At the St Petersburg International Labour Forum, St Petersburg University has held a discussion panel “Volunteering as a resource for social development” to discuss how we can support volunteer centers and how they interact with the government and society.

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In 2018, the Year of Volunteers in Russia, the government has adopted a Federal Law No 15-FZ on amending in volunteering. These amendments come in effect in May 1 and regulate the way the government, public sector, and volunteer centres interact. The new law clearly stipulates the responsibilities of the government towards volunteer centres. Today, subsiding scheme has three levels. On the federal level, the volunteer centres can take part in the competitions of the President Grant Fund, with the overall sum 8 bln rubles this year. The supporting schemes are also developed on the regional and municipal levels. In the nearest future, 40 regions are to open piloting centre to support the volunteering.

Nicolo Triakka, Director of the European Department of the Italian Association of the Volunteer Centres, shared his experience in volunteering support. The Association has 65 centres that are regularly subsided by the bank unions. In 2016, the total subsidy was 41 mln euros that were divided between the volunteer organisations by the volunteer centres that provide counselling, logistics, and educational services.

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How effective the volunteer centres are depend both on how they are financially supported and whether all parties joint their efforts to support them. In Russia, the volunteer centres are now becoming to be supported by church. If we want to develop volunteering, we should joint our efforts, said the President of St Petersburg Charity Organisation “Charity Association “Nevsky Angel” Vladimir Lukianov.

Another step in cementing this partnership is an information system where the volunteer organisations can provide information about their work and needs. This system is expected to increase reputation capital of the volunteer organisations, said the Director of the Department of Strategic Development and Innovations of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Artem Shadrin.

Among the key challenges is how we can popularize volunteering, especially in the civil society. To that end, the universities can serve as the resource centres, said the children’s rights ombudsman in St Petersburg Svetlana Agapitova who is also SPbU’s graduate.

University life is just the right time to volunteer. The universities should provide the opportunities for volunteering and explain how it is important to help.

Children’s rights ombudsman in St Petersburg Svetlana Agapitova

Although the theoretical bases of volunteering were developed in the last century, the terminological debates are still well underway. The new Federal Law no 15-FZ regard “volunteering” and “free-willing” as equal. The sociologists however are still seeking the way how we can approach the “free-willing”, especially the criteria we use to refer to “free-willing”.

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St Petersburg University also shared its experience in volunteering, in particular how we volunteer on different levels: from individual help to volunteering in the international events. Each year, the University volunteers at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Legal Forum, Cultural Forum, and Labour Forum. St Petersburg University also has St Petersburg Headquarter of Volunteers of the Universiada-2019.

Each year, volunteering is becoming increasingly popular in Russia. If we want to be effective in providing help to those who need it, we should create a third sector that would unite all volunteering organisations. Not only state, but also society should contribute, say experts.