Report from Russia

In March 2012, Jonathan Fanton spent a week in Moscow and St. Petersburg meeting with higher education administrators, teachers, students, and not-for-profit groups to discuss the role foundations and corporations can play in correcting social injustice and promoting reform across the world and  Russia’s relationship with private institutions. Below is a report on his week abroad. 

The European University St. Petersburg (EUSP) invited me to visit the University in my capacity as a member of its International Advisory Board.  It is starting a program in Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility and thus asked me to deliver a lecture on how philanthropy can improve public policy.

I traveled to St. Petersburg by way of Moscow where I held a seminar with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.  The Union has promulgated a thoughtful social charter on corporate citizenship to which major companies have subscribed.

In Moscow the MacArthur Foundation office organized an interesting set of meetings including Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Center, and Andrei Kostunon, Director of the Eurasian Center, two very thoughtful analysts who helped me make sense of the changes underway in Russia.  I also met with MacArthur Human Rights grantees including Paul Chikov of Agora, Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, and Mara Polyakova, Director of the Independent Council of Legal Expertise.  A highlight of the trip was a leisurely Sunday afternoon conversation with Ludmila Alexeyeva, a leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group who first introduced me to the Russian human rights movement.

MacArthur’s largest investment in Russia is in higher education, building research centers at public universities and supporting three high quality private universities.  I met with the leaders of all three universities and with Mikhail Strikhanov who had been our principal contact in the Ministry of Education.

In St. Petersburg most of my time was devoted to the University: meeting with students and faculty, holding a seminar on strategic planning for the administration, giving my lecture on corporate social responsibility and participating in a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the reopening of the University after it had been closed for fire code violations.  Most people think the closure was a warning from the government not to get too close to the opposition.

While in St. Petersburg, I met with the Center for Independent Social Research, one of the think tanks MacArthur supports in Russia.  I also met with Strategy, a human rights group MacArthur supports to strengthen the system of regional ombudsmen.

Text of the speeches is available here:

[catlist name=russia categorypage=no]

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