Meet Nina Samarina from Russia – another of this year’s Olga Prize finalists


Alliance magazine


About Nina Samarina
Nina Samarina is chair of Perm Region Community Foundations Alliance. In 2005, she founded the ‘Sodeystviye’ Foundation, the Social Initiatives Support Fund, Russia’s first rural community foundation, which is focused on developing civic initiatives in the rural areas of Perm; she manages it to this day.

Seven years later, in 2012, she founded the Perm Region Community Foundations Alliance, the first regional alliance of community foundations in Russia, of which she is now chair. Its main object is to support and promote the region’s community foundations and to encourage and develop volunteering and philanthropy in the region. However, its influence extends beyond the Perm region, serving as an exemplar and source of information for community foundations in other parts of Russia.

Through both of these initiatives, Nina Samarina has pioneered a form of rural development philanthropy which was completely new in Russia. Moreover, Sodeystviye is implementing an international project, ‘Joining the Effort’, which collects, analyses and disseminates the experience and best practices of community foundations in developing civic initiatives in rural areas. The foreign partners of this project include community foundations from Bulgaria, Romania and Albania.
She also chairs the Commission on Social Organizations in the region’s Civic Chamber.

In her own words …
‘Before starting Sodeystviye in 2005, a team of us had developed forms of cooperation with people in the rural areas of the Perm region: training local people in social project planning and computer and information technology, and helping them to seek funding for interesting initiatives. It was Larisa Avrorina, director of the community foundations development programme at CAF Russia, who gave us the idea of setting up a community foundation.

We are the first community foundation working in rural Russia. Our aim is to make local people aware that there is no need to rely on someone else. Everything depends on them. On our side, we offer advice or financial support to them to help them discover their own potential. Our example has spread and there are now 13 foundations in the Perm region, eight of whom have formed the Perm Regional Alliance of Community Foundations. Other, similar funds have also been established in the Kirov, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Tyumen and Krasnoyarsk regions, based on our experience, and the model is attracting interest in other regions.

We are particularly proud of the community social passport project, which we created ourselves. There was nothing comparable in Russia at the time. First, we use opinion polls to map existing problems, then we create a ‘map of potential’ from available local financial and non-financial assets. The two maps are put together into a small-format passport designed with infographics which are easy to understand. The passport has been adopted by other non-profits and government officials in many regions of Russia and also at international level, supported by the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

We still face a number of challenges. Social activity in Russia, especially in remote areas, is still new. Non-profits are tackling the most crucial problems of our society because they are close to public opinion, and with limited resources are often able to achieve better results than costly government programmes. But the government doesn’t consider this and sometimes it’s disappointing that the state doesn’t understand and doesn’t use the instruments which non-profits can provide. It is crucial for us to share and exchange experience with our colleagues from other countries, but nowadays that’s more difficult because of the foreign agents law.

Citizens are poorly informed about the activities of non-profit organizations so we need to make them understand our role. We are well known and respected for our work, but the majority of people know us as a donor and we see our mission as much wider than this. Mostly we’d like to provide informational and methodological support to local communities to help them solve their own problems.

We want to start programmes to raise donations from local residents. We haven’t been active enough in this area so far, so we’ve got a lot to learn. We would also like to see groups of local residents who have joined together for some specific programme continue when the project is over. It is very important to see the growth of the activity of community leaders and to nurture new non-profit organizations in rural communities. That is where we are going to put our efforts in the future.’

The six finalists for this year’s Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize are announced in a special supplement published with the September issue of Alliance. Click here to read all about the finalists and to learn more about the Olga Prize. The winner will be announced in early October.

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