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Social innovation potential in the development of the Russian civil society

Priority areas of development: sociology

Subject of the study: social innovations in the sphere of Russian civil society and in the foreign countries.

Goal of the study: to justify the role of the social innovations in the development of the Russian civil society, the development of the third sector and volunteering.

Used methods:

  • analysis of the results of Russian and foreign theoretical and empirical studies;
  • collection of the empirical data via sociological methods;
  • analysis and synthesis of the empirical data based on the principles of historicism, comparative historical, comparative legal and formal-legal methods;
  • mathematical methods of data analysis;
  • qualitative analysis of legal acts and institutions for support of social innovation in the European Union;
  • comparative analysis of public policies to support NPO (non-government non-profit organizations) - government partnership  in the European Union.

Empirical Base of the Research:

  • 709 scholarly publications on different aspects of the research topic;
  • sociological data from the previous rounds of studies on NPOs and on Russian civil society, conducted by the HSE Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector during the 2009-2013;
  • official government statistical, sociological and historical data on various aspects of development and implementation of social innovations in the Russian civil society;
  • applications of the  SO NPO (socially oriented NPOs), winners of the competition of subsidies of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation in the 2012;
  • the mass population survey. The survey sample was made up of 1.500 respondents selected with regard to socio-demographic characteristics, representing adult population of Russia by sex, age, type of community, education and socio-professional status according to criteria worked out with survey programme. The statistical error of the data obtained does not exceed 3.4%. Data was collected through formalized interviews by the Russian National Centre for Public Opinion Research.
  • Survey among the Russian elite representatives on the federal level. The data was collected by Public Opinion Research Centre Glas in November and October of the 2014, based on individual formalized interviews at the respondents’ workplaces. Respondents were executives and incumbents in the federal ministries and the federal agencies; heads of the heavy industry enterprises in Moscow and the Moscow region; deputes of the State Duma and the Federation Council. Among the respondents were 39 federal ministries, federal agencies and services, 100 industrial enterprises of Moscow and the Moscow region, and deputies of all 4 party factions of the State Duma and the senators of the 8 Federal Districts. Total number of respondents: 300 people.
  • Data of the survey among the authorities of subjects of the Russian Federation, where participated 64 respondents of the 44 regions of the Russian Federation. The survey was realized by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives in 2012 based on survey form developed by the Instituteу for the Urban Economics. 64 respondents participated in this survey.


1. A theoretical concept of the social innovations was developed. Social innovations are believed to be one of the most potential tools of civic participation and cross-sectorial partnership in the solution of social objectives, which increases abilities of the civil society in self-organization and its abilities of engagement.

2. Theoretical justifications of the third sector’s role as a favorable environment for the social innovations’ development were introduced. A developed third sector creates opportunities for realization and following spreading of the new ideas and approaches, initiated by citizens, develops its own innovative solutions.

3. Basing on the Russian empirical data prospects of development of social innovations depending on the characteristics of the Russian third sector was shown. Opportunities and contributions of the Russian NPOs in the development of social innovations were examined. Their input is based on providing appropriate circumstances in the field civil society. Possibilities and real contributions of  the Russian NPOs in the development of social innovations due to ensuring appropriate terms in the field if civil society were considered. Conclusions showed that institutional structure of the civil society and the third sector is weak. The study indicated that there is a social request from citizens and representatives of the federal elites for NPOs activities in the social services provision.

4. The study revealed low level of interpersonal trust among Russians, prevalence of non-formal forms of civic participation, low diffusion of civic engagement values and forms of joint activities. In such environment citizens’ opportunities for innovative resolutions in the social sphere are limited.

5. The role of fundraising as an innovative practice for increasing NPO engagement in solving social problems and for ensuring of sustainable operation was identified. Appropriateness of marketing approach in fundraising for the Russian NPOs was demonstrated. Main approaches of effectiveness in fundraising for NPOs were also characterized through the multiple regression analysis, which revealed main factors affecting the effectiveness.

6. Russian innovative citizen initiatives have some features in common. In the first stage, they rise due to personal initiatives. Later they develop to larger territories, where these ideas are realized, involving municipalities and other interested parties. Institutionalization of the initiatives as a non-profit organization is possible.

7. Theoretical bases of the analysis of ethical behavior were developed. They are the theory of planned behavior and the concept of the effect of “warm glow”. Based on the data of the mass representative surveys was revealed a level of the prevalence of ethical consumption among Russians, factors effecting individuals to use different types of ethical consumption and possibilities and environment of the development of ethical consumption were determined.    

8. Based on results of the analysis of social innovation potential in the development of the pre-revolution Russian civil society was identified that it was enough high and was a base for the formation of social innovation infrastructure and third sector development. Base for the social innovations was formed, in particular the culture of political participation and a group of representatives of social innovation activities.  Following forms of innovative civil society activities during the 1905-1917 were discovered: engagement of the civil society in political work; participation in analysis and expertise activities; establishment of organizations with a large networks in education, acting as a lobbies of  reforms in education based on the principles of allness and accessibility, relaying on public initiative;  emergence of the new communication practices.

9. A survey on main foreign approaches of government NPOs support systems for social policy purposes was conducted. Financing and co-financing of NPO activities are able to function as an effective tool in the solution of government’s social policy.  

10. Based on analysis of traditional and innovative methods of evaluation of NPO activities a methodology of social accountability was chosen as the more applicable in the frame of NPO competitions in receiving government financial support. The methodology of enhanced added value was tested by the evaluation of applications for SO NPO in the frame of call for proposal by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russian Federation. A considerable statistical correlation was found between the indicators of effectiveness of social programs and existence of mechanisms of their assessment. For the optimization of evaluation procedures was developed a set of recommendations for implementation this innovative approach in the evaluation of application of SO NPOs.

11. The models of regional development factors impact on the “applicability” of different support tools for SO NPO were identified. Conclusions were made on the necessity of classification of subjects and differentiation of federal policy depending on: level of economic development; level of urbanization: share of public sector in the economy:  development level of government institutions’ systems in healthcare, social services and in education.  

Level of implementation: firstly, the materials of this study were used for realization of summer school on the theme «Theoretical and empirical studies of social innovations as a factor of civil society, the third sector and volunteering development», organized by the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector HSE. Secondly, these materials were used for the preparation of informational and analytical bulletin on development of the civil society and non-profit sector in the Russian Federation, published by the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector. Thirdly, materials also were used in the preparation of recommendations to improve a program evaluation system of SO NPOs to increase effectiveness of budget expenditure savings, quality of expertise in evaluation sent to the Committee of Public Relations of Moscow City.

Recommendations on introduction and area of application:

The significance of study results are that they can be used in:  

  • government and municipal management in the development of concepts of federal, regional and municipal level programs and in legal acts in the field of development and support for the civic engagement and feasibility of non-profit organizations. Particularly, the results can be used as a starting point at the legal level notion of “social innovation”, also applicable for SO NPOs,  and also in the development and implementation of action plan to empower the role of NPOs in the market of the social services;
  • federal and regional authorities which support SO NPOs to increase the current procedures and to determine main priorities of actions based on the assessment of foreign experience of  implementation of social innovations by the service oriented NPOs and evaluation of the government regulation in their development, also in the frame of methodical material development intended to develop social innovations among the  SO NPOs;
  • in order to develop proposals in periodical enumerating of SO NPOs implementing social innovations;
  • in the training of staff in government and municipal management;
  • in the curricula of educational institutions of different fields, including NPO management, government and municipal management, in the frame of staff qualification courses for government municipal management.   


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