Yes, despite this tense time in U.S.-Russian relations, the Jackson Foundation has had the opportunity to host a delegation of civil society professionals from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza and Nizhni-Novgorod, part of a Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program funded by the U.S. State Department. The delegation of eight women were sophisticated, committed NGO leaders here to learn about networking, communications, capacity building, fundraising, and advocacy from their American peers – and, in turn, to share their own expertise. We hosted the group in our home city of Seattle, where local partners such as Climate Solutions, 501 Commons and the Seattle Foundation shared their knowledge about connecting with constituents, building community engagement, and strengthening the network of nonprofits. We also brought in 25 of our NGO friends for a roundtable that explored dealing with burnout, building trust of the NGO sector in society, and expanding networks outside of the usual silos.
In Washington, DC, the delegation experienced a national perspective on American civil society, meeting with everyone from the Student Conservation Association to Independent Sector, from State Department staffers to the Eurasia Foundation and the Kennan Institute. Everywhere we went, our American colleagues warmly welcomed our new Russian friends and freely shared their expertise, research materials, and networks. They also were uniformly impressed with the sophistication and dedication of the Russian NGO leaders, who represented organizations as diverse as a community foundation, a hospice organization, an NGO capacity building group, and a Russia-wide media agency. We are grateful to our partners and colleagues for sharing their time with this delegation. We also salute our Russian delegation for their courage in coming to the U.S. at a moment fraught with tension. As one of the delegates said at the close of the trip, “we are returning to a new country and don’t know what to expect. But we have been revitalized by what we’ve learned here.”
Why did we participate in this program? Because we believe that it is vital for the U.S. to continue to focus on civil society in Russia and to ensure that those who are working to promote civic engagement, strengthen the Russian citizen’s interest in civil society, and building ties to other civic-minded groups should be supported and encouraged. We share this view with the State Department and are pleased to be engaged in this innovative program.
Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director