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Talking about language

22 May 2018
Разговор  о  языке
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At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Roscongress social platform and the Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation will present a joint project. The first stage will take place in summer 2018 and conclude at the Eastern Economic Forum in September. The topic: social communication and the mechanisms for making it happen. The first stage of the project will be research-oriented, aimed at discovering how, in what language, and on what topics various players in the social sector can effectively talk to one another. Without resolving those issues, the goal of social inclusion cannot be met.

At the upcoming annual SPIEF session in St. Petersburg, the social platform run by Roscongress, the organizer of major nationwide economic forums, and Alisher Usma­nov’s Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation, will be presenting a project that may seem a bit technical. The platform and its partners will present the best Russian and international social communication case studies at SPIEF itself, as well as a workshop on the same topic — one that right now is familiar only to specialists. After the Forum is over, in the period from June to August, a university competition for social communication projects will begin in St. Petersburg. There will also be a series of master classes all across Russia on the mechanics of social communication in big cities, and a series of practical projects in social communication. The results of the competition will be announced at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in early September, where there will also be a discussion of the interim results of the first stage of the project. There, the next moves will become clear.

It is no longer news that the Roscongress social platform has been integrating ‘third sector’ themes into the agendas of national forums since 2017. And it is only natural that it will not just be experts and leaders of socially-focused programmes and foundations that will be operating on the social platform. Business leaders, government managers, and youth organizations will be there, too. The only non-standard aspect could be the choice of topic for 2018. After all, social communication is not an internal technology of the third sector. What could there be to talk about? It would seem that we all know how to talk, to discuss current affairs, to contact each other and our intended audience. Why dedicate at least half a year of research, and an extremely large-scale educational programme and contest to that? Is this really what the social platform plans to devote such a significant effort to in summer 2018?

The topic of social communication, for Russia and other countries, is both problematic and promising. It is important for everyone involved in Russia’s emerging third sector. Simplified a bit, the issue looks like this. In the social ecosystem that is developing, four main stakeholders are represented: first, government bodies and development institutes; second, the business community and its more socially-oriented segments; third, the nonprofit sector as such, the nonprofit community; and finally, fourth, people, who are not only the beneficiaries of programmes led by the three ‘active’ parties, but also participate in their own right in a multitude of more or less well-formed grassroots initiatives. Each of these stakeholders has already learned how to communicate well within its own individual segment. The business world already does a great job of consolidating its efforts within its own social projects, nonprofits know how to interact with each other, and the state is fully capable of coordinating the development of regulatory activities and support programmes internally. Engagement by ordinary citizens in Russia’s third sector is also increasing very rapidly.

We’ve more or less arrived at a point when Russia — just like Europe in the late nineteenth century and the 1950s, the US in the 1980s and 2000s, Japan in the early twentieth century, and India in the 1970s — is set to experience an explosion of voluntary social activity. Later, such periods go down in history, and people remember these events as the creation of a new country and a new society, although it in fact takes decades of advance development work before they can finally take place. But there’s a chance this might not happen in Russia in the coming years. Social inclusion, whereby various communities inside an enormous, complex society suddenly learn to interact productively, translate techniques, share information, and effectively join forces, never happens on its own. It requires work, and that work requires a common language, catalysts for cooperation, a unified information space, and dia­logue-based institutions.

The latter, evidently, are critically important. At certain stages of development, neither state agencies, nor nonprofits, nor the business community, nor consumers can take on the role of lead coordinator. But that impossibility has its positive aspects, because the ecosystem, the basic governing, operating principle in the social sector in society today, cannot be built according to hierarchical models. Deciding who in the third sector ought to be the most important and able to dictate the rules of the game is pointless. In this ecosystem, there are no unimportant parts. There is only constant interaction. The language of this interaction is, in fact, the subject of the social communication project being run by the Roscongress social platform and the Art, Science and Sport Foundation.
It could be that summer 2018 will be the time when the work to systematize the language of ­communication, to create an information network on social topics, to establish common criteria for the success of social projects, to deve­lop techniques for replicating success stories, will finally bear fruit. In any case, Roscongress believes that could be the case. The social platform already has a great deal to contribute to that goal. National forums are natural concentrations of the country’s management and intellectual assets. Roscongress is already actively engaged in integrating its social platform into the global philanthropic community. In recent months, the social platform has been quite heavily involved in studying new communications technologies, including digital technologies, next-generation marketing, and public relations technologies in this extremely specialized sphere.

Other work is being done to create a women’s community bringing together female entrepreneurs, poli­ticians, philanthropists, athletes, scientists, educators, and artists who want to hold a separate discussion on issues regarding women’s participation as peacekeepers and leaders in socioeconomic development. The social platform is also studying social communication practices during Soviet times. A significant portion of those are in demand by users and might also be highly effective for them today. Finally, in autumn 2018, the social platform intends to create its own media outlet, tasked with providing substantive analysis of trends in Russia’s third sector. Despite how broadly it has developed, the country does not yet have professional media channels devoted to social projects.

The idea of a social platform becoming a catalyst for processes which will push Russia’s third sector — today a rather piecemeal community — towards transitioning to a single ecosystem format is at least worthy of consideration from all potential participants. Any success achieved by the project will benefit the whole community. One way or another, the Russian society is already an information-based society, as is the economy, which is quickly mastering the language of digital technologies. The only thing the new digital communications cannot give us is a common understanding of what we need to agree on, and what should be the result of developing social communication. We must come up with our own vision for a ‘completely new country’ and a ‘completely new society’.

Source: SPIEF-2018 Official Magazine

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