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Interview with Ilya Chukalin

Ilya Chukalin Executive Director of the Saratov Region Community Foundation

The foundation supports non-profit organisations and community-based actions in cultural and social areas. Geographic focus: Saratov region - one of 86 Russian regions with a land area of about 100,200 square kilometres (38,687 square miles) and a population of about 2.6 million inhabitants, about 700 kilometres from Moscow to south-east. Established in 2001. Joined the EFC in 2009.

Can you tell us a bit about the competitions for projects in culture and social affairs that you organise?

Each year the foundation sets the priorities for the upcoming annual competition. For example, one of the priorities of the competition in 2010 was support for social projects related to the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. The community foundation raises donations for the grant fund by means of offering a chance to business organisations in the region to be partners of the competition. Sometimes, the regional government of the Saratov region also contributes to the grant fund.

Only non-profit organisations are allowed to participate in a competition. Applications for a call for proposals can be submitted within six weeks following the announcement of a grant competition. During this time the foundation organises free seminars and provides consultations on preparing applications. Submitted projects are examined by independent experts. As a result of their work, a rating table of projects is created by staff of the foundation. Winners of a competition are defined by the board of the foundation.

The final event of a competition is an award ceremony during which grantees receive diplomas. The ceremony is usually led by the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the foundation. Since 2005 the governor of the Saratov region, Pavel Ipatov, has served in this position.

All of the above enables the foundation to make each annual competition a significant event in the public life of our region.

From 2003 to 2010 the foundation conducted 8 competitions, with some 1312 projects submitted. Of these, 304 were chosen to receive grants worth a total of 530,000 euros.

Helping child victims of conflict is important to your foundation. Can you tell us a bit about this area of your work?

In August 2008 the Board of Trustees of the foundation launched a charity aid programme to the victims of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia (8-12 August 2008). The population of the Saratov region donated about 1 million euros for the realisation of this programme.

The programme was implemented from August 2008 to May 2010 and provided assistance in several ways. One of them was the purchase by the foundation of furniture, computers and medical equipment for public schools of the South Ossetia. However, the main focus of the programme became the rehabilitation of children from South Ossetia by bringing them to the Saratov region. Children travelled from the south of Russia to the Saratov region along the banks of the great Russian river Volga: first by bus, then by railway. The children lived in the best sanatoriums of the Saratov region; visited theatres and museums, and went on excursions specially organised for them. Participants of the programme also gathered together with local children to enjoy themselves in different artistic and sports competitions. The children from South Ossetia shared their knowledge of Caucasian traditions, national songs and dances.

The Saratov Region Community Foundation provided full coverage of all the costs related to rehabilitation, accommodation, travelling and entertainment programme for participating children.

Apart from children, the veterans of World War II from South Ossetia also visited the Saratov region and were provided with rehabilitation assistance.

In total, this programme enabled 1185 victims of war conflict to undergo rehabilitation in the Saratov region.

What have been the positive aspects of collaborating with government, business and other non-profits in your region?

When the Saratov Region Community Foundation was established in 2001, only a few people knew what the term "non-profit organisation" meant and what these organisations do. Moreover, only a few professionals of the regional third sector understood the meaning of such words as "grant" and "project".

In 2003 the Government of the Saratov region and the Saratov Region Community Foundation jointly organised the first social forum, which brought together over 1000 representatives of government, business and non-profit organisations from all the cities and provinces of the region. During this forum, the problems of cross-sectoral cooperation for the benefit of regional development, and issues of increasing the role and significance of non-profit organisations and citizens in addressing and solving social problems were discussed. Since that time, the Forum has been conducted annually.

Since 2004, owing to the efforts of the foundation, the Government of the Saratov region has started to fund non-profit organisations on a competitive basis.

During the ten years of the foundation's work the trust of business in the activities of non-profit organisations of the region has risen significantly. Above that, most non-profit organisations have learned and are effectively using project and result-oriented approaches in their work.

In summary, owing to the grants made by the foundation, a great number of socially important and useful initiatives were realised in the Saratov region.

What do the next five to ten years hold for your foundation?

The priority of the foundation is to support non-profit organisations of the Saratov region in their social and cultural initiatives and to promote charity and philanthropy at the regional level.

The principle objective of the foundation is the creation of an endowment that will enable the foundation to become a permanent resource for support of civil initiatives in cultural and social areas in the Saratov region.

European Foundation Centre "Spotlight on"
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