Siberian Civic Initiatives Support Center (SCISC) in Novosibirsk, Russia, in partnership with Epstein & Fass Associates, launched the new program, “Communities Of, By, and For the People” in the spring of 2006. Over the course of the next two years, six pilot communities from across Siberia will receive both external training and on-site support to improve their governance practices, community measurement strategy, and citizen engagement. Participating communities were selected via a competition conducted by SCISC to find communities capable of strong government-citizen partnerships. They range from agricultural to urban communities, and face numerous social and economic concerns, from farm and business failures, to poverty and unemployment, to crime, to healthcare and housing problems, to youth leaving the community. The first seminar in the series was delivered in Novosibirsk May 12-14, 2006 by Epstein & Fass and SCISC, and was attended by teams of government, NGO, and media representatives from the pilot communities. Prior to Seminar 2, to be held in the fall of 2006, community teams will begin implementing their short-term plans developed in Seminar 1, most of which focus on strengthening citizen engagement. That focus will set the stage for them to eventually determine citizen priorities as a foundation for creating measurement and improvement strategies.
The program is funded by grants to SCISC and Epstein & Fass from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which sees combining community measurement and citizen engagement as an opportunity to bring civil society development to a new strategic level. Several regional governments in Siberia are providing additional financial support to communities in their region, enabling twice as many communities to participate in the pilot program.