Students and NGOs
Community Intern Program - Involving Senior Students in NGOs’ Activity
The FOCUS-MEDIA Public Health and Social Development Foundation has been implementing the project in three Russian cities - Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, with the financial support provided by the Citi Foundation. The project began in January, 2008, the next phase to be ended on March 31, 2010.
The overall objective of the project is to support and strengthen the nonprofit sector and local communities by providing opportunities for graduate students to participate in the activities of nonprofit and public organizations.
The project is aimed at: involving young people in civic activity by providing opportunities for university students to improve their knowledge and skills in the development, implementation and evaluation of non-profit projects; providing young leaders with information on the current activities of local NGOs and involving them in socially significant projects of local non-profit organizations.
The FOCUS-MEDIA Foundation has developed a training program on social project development for students. Having been trained at the training seminars, the project participants not only become aware of the ‘non-profit organization’ concept, learn how and why they should work, but also receive the knowledge of social projects development and implementation, fundraising, the role of communications and PR in promoting social projects. Also, they choose options for non-profit activities in which they would like to work.
As part of each training session, the students met with representatives of local NGOs to present the projects they had developed during the training, and the NGOs representatives spoke about their activities and how they could contribute to these projects. 243 students have been trained in the course of the three project phases.
Within the planned activities, "fairs" of social projects were organized by the partner organizations in the three regions. During the fairs, the university students of Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod both learned of the activities of local NGOs and presented their volunteer projects to non-profit organizations, government agencies and the media. As a result, all parties could agree on further cooperation. The project participants, having divided into groups, agreed on internships in regional NGOs.
To deepen the knowledge gained by the students at the training, the FOCUS-MEDIA staff developed a distance learning course on social projects development, which consisted of 6 sections. Over 285 students were participants of the course.
However, since any theoretical knowledge must be reinforced by practice, the project participants were given the opportunity to have internships in local NGOs. By now, 137 students from three regions have been trained in 30 local non-profit organizations, which allowed them to gain important experience and opened up great career opportunities.
During the internship, the participants developed and implemented 26 small projects. Projects, aimed at rehabilitating and adapting old people, orphans and children without parents, were more attractive to the students in Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg. In St. Petersburg, the students set their minds to promote healthy lifestyles and primary prevention of risky behavior among teenagers and young people, as well as cultural values among school students.
At the end of each stage of the project, there were final events, where the social projects, developed by students, were presented. More than 950 people have participated in the final events in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg after the two phases of the project.
In 2009, the project reached a new level – the last year leaders continued to participate in the project and became "guides" to the nonprofit sector for new participants. 26 activists from among the students of the first phase were further trained in theory and practice on the basics of communication and public relations (PR), the methods of reaching and preserving a leadership position in the group. The purpose of the training was to help them identify their own leadership potential and practice the techniques of leader’s image formation and to give the participants the opportunity to test themselves as leaders and train the skills of setting goals and objectives, delegating the authorities to subordinates, planning time and resources to carry out the work, and studying the group members motivation, systems and types of awards.
In the third phase of the project, two additional training seminars on developing and implementing social advertising campaigns were organized for the best students of the two phases (30 people). During the training, the participants suggested creative ideas and determined the goals and objectives of social advertising campaigns to promote the ideas of volunteering and charitable activities, which we are planning to use in our further work on raising the image of NGOs and the charitable work among the population.
The project had an impact on local NGOs - they were able to involve volunteers and young leaders and use their knowledge and creativity. Over 40 NGOs have become active participants in the project and provided students an opportunity to have internship. As a result of the events organized in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg, the project received wide publicity both among students and NGOs, and in the media and school administrations.