The ASI provides support to social project leaders in Kamchatka

At the meeting in Kamchatka with Svetlana Chupsheva, the General Director of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI), the leaders of social projects proposed to create a resource center for social entrepreneurs in the region, to change the mechanism for subsidizing the costs of tourism services, to reduce the contributions of film distribution companies to the Cinema Fund and to compensate for the costs of adapting films for persons with disabilities, as well as to include volunteer activities in the employment history.

Aleksandr Meschankin, the Head of Rosomakha (“Wolverine”) Kamchatka Center for Youth and Social Tourism, presented an initiative aimed at changing the mechanism for subsidizing social tourism in Russia.

The Center’s activity is based on the principles of social entrepreneurship, where profit derived from core business is earmarked to subsidize the cost of services provided to social tourists. The project covers 3 target groups: young people, pensioners, and people with disabilities.

“Our Center has started with the provision of services for young people from other regions, who wanted to visit a unique area – Kamchatka. I found a way to solve this problem through social entrepreneurship, having created guest houses, which reduced costs, and we used subsidized flights for young people. This allowed us to make quite cheap routes; in addition, we cooperate with local tour operators who do us a favor and reduce prices, sometimes working even at cost. Our profit is derived from accommodation services. The cost of accommodation [of tourists in guest houses] is one of the lowest in the market. Then pensioners started to contact us, they also became active Internet users. Now we are creating a second basis for social tourism, changing its format, and we are looking for an approach that would allow us to replicate our experience in other regions. At the same time, we are preparing the basis to adapt it to other people, because now we started receiving applications from people with disabilities,” Aleksandr Meschankin explained.

On the other hand, he noted that Rosomakha’s tours still remain quite expensive, as compared to other regions, because of the special geographical location of Kamchatka.

“We cannot get subsidized for these tours for legislative reasons, since all subsidizing of social tourism is earmarked to the residents of those regions where subsidies come from, but these people go just here. Therefore, we want to introduce such an initiative: to slightly change the mechanism for subsidizing social tourism, giving an opportunity for some regions to provide resources, subsidies for the social tourists themselves. That is, they have to decide wherever they want to go,” Aleksandr Meschankin said.

Svetlana Chupsheva proposed to consider the social tourism in Kamchatka as a case for optimizing the system of inter-budgetary relations at the regional level.

“In general, it’s a system that involves not only this aspect – subsidizing transport and tourist services, but also other ones – health care, social services that are not transferred between regions. I believe that there will be some changes in this area, as inter-budgetary relations do not provide for such services even for children with cancer, when, for example, you need to transport a child from Tatarstan to Moscow. We can consider your case too, we can think about what we can offer,” the ASI’s General Director said.

Svetlana Chupsheva recalled the instructions of the Russian president to develop a uniform methodology for the formation of a special tariff for social services for government agencies and NPOs in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

“Here, government agencies have some competitive advantage: they have both a special tariff and, additionally, the full financing of their expenses – buildings, rental, payroll, state order – from the regional budget. It turns out that a non-profit or commercial organization receives only the tariff, that is, their costs, investment and operating expenses are not taken into account,” she noted.

In addition, Aleksandr Meschankin proposed to create a resource center for social entrepreneurs in the Kamchatka Territory.

“There is a need for it, because this is a new phenomenon; in such case, it will be more often provided for in regional programs, and we will be able to more clearly show what we are doing. Without such a center, or as part of supporting socially-oriented non-profit organizations (SO NPOs), if you don’t include social entrepreneurship therein, it will be difficult for us to continue our work,” he stated.

The Head of Rosomakha Center stressed that there are many social entrepreneurs in the region, but nobody sees them due to lack of legal status.

“Surely, we must create the necessary infrastructure. A special foundation [to support social projects – Editor’s notewill be created in the Far East. We can envisage such work as part of the Ministry of Economic Development’s program for creating an infrastructure for small businesses. There was another program for NPOs, in which it’s also possible to earmark part of these funds to finance the infrastructure,” Svetlana Chupsheva responded to the suggestion.

She stated that many regions have created centers of innovations in the social sphere (CISS) and resource centers for NPOs, but the latter operate effectively not everywhere.

“We will make a single standard, a methodology for work evaluation, personnel training, educational programs for these sites. I think we will also discuss it with our colleagues from the government [of the Kamchatka Territory]. If such site is missing, we are ready to support the application with the Ministry of Economic Development for the next year, to create such a site, or to use the existing ones. We are also ready to transfer all competences, to include you in this network – for sharing practices, educational projects, and standards, so as not to postpone this work for the next year,” Svetlana Chupsheva said.

Sergey and Alena Samoylenko, the founders of Interesarium House of Entertaining Science and Vulcanarium Interactive Museum, expressed their willingness to provide a site for the new resource center in the Kamchatka Territory.

“We are readyto create a resource center based on our non-profit organization, including for the purpose of including NPOs in the register of social services providers. As we are ready to render these services ourselves, we have a list for disabled people, for large families, for pensioners – we already see how much our offers are in demand. We are ready to help other social entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations to join this activity, so what you are talking about – creating a pilot project here – we are ready to work to this end, and you can count on us; we are ready to be a flagship in this area,” Alena Samoylenko said.

Interesarium and Vulcanarium are commercial projects that have an educational component and are adapted for people with disabilities.

“We are making a program for visually impaired people, wherein we involve all other sensory organs. We are also developing a virtual tour for people with reduced mobility, who cannot climb a volcano,” Alena Samoylenko reported.

The Museum’s site already hosts special clubs and additional lessons for schoolchildren.

“The main purpose I created it for was becoming a system of additional education, to give an opportunity to hold some small off-site lessons: those of local history, physics, mathematics, thematic lessons. And, surely, the club activities which will require a certain infrastructure. The commercial entity just allows for creating and supporting this infrastructure,” Sergey Samoylenko explained.

He also told that he plans to organize off-site lectures and expositions for other Russian regions.

“We have some difficulties as businessmen: as we are providing social services, it’s very hard for us to compete with state agencies. For example, in Moscow all museums are free for schoolchildren after September 1st. We cannot afford this; we would be happy to do it, but we are doing business, there's nothing you can do about it,” Sergey Samoylenko added.

Svetlana Chupsheva supported the idea to carry out lessons outside class rooms and invited the leaders of Interesarium project to obtain a license for educational activities.

“Today, it is possible and necessary to teach both physics and chemistry not only within the walls of schools, but also outside, on the sites of universities and in the system of additional education. Many regions today use certificates, when money follows a child, and his or her parents can choose themselves, even as regards additional education, whether their child should stay at school or attend additional lessons and clubs on other sites. We are ready to share this practice with Kamchatka,” the ASI’s Head said.

As an example, she cited the experience of Moscow for organization of an off-site “Technology” lessons in the territory of the Kvantorium children’s technopark.

“We submitted a proposal for network education for this purpose, because there are also some limitations in this area in terms of payment and direct mutual relationship with institutions. So, I believe that we can transfer this model, as it is working in regions and in Moscow, and study with our colleagues how to help your site and to develop your system,” Svetlana Chupsheva added.

“Affordable Cinema” project was presented to the ASI’s General Director by Anzhela Elizarova from Limonad Cinema Center, who created a comfortable environment for people with disabilities.

“The cinema is equipped with appropriate ramps, parking lots, bathrooms, lifts; the staff provide additional services for such visitors. In addition, we consistently hold sessions for people with hearing impairment: original films, best blockbusters, but with subtitles, as well as some exclusive content within the framework of the theater festival: this also includes opera, performances, ballet with subtitles in the original language. Another result of our project is holding some social non-commercial events for people who have visual and hearing impairments with screening adapted movies, simultaneously with subtitles and audio description,” Anzhela Elizarova told.

She outlined external factors, contributing to the formation of excessive administrative and financial barriers, which can affect the implementation of the project.

“These are the draft amendments to the law on cinematography prepared and published on the website of state acts developed by the Ministry of Culture. In brief, it sets forth that, to obtain a screening certificate, a distributor has now to make a non-tax payment to a specially created reserve fund in the amount of 5 million rubles. The main risk for the “Affordable Cinema” project will be the fact that there may be no more movies with subtitles or such an exclusive content as a theater cinema festival, because they will be not rentable for their distributor. Our suggestion to the draft resolution item 2.2.2 provides for making amendments to Article 2 of the amendments to the law on cinematography to reduce this non-tax payment,” Limonad Center’s Executive Director stated.

Anzhela Elizarova suggested solving the problem of a deficit of films adapted for viewing by people with hearing and visual disabilities through compensating the right holders for a part of costs for adaptation.

“We are not working on this with some of our partners, and get films from them, but we are also studying the possibility to get a film directly from its right holder. Unfortunately, in such a case, we have the costs of all resources, including those from distributors; we even paid a little to make this copy for us to show it in the cinema for free,” she explained. “For this purpose, we suggest creating a closed base of adapted films, which cinemas will be able to show during non-profit events”.

In response to this proposal, Svetlana Chupsheva recalled that, under the instruction of the Head of State, the ASI has established the So-Edineniye (Co-nnection) Deafblind Support Foundation. “I know that these guys adapted many theatrical productions just to demonstrate them to deafblind people. I think they will share this experience with you. We are ready to discuss this project with the Association of Film and Television Producers and with the Ministry of Culture just for the purpose of creating such a content, its adaptation for demonstration to people with hearing and visual disabilities,” the ASI’s head said.

She promised to solve the issue of non-tax payments to the Cinema Fund. “We will also contact the Ministry of Culture; we have to understand what kind of payment this is. It seems that today, at the level of the Russian federal government, there is a group to optimize non-tax payments for businesses, but it turns out that we optimize payments with one hand while adding new ones with the other hand,” Svetlana Chupsheva said, surprised.

Dominik Karol Gonsowski, a volunteer of the Kronotsky State Natural Biosphere Reserve, who came to Russian from Poland, proposed to record the volunteer service period in the employment history.

He told that he has been engaged in volunteer activities from the age of 8–9 years, and that he has been working in Kamchatka for about 1 year.

“It would be useful for me, since I’m working here, to record my volunteer activities in my employment history. When I worked in Poland, it was always mentioned in the documents. This is really important,” Dominik Karol Gonsowski stressed.

He believes that the main barrier for involvement of foreigners in volunteer programs in the Russian territory is the lack of English translation of the information published on Russian websites. “I speak Russian, and this area is open for me, but generally, Russia, including Kamchatka, is difficult to access for foreigners in terms of language,” the Polish volunteer stated.

Svetlana Chupsheva confirmed that Kamchatka is a special region for foreign tourists. According to her, translating information into foreign languages can help making this territory more accessible and hospitable.

The ASI’s Head stated that she also considers it right to record volunteer activities on an equal basis with employment.

“As for a volunteer card, keeping records of these activities, we will make proposals on this topic as part of the President’s mandate. I guess our culture, our development in this direction does create such conditions to the maximum extent. Many companies develop corporate volunteering – including Sberbank, Rosatom, Lukoil, and many other companies, who support today employees engaged in volunteer activities. And indeed, in some promotions, carrier developments they consider how active a person previously was,” Svetlana Chupsheva said. “I support your idea and also think it’s right.”