members, the Summer School attracted postgraduate students, recent graduates, Master’s and undergraduate students, including those from the HSE Faculty of Public Administration and the Faculty of Sociology. Thirty participants from various cities in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands had the opportunity to share the results of their research and ideas with colleagues.

During the seven days, experienced experts conducted sessions to present the latest theoretical and practical developments. Specific topics included, among others, ‘Understanding Civil Society in Various Cultural Contexts’, ‘Innovation in Local Self-government in Russia’, ‘Social Innovation: The European Experience’. Irina Mersiyanova told the audience about the history of the Summer School and conducted a session on key concepts of civil society, the nonprofit sector, and social innovation.

A lecture by Anaël Labigne, Visiting Research Scholar at the Centre d’études européennes, Sciences Po, Paris, France, and author of the book The Attitudinal Dimension of Civility, drew considerable interest among the audience. In his lecture entitled ‘Shifting the Burden?’ Dr. Labigne explained what it means to be between poles of innovative ideas and symptomatic solutions. Dr. Labigne gave examples of symptomatic solutions when burden is shifted, as a result of which getting rid of symptoms causes side effects, and the burden of an unsolved problem is shifted to a higher level (for example, an attempt to deal with stress by means of a glass of wine). According to Dr. Labigne, social innovation, as well as innovation in general, is realized as part of a certain system and should be in line with the system’s rules to a certain degree. Dr. Labigne also concluded that social problems can only be rooted, regulated, etc, but not solved.

Lev Yakobson, Academic Supervisor at the HSE CSCSNS and First Vice Rector of the HSE, summarized the Summer School sessions with a discussion about the role of nonprofit organizations in solving social problems and the evolution of civil society in Russia.

Although civil society is influenced by the state (positively or negatively), it is not created by the state. Civil society is what we make ourselves. And we can have a considerable impact both the development of civil society and the quality of its interactions with the state

Lev Yakobson
Academic Supervisor at the HSE CSCSNS

The main result of the sessions was joint discussion of research projects presented by participants on the last day of the Summer School. Each paper was awarded a diploma of first, second, or third class (both the jury and participants themselves voted for the papers, and their opinions coincided).

Marina Chernysheva, Anastasia Kornilova, Igor Mikheev, and Kamilla Adgamova – participants of the project ‘Innovation Mechanisms of Social Investment by Business (by the Example of Social Entrepreneurship)’ – received a first-class diploma and will continue to develop this topic. The team made a point that investment in social entrepreneurship is attractive for Russian business, since socially oriented business is more innovative and is more trusted by various stakeholders.

Anzhela Akaemova, Associate Professor at the Kiev University of Management and Entrepreneurship Department of Economic Theory and a participant in the school, said that she was going to use the knowledge she obtained in research and practice.

‘I hope that the new skills will give me the opportunity to write a chapter for my book, as well as for my thesis’, Anzhela said, ‘In addition, I work part-time as an associate professor at the Department of Political Science at the Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, where I conduct classes for state officials, as well as members of parliament and their assistants. I believe that materials I received at the Summer School will be useful for my teaching and research. When I go back to Ukraine, I’ll tell my colleagues about the school and the people I met here – I would like to contribute to changing relations between Russia and Ukraine for the better. Nobody in the Russian academic environment is hostile towards Ukraine, and, of course, we should develop cooperation between our countries’.

Photos by Tatiana Bogoslova

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