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Regular version of the site

Partnership of civil society and the state in solving social problems

2010
Department: Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Non-Profit Sector

Academic publications on the issue of interaction between civil society institutions and the state are far from being extensive. These questions are rarely explained conceptually, and are instead reduced to generalization of facts. There is an obvious need for development of theoretical questions of interaction between civil society and the state based on analysis of historical experience and international practice, provisions of recent social theory, and as well, conducting specific empirical studies in the area of forming state and municipal policies as regards to civil society institutions. The results of this work may underlie recommendations for the government and non-government non-profit organizations to improve efficiency when addressing social problems, and to increase quality of social services rendered to populations based on streamlining their technologies of partnership interaction.

The research target is the interaction between government bodies and civil society structures in Russia. The subject of the research is partnership between government bodies and civil society structures in solving social problems.

The purpose of the research is conceptualization of the partnership between civil society and the state based on the data from theoretic and empiric studies and preparation. Based on these results, recommendations will be given to improve efficiency of solving social problems through improving the technologies of inter-sector interaction.

As a result of the research, we:

1) Discovered a major discrepency between growing expenditures of the Russian state for social purposes and the level of people’s satisfaction with the state of social sphere. Social expenditures, financed by taxpayers through federal, regional and municipal budgets as well as government off-budget funds, have doubled over the last five years. Of course, the amount of spending is still small compared with other G8 members, but positive developments in this area are obvious. Still, people’s satisfaction with the state of the social sphere is low, which is clearly demonstrated by mass surveys. On average, only one in ten respondents thinks that branches of the social service sector of the economy, such as education, healthcare, science, culture and social welfare – are in good shape. About 40% of people are more or less satisfied, and about the same percentage of people gave expressly negative evaluation. The spheres that arouse the greatest concern are healthcare and social welfare (53% and 56% of respondents respectively are confident that these areas are in poor condition).

2) Reforms in the social sphere have notably accelerated, since people’s assessments generally agree with those of the government. The President of the country believes that a modernized social state should be based on a “complex, well-balanced system of economic incentives and social guarantees, legal, ethical and behavioral norms”. Result based budgeting is increasingly applied, the provision of social services by government owned institutions becomes a competitive business. However these decisions don’t always meet with public support, and often these decisions are insufficient to break the negative trends. Resources to increase public funding are not limitless. The Russian economy hasn’t come out of the crisis yet, and in the medium run will hardly grow at more than two thirds of pre-crisis rates. It means that social spending will also increase at a slower pace. Meanwhile, modernization of the economy and society require greater awareness of the quality of social services provided.

3) The future model of a modernized social sphere will be based on social developments which are directed by the civil society with the support of  the state and in close cooperation with the state. Russia has made the first steps along this path. In July 2009, Russia adopted the Conceptual Framework of Facilitating Charitable Activities and Volunteering, and in April 2010, the Federal Law on Supporting Socially-Oriented Non-Commercial Organizations. At the very end of 2010, in the final stage of preparing budget for the next period, 900 million roubles were earmarked to finance the federal program of supporting socially-oriented nonprofit organization in 2011. In the Presidents’ address to the Federal Council of the Russian Federation in 2010, one of the key topics was  the issue of interaction between the state and nonprofit organizations, especially engaging the latter in tackling social problems.

4) The research demonstrated that development of the public-government partnership in the social sphere is one of the main areas of social sphere modernization, the most important tool of improving quality of social services and ensuring people’s satisfaction with these services. This conclusion is supported by international experience, Russian historical retrospective analysis, examination of modern practices of civil society structures’ involvement in solving social problems, and their interaction with government bodies in social sphere in Russia.

5) The retrospective analysis of public self-organization development in Russia for a chronologically long period ( 18th to 20th Century) confirmed the occurrence in Russian history of an unprecedented model of public-state partnership in solving social problems. In Russia, there was a theoretic-ideological foundation of state-community relations reflected in the form of official documents that determined direction of the state policy in respect to civil society institutions. There was a legal framework that regulated the operation of civil society institutions in the social sphere, rights and responsibilities of civil institution activists, nature of public and state interaction in solving social problems. We noted the administrative and practical aspect that was formed by administrative institutions aimed at enforcing state policy in respect to public organizations operating in the social sphere. Russian history incorporates the on-site experience of public organization activities in the sphere of resolving social issues, in their interaction with public authorities, and in the results of this interaction.

6) Throughout the  19th and early  20th Century, interaction between public organizations rendering social services and public authorities developed in the framework of the mutual supplementation model. The non-profit sector that burgeoned at that time operated in those niches of the social service market (out-of-school education, healthcare, charity, professional mutual aid, academic activity etc), which were neglected or weakly covered by the state. For instance, before the 1917 Revolution, there was no state system of social welfare, therefore this area was serviced by mutual aid organizations that provided material (issuance of loans, benefits, pensions to the disabled, widows, orphans etc.) and intellectual aid (foundation of libraries, organization of concerts, shows and evening parties) to various professional groups: salespeople, craftsmen, doctors, medical assistants, teachers etc. Spending of the Russian government for national education even at the beginning of the 20th Century was marginal, whereas a large part of the Russian population didn’t have even elementary education. Thus, the needs of the Russian population in education and self-education were met by public awareness and educational organizations. Private philanthropy was the foundation of the system of support for poor people and orphans.