Despite the Western sanctions, many foreign investors still consider Russia as a priority region for their business, inter alia, eyeing opportunities for social initiatives in cooperation with Russian business community, the Government and NGOs.
On the other hand, Russian companies are also interested in synergy from cooperation with foreign partners in order to use innovative technologies for implementation of social projects and impact investing.
Grayling asked major Russian and foreign companies to identify the most interesting opportunities for cooperation between domestic and foreign businesses, the government and the society. We have selected six most popular initiatives (sorted by their potential in terms of getting maximum synergy and positive impact on economic and social development of Russia):
1.Social entrepreneurship development
1.1 Contest for social entrepreneurship projects
University students design and implement social entrepreneurship projects. These projects are to be evaluated by the program’s jury board (of companies’ representatives, Russian and international experts). The program offers rewards to winners using a special prize fund.
1.2 Creation of information exchange center for social entrepreneurs
The project assumes creation of an open information exchange platform for social entrepreneurs, local communities, business representatives, government officials, volunteers and potential investors. The project may use best practices from socialexchange.ru and other similar Russian platforms.
This platform may potentially become a platform for Russian version of Impact Investment Exchange Asia (http://www.asiaiix.com).
1.3 Creation of social innovations labs
It is envisaged to create social innovations labs in cooperation with leading Moscow and regional universities (similar to those operating in European and American universities). The labs shall have the following features:
Open doors for innovative ideas: involvement of various social and expert groups, including the targeted ones,
Test bed for various innovative ideas of social projects. Successful projects would be able to participate in the contest for social entrepreneurship projects (entry 1.1),
Priority to projects designed to eliminate the cause of social problems (instead of tackling the consequences).
2. Creation of innovative training system for highly qualified workers
Today Russia is experiencing acute shortage of highly qualified workers (including ones simultaneously demanded by several industries) across all hi-tech industries. This shortage slows down technological progress in Russia and prevents further localization of foreign manufacturing. Being a worker is considered not prestigious. This leads to low demand in professional education. However Russia does need highly qualified workers in order to keep the pace in global technological competition. These professionals are demanded by both Russian and international companies, as their expansion plans depend on available workforce and its qualification.
The proposed solution is to implement a triple system for professional education based on cooperation between training centers, factories and excellence centers in order to create a unified federal training network for various industries. The idea is to join forces of various clusters/regions/enterprises and create a unified flexible training system using international best practices. This system will help to accelerate growth of manufacturing and innovations in Russia.
Using governmental support or acting independently, Russian and International companies may create nationwide excellence centers based on competence exchange between various industries.
3. Social and Cultural Cooperation Fund between Russia and a foreign country represented by investors looking for long-term partnership
Today Russia suspends political and economic cooperation with countries, which put sanctions against the country. However foreign (especially European) and Russian companies may focus of social and cultural cooperation. Looking back to history we see, that this type of cooperation was quite successful in the past and served a good platform for restoration of good relationships between the countries.
In order to improve relationships across non-political and non-economic areas, Russian and foreign companies may create a foundation for social and cultural cooperation able to implement various social and educational projects. By following this path, participating companies may use existing social projects (modified in order to involve other Foundation’s members). The projects may be selected using the following criteria: (1) non-political nature of selected projects; (2) mutual respect of fundamental values; (3) social impact potential.
4. ‘Safe and Accessible Smart City’ project
Partners use their technologies in order to improve quality of life for urban citizens across Russia. Here are some examples of initiatives for this area:
Creation of electronic devises and mobile apps equipped with geolocation services in order to provide navigation help for tourists or visually impaired people. Creation of information systems, hotlines, etc.
Nationwide implementation of safety technologies built for Olympic Games in Sochi,
Cooperation with Russian Traffic Police (GIBDD) in distribution of safety reflection tapes and other technologies able to improve road safety for kids,
Volunteering projects on trash collection and recycling,
Eco-festivals designed to improve public awareness in environment protection
5. ‘Our Legacy’ contest
It is proposed to organize Our Legacy contest in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, regional/municipal authorities and All-Russia Society for Monuments of History Protection. The contest assumes selection of regeneration concepts for Moscow historical districts. This project may become a first example of concept for tourism and recreation cluster in Russia’s capital.
6. Art & Science contest
Industry leaders may join forces in order to organize Art & Science contests for Russian and foreign artists where they may use their talents to promote new industrial technologies.
Cooperation between Russian and foreign companies, the Government and NGOs will form a New Social Investment Paradigm for Russian Federation. This process will play a positive role in transformation of Russia’s social environment and encourage people to become more active members of society.