On April 26, 2007, members of the Epstein & Fass team were honored to be invited to present the Effective Community Governance Model at a forum in Moscow sponsored by the World Bank. Our partner organization, Siberian Civic Initiatives Support Center (SCISC), and Nicolay Lipukhin, a rural government leader from Tomsk oblast, also discussed the successes and challenges of implementing the Effective Community Governance pilot project in six Siberian communities over the past year. Lipukhin shared his experience organizing citizen groups in rural settlements around his area, enabling him to tap in to citizen priorities across his region. Our Siberian program was a “guest presentation” at the World Bank’s conference Local Governance and Civic Engagement in Rural Russia, which mainly focused on community experiences in a World Bank-Charities Aid Foundation (CAF Russia) program of the same name. It was attended by ministers and deputy ministers from the government of the Russian Federation as well as international investors and consultants, and aimed to discuss how civic engagement and community improvement can be encouraged in even the smallest rural communities. Many of the entities taking part were interested in better implementing Federal Law 131, which sets forth mandates concerning community involvement and local autonomy.
The next day, the World Bank took the opportunity of our attendance to hold a technical meeting of consulting organizations from our Mott Foundation-funded program with SCISC and the World Bank-CAF program. Consulting and implementing organizations represented at the meeting included Epstein & Fass, SCISC, CAF Russia, and the Institute of Urban Economics. Organizations investing in these or other development programs were also represented, including the World Bank, the Mott Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Attendees highlighted the need to enable community development implementers well beyond these two programs to share approaches and replicate successful models of civic engagement and community improvement being tested across Russia.
In response to the need identified at the technical meeting to create a more unified approach to rural community development that can be scaled up across the country, meeting participants suggested a special meeting of the Russia Donors Forum focused specifically on this issue. The meeting, “Improving Citizen Participation and Development of Local Self Government in Rural Communities in Russia: Results and Prospects of Work with the Donor Community” took place on June 13 and was co-hosted by the Donor’s Forum and SCISC. Participants included The World Bank, Ford Foundation, Mott Foundation, New Eurasia, AMP USA, Institute of Urban Economics, SCISC, Institute for Sustainable Communities, Fund for Sustainable Development, CAF Russia, Center for Fiscal Policy, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Institute of Regional Development, Congress of Municipalities, and RusAl among others. At the meeting, SCISC presented the Effective Community Governance Model, and other projects were also presented and shared. We will be keeping in touch with SCISC to find out about further developments to arise from the Donor Forum meeting.