Development of CSR and Community Initiatives in Svetlahorsk Region

On February 2-3, 2016, ODB Brussels representatives took part in an event organized by the Real World Youth Public Association in Svetlahorsk (Homel region, Belarus). The first seminar gathered representatives of local authorities and state-owned companies, who, using assistance of the ODB Brussels expert, looked into ways in which development of local projects can benefit from cross-sectoral cooperation. On February, 3 the group of participants included a number of managers of private businesses, who discussed ways to apply corporate social responsibility principles in small and medium businesses at the regional level. 

Maksim Padbiarozkin, expert, ODB Brussels

The events were held within the framework of the project "Youth Socially-Oriented Initiatives as a Tool to Develop Svetlahorsk region", which is implemented by the Real World Youth Public Association in partnership with Svetlahorsk Regional Executive Committee and is financed by the U.S. Embassy Small Grants Program in Belarus.

During discussions of different forms of partnership between non-state and state actors, participants pointed out that local communities are insufficiently active, but with adequate support for local citizens' initiatives and provided they are involved in social projects, the situation can change.

Participants looked into forms of cross-sectoral cooperation in social projects, examined the process of cross-sectoral cooperation and the legislative regulations that apply. It was noted that the city nowadays needs examples of local authorities successfully solving problems, which is something that the Svetlahorsk Executive Committee, local civil society organizations and city residents are interested in.

Ruslan Bondarchuk (Svetlahorsk)

"I'm well-acquainted with the subject of social project planning, but it does not get realized in our city to the full extent and as it should. Our city is considered to be a young city, and we have always had youth initiatives in place. As for the infusions in the form of grants, I think it would be really timely, considering that the budgets of companies and of the city are limited. The HIV-infected demographics become older, i.e. young people - school and university students - are very well-informed, so these people already know how to behave. The problem has moved to another age group, so I think this also presents a gap for some social projects to be developed", explains Ruslan Bondarchuk, Head of the Department of Ideology and General Matters of Svetlahorsk Housing Factory.

Looking into the problems of volunteering in social projects, provision of services and manufacturing goods in according with the corporate social responsibility principles, representatives of Svetlahorsk small and medium businesses noted that the issues of environment, occupation safety and supporting social initiatives to improve the standard of living can be important because they can give you a competitive edge - to save resources, improve image and ensure customer loyalty.

Ulazdimir Mayeusky (Svetlahorsk)

"CSR - I did not know what it is. Even though I worked in business, I had never dealt with it. I have already drawn some conclusions on how I can save money: from paper consumption, by decreasing the size of "purchase order" (instead of A4 paper use half-sized paper, still providing the same information) and create better conditions for their employees. A huge plus is that discussions have been initiated, and people have started to talk about it. It's useful", - notes Uladzimir Mayeusky, director of Steklostyles / Bosch Auto Service, a private car repair business.

Small and medium business representatives agreed with Maksim Padbiarozkin, the ODB Brussels expert, that one of the main corporate social responsibility principles is that it should be voluntary. Effectiveness of social projects involving business in regional development is determined by whether people care, are interested in making a difference, and understand local issues.

According to Yury Butyryn, head of the Real World Youth Public Association and manager of the "Youth Socially-Oriented Initiatives as a Tool to Develop Svetlogorsk region" project, a competition to finance public initiatives of local youth will be announced in Svetlahorsk as early as in the spring of 2016. It is planned that the competition jury will include best Svetlahorsk representatives who are interested in city development and implement small social projects.

Yury Butyrin (Svetlahorsk)

"The key thing is for the initiative to be social, interesting, useful for the city. The jury - people who care about the city - will vote to pick out a number of initiatives. They will select at least three of them which will be implemented later", says Yury Butyrin.

As the head of the Real World Youth Public Association pointed out, meetings and seminars with businesses and governmental authorities are aimed engaging them in the cross-sectoral cooperation for Svetlogorsk region development.

For reference: Real World Youth Public Association (Svetlogorsk, Gomel region, Belarus) has operated since 1997, supporting and developing youth initiatives in different spheres. The association contributes to the combat against HIV infection, and helps to reduce levels of alcohol and drug abuse in young people. Successful projects of the organization include a Centre for Social and Psychological Rehabilitation, self-help groups, and a volunteering club. The association set up a School of Social Management, a 5-months course on project management, PR/GR, cooperation with local communities and investors for the implementation of social projects.

ODB Brussels