News

12 October 2017

Russia's small communities: great opportunities and unlimited growth potential

The Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko has brought together experts, government officials and winners of the Cultural Mosaic of Towns and Villages competition for a panel discussion of the future of small communities in Russia. The Cultural Mosaic of Towns and Villages programme has already expanded beyond the grants competition and turned into a platform for exploring new meanings, models and solutions for regional growth. The discussion also touched on a long-term strategy for Russia's territorial growth.

A workshop for the winners of the 3rd Cultural Mosaic of Towns and Villages all-Russian competition included an open professional discussion: Do towns and villages have a future? Local growth priorities. Expert advice for the event was provided by the Association of Cultural Managers.

Panellists: Olga Karpova, dean, Sociocultural Project Management Faculty, Moscow Higher School for Social and Economic Sciences; Ksenia Frank, chair of the supervisory board, the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko; Aleksey Yelin, acting head of regional growth planning, Minekonomrazvitiya [Ministry for Economic Development and Trade]; journalist Fyokla Tolstaya; Mikhail Alekseyevsky, anthropologist and head of Strelka KB [Consultancy] Urban Anthropology Centre; Yelizaveta Fokina, general director, Tsaritsino open-air museum; Maxim Isayev, head of the . [Monogoroda.rf] project; Dmitry Oinas, vice president, Russian Manor Estate Revival National Fund; Sergey Golubev, general director, Social Investment Foundation; Maria Shubina, head of the Location Genius programme, Russian Cultural Foundation. The event was also attended by representatives from provincial projects from across the RF.

“In implementing the Cultural Mosaic of Towns and Villages programme, we are looking for effective solutions and talented and enterprising people, and we are succeeding in finding them everywhere in this country. We can also see that we can draw upon the local cultural potential. Sociocultural projects can provide the very impetus that will enable people to address the various problems they see around them. This is the future of small communities in Russia,” said Ksenia Frank, chair of the supervisory board at the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko. We want to create local growth centres that are sustainable and can serve as growth drivers for territories and localities. We want not just to create a new interface with territories, we want to share our best practices, and specifically in the framework of such debates and discussions.

According to the panellists, cultural heritage and the development of new associated tourism products and creative industries are a regional growth driver in a post-industrial society, and Russia is no exception. This being the case, the initiative to identify and tap such resources must be put forward by local people. In the words of Aleksey Yelin, acting head of regional growth planning at Minekonomrazvitiya, it is important to identify local growth drivers, resources that are available locally. At the local level, this can only be done by the local community, the local administration. If you have initiative and a driver, you will find resources, too. This was demonstrated specifically by case studies of provincial practices from the Tyumen, Irkutsk, Vologda and Moscow Oblasts and Perm Krai, which were presented as part of the event, including [by] Cultural Mosaic winners.

Towns and villages that have lost their economic and social framework for growth are in limbo, opines Olga Karpova, dean, Sociocultural Project Management Faculty, Moscow Higher School for Social and Economic Sciences. The post-industrial economy, where cultural and sociocultural resources are key, calls for the skill of leveraging these resources as well as new know-how and expertise in the growth strategy. In the industrial era, it all depended on resources of other type. Now all states and territories have their own resource, be it cultural, symbolic or historical, but few people know what to do with this resource. Also, there is a shortage of management skills to make an effective use of these resources.

The enterprise and energy of people living in small towns and villages, their commitment to social projects are vital to the future of such localities, pitches in Sergey Golubev, general director, Social Investment Foundation.

Seeing that the future of towns and villages shapes the quality of life for approximately 43% of the people in Russia who live in small communities, there must be initiatives, but it is equally important that there be a mechanism to integrate them into long-term regional strategies. According to a Minekonomrazvitiya spokesperson, Russia's radically new white paper, the Territorial Growth Strategy, must cover all types of localities, including small. There is an understanding that the new strategy must have a pinpoint, project-based, user-friendly format and one-size-fits-all models for control and implementation and support for such projects.

Aleksey Yelin, acting head of regional growth planning at Minekonomrazvitiya: We are working on the RF territorial growth strategy, which must determine the top priorities and areas of focus. Its purpose is to identify issues, growth prospects for all localities and offer the localities development models and specific solutions that will then be incorporated into sectoral strategies at the regional level. It remains important in this context that municipalities should start shaping communities that will implement those decisions.

Mikhail Alekseyevsky, anthropologist, head of Strelka KB Urban Anthropology Centre, explained for his part that urbanization and large-scale clusterization presents not only a threat, but a new opportunity for towns and villages. For instance, access to cities opens up new markets and jobs, as well as other opportunities: You shouldn't take a dim view of urbanistic processes; you should take a good look at your challenges and try and see them as new opportunities. This means hope, but absent a competent national policy in this field, such initiatives and such projects will need support for a long time still, and sharing and implementation of best practices will be difficult.

The discussions between experts and practitioners focused on various topics related to small communities. It remains important and necessary to put together a strategic professional agenda for growing these localities in order to find them place at the federal and state levels.


Tags: culture

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