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Social enterprise makes headway in Russia

February 2014

Vera Kurochkina, UC RUSAL Public Relations Director, explains the aluminium giant's role in Russia's burgeoning social enterprise sector

Once upon a time two frogs fell into a bucket of milk. Both tried to jump out, but the sides were steep and slippery. Seeing little chance to escape, one frog gave up and sank. The other frog also had little hope, but kept trying. Eventually, its efforts turned some milk into butter and the frog could escape jumping out from hardened surface. The second frog in today’s reality could be compared to a social entrepreneur who keeps trying to make change where traditional methods of solving challenging social issues do not work.

Social entrepreneurship is not new in Russia. Its prototype was alive and well back in the 19th century through dozens of so-called ‘houses of industirousness’ founded by the father John Sergiev, canonized and known as St. John of Kronstadt. In the last decade Russia has accumulated rich experience in social initiatives. Business across the country implements hundreds of social programs, taking responsibility for the welfare of the society while social entrepreneurship has become more and more popular.

Since early 2013, RUSAL, a key player in the global aluminium market, has been working on a new corporate social initiative. In March 2013 Centers of innovation in the Social Sphere (CISS) were opened in the Krasnoyarsk, Sverdlovsk and Irkutsk regions. CISS provides a regional networking infrastructure for social entrepreneurs with the aim of raising awareness in the field and creating a public-private communication platform. CISS has been jointly developed by RUSAL and the Russian Agency of Strategic Initiatives. In April 2013, a Social Entrepreneurship School was launched by the CISS providing applicants with educational training.

The school offers courses in finance, law and business planning as well as courses about new business opportunities on both a regional and local level. Moreover, students can bring their draft projects and develop them into business plans at coaching sessions. The key project areas are education and leisure centres for children; tourism for the disabled; youth internet-portals and media; the reconstruction of historic buildings and monuments; energy efficiency; and clothing manufacturing for ex-imprisoned women. In six months the Centre provided training for 100 entrepreneurs.

The training of those engaged in business in the Social Entrepreneurship School is the first phase of RUSAL’s social entrepreneurship initiative. The second phase is the presentation of projects created by the School’s attendees. The third phase aims to support successful business leaders and monitor their activities accompanied with seed funding. The final goal is to create favorable conditions for the implementation of society-oriented business projects and, as a result, finding a solution for challenging social issues.

RUSAL focuses on attracting people with active entrepreneurship positions as well as business leaders and society-oriented NGOs in CISS to debate regional social issues and to look for creative ways to overcome them through the implementation and realization of social entrepreneurship projects.

The company’s goal is to introduce a set of successful cases of social entrepreneurship as a breakthrough in overcoming social issues. With this in mind, RUSAL is planning to work more closely with foreign partners to bring best global practices to Russia and share best Russian practices globally.

UC Rusal | Europe | Social Enterprise

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