"Business should also have a soul”. CRS Projects at the First Belarusian Social Business Forum

On June 28, Minsk hosted the first Belarusian social business forum “Social Business – Best Innovative Practices and Opportunities for Social Investment” dedicated to the International Day of Social Business, which has been celebrated annually since 2010. The event showcased the best Belarusian and international social business practices and presented new social investment opportunities. The Forum was divided into two parts: the first one discussed social enterprises of Belarus, and the second gave the floor to representatives of the best domestic and international CSR projects. Read a detailed report from first part of the event here.

Organizers of the First Belarusian Social Business Forum: ODB. Brussels, Social Business Technologies, Global Compact Network Belarus, the Support Programme of Belarus of the Federal Government of Germany, United Nations Development Programme in Belarus, Republican Confederation of Entrepreneurship, Association of European Businesses, Berlin School of Social Innovation, Agency of Social News, SAP, Social Weekend and Russian foundation “Our Future".

The second part of the Forum was inaugurated by Aliaksandr Skrabousky, Head of the United Nations Global Compact Office in Belarus and founder of the “Social Weekend” competition in Belarus. He greeted the participants and expressed his hope that the number of such projects in our country would group every year. In his opinion, following the economic crises of 2014 and 2015 our companies began to pay more attention to corporate social responsibility.

Aliaksandr Skrabouski, Head of the United Nations Global Compact Office in Belarus, entrepreneur and co-organizer of “Social Weekend”


The section was opened by Andrey Raschupkin, First Deputy Director General of "Coca-Cola Beverages Belarus". He presented the case of the "Let’s Save Yelnya Together" campaign.  Yelnya Republican Landscape Reserve is one of the most unique areas in Belarus. It is the largest lake and marsh complex in Belarus and one of the largest in Europe. Unfortunately, because of the ameliorative canals dug in the 1930s, the water outflow increased, making the upper layers of peat dry out and causing fires almost annually. Thanks to the funding provided, volunteers have built 54 cascade dams since 2007. 46 additional industrial dams have been installed over the last two years. With the support of Coca-Cola Beverages of Belarus, the water level in the lakes of the centre of the reserve has risen by almost a meter. There have been no serious fires in Yelnya since 2007. According to Andrey Raschupkin, the company has invested about $500,000 into the CSR project over the decade. He also noted the involvement and interest of the company’s own employees who took to volunteering in Yelnya with great enthusiasm.

Andrey Raschupkin, First Deputy Director General of "Coca-Cola Beverages Belarus"


Olga Tkachenka, PR Group Director at Mobile TeleSystems, was the second to speak. The company's representative thanked the organizers for the invitation and spoke about the "MTS Mobile Library" project. In 2013, the operator placed QR codes around Minsk so that people could download books. Minsk residents loved the initiative, and a lot of mass media outlets picked it up. In 2015, the company decided to change the concept of the project by decorating five cars of Minsk subway, making them into a classical literature car, a feel-good book car, a children's literature car, a mystery and fantasy car, and a bestseller car. Each car had 50 quotes from famous books related to the project theme. According to Olga, sketches of the cars went viral even before the project started, and not just in Belarus but in neighbouring countries as well. The project went on for about five months. In that time, Mobile TeleSystems received more than 1000 positive reviews and got a request from the St. Petersburg subway to help them implement a similar initiative.

Olga Tkachenka, PR Group Director at Mobile TeleSystems


The next presentation was given by Tatsiana Kavaliv, representative of “Tvoya Stolitsa” (“Your Capital”) real estate agency and curator of the “20 good deeds” project. In 2016, when the company was approaching its 20th anniversary, the employees were asked how they wanted to celebrate it. Tatsiana says that, to her surprise, instead of going to a restaurant or inviting a famous artist, many employees suggested a “20 good deeds” project, which everyone supported. The team had to do something good and useful once every 45 days. All the “good deeds” were divided into four categories: children, elderly, animals and the environment. Event announcements and reports were posted on the company’s website, on the “Tvoya Stolitsa” forum and its partner website. In a year, the company did many good deeds, from planting trees in Minsk to cleaning construction debris at the newly built hospice. Tatsiana noted that the team became much more united and friendly after the project ended.

Tatsiana Kavaliv, representative of “Tvoya Stolitsa” and curator of the “20 good deeds” project


Anastasiya Rastoutsava from a Russian company SAP presented the SAP UP social start-up competition as an example of beneficial social investment. SAP UP was established by SAP SCI in 2015. The main goal of the contest is to create an environment for the business community to support social start-ups both with their expertise and financially. In 2016, SAP UP was expanded, supporting best social entrepreneurship practices in Kazakhstan, and is set to come to Belarus in late 2017. SAP engages representatives of the commercial sector, government, education and public structures, thus helping to create a community that helps to promote and develop social entrepreneurship as a separate sector of the country’s economy. All the submitted and registered project applications undergo a selection process, with only the best ones going through to the next round. The winner receives 450,000 Russian roubles and a trip to Germany. In 2016, SAP UP acquired 75 partners, received more than 900 applications and more than 100 articles in the media.

Anastasiya Rastoutsava, Russian company SAP


Anastasiya Rastoutsava: "You cannot say that our arrival to the Belarusian market was a spontaneous one. We have an office here, we have presence, we have experts and an established network. This means that we can bring our own resource and expert support. Before today’s Forum, we had an expectation that Belarus is prepared, and there is a lot of potential to develop. We have confirmed that today, and it is great. We have made the right decision and we are going where we need and where we can grow and develop. Will the competition in Belarusian become an annual one? Looking at our history, we had it in Russia the first year, and it is still being held there. Kazakhstan joined in the second year, and we will still have it this year. We are expanding our geography. Perhaps one day we will come to the conclusion that all these countries will go to one CIS competition, but at the moment we wish to do it regularly and doing it locally in each country, because each of them has its specificity, its own jury and its projects. So we are going to do this on a country basis. My expectations from the Belarusian competition? I actually have some personal expectations as I would like to see many new interesting projects. You know, looking at the projects from Kazakhstan or Russia, all of them are different. Every country is special in its own way: in some places they have more social technology projects, in some – projects to provide people with opportunities. I want to understand where the focus is in Belarus, what kinds of interesting ideas you have. I also want everything to be successful in terms of partnership building, because our strength lies in the fact that we have a lot of partners, people who we can engage in the process. I really hope we will find many like-minded people in Belarus as well. The main important thing is that this relationship with the social entrepreneurs, our partners continues even after the competition.

Ihar Kolchanka and Natallia Rudakouskaya from “Sette Studiospoke after the presentation of the Russian guest. They described the development of project ideas by sharing the Four No’s Rule. According to this rule, for the project to be successful, one needs to adhere to four principles. First, the project needs to be interesting and exciting. Secondly, people need to be interested and engaged in the project. Aside from that, the project needs to provide real and useful benefits. It is also important that the brand behind the project should really match the type of help provided. Then the speakers spoke about three of their latest successful projects: "Chystahod na Svyslachy”, "Borjomi" alcometer and "Shkodamobil". Finally, the guests encouraged participants to make every project special and put their hearts into it.

Ihar Kolchanka, Head of "Sette Studio" PR agency


Anna Apalikava, Honorary Member of the Association of European Businesses who represents JTI company, discussed the the international standard for assessing the effectiveness of social investment using the example of the "University of the Third Age" CSR project. Minsk University of the Third Age is a social and educational project that benefits the elderly people in Minsk. It is a platform for creative development and establishing dialogue between different generations. Over the four years, more than two thousand elderly Minsk residents have already acquired useful knowledge and skills, and found new friends. Anna said that the efficiency of a CSR project is determined by the benefits it brings to the community and to business, as well as by the "domino effect". Using the example of the "University of the Third Age”, she showcased the success and effectiveness of corporate social responsibility programmes in Belarus.

Anna Apalikava, JTI, Honorary Member of the Association of European Businesses

The forum was closed by Anna Pazniak, PR-director of PRCI Agency. She spoke about the progress of CSR projects and impact measurement. She underscored right away that there were no universal indicators of the project effectiveness, but that a number of key points existed to assess the success of the project, such as financial benefits and the win-win principle. One should not forget about the project relevance and the engagement of opinion leaders in project promotion. Anna warned that you needed to clearly understand the purpose and objectives before starting off to do a project. She cited a number of CSR projects as successful examples, including Dream Team, 15,000 Chances to Live and #minskikot. In her closing speech, Anna wished everyone good luck in their projects and asked to remember that each project was effective in its own way.

Anna Pazniak, PR Director of PRCI Agency


The International Day of Social Business has been celebrated annually on June 28th since 2010. Muhammad Yunus, a social entrepreneur from Bangladesh and a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his efforts to ensure economic and social development, was born on this day.

The goal of the First Belarusian Social Business Forum “Social Business – Best Innovative Practices and Opportunities for Social Investment” is to encourage participants to discuss important characteristics of social businesses, its benefits, achievements and challenges, development plans for social enterprises and future opportunities for social businesses, as well as to inspire people to establish their own social companies. Events held on or around this day bring together social entrepreneurs, authorities, civil society organizations and people who are partial to urgent social problems.

Text: Yaraslau Klimasheusky

Photo: Vitaly Brazousky, find more photos from the Forum here: album 1, album 2, album 3

The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.

The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.

ODB Brussels