NGOs, Policy Entrepreneurship and Child Protection in Russia: Pitfalls and Prospects for Civil Society
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Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in contemporary Russia operate within both specific institutional conditions and the frequently contradictory circumstances imposed by a hybrid political regime. Legislation and funding policy at the federal and regional levels veers between restricting and enabling their ability to act and raises questions about the extent to which NGOs can operate independently and participate in the development of a more robust civil society in Russia. In the particular sphere of child protection, which remains very much within the domain of the state, NGOs must cooperate closely with the authorities in order to implement their projects and, whether formally or informally, often become implementers of state social policy as a result. This article explores how NGOs involved in the protection of children living in state institutions interact with state actors in their policy networks and the extent to which such networks may offer these NGOs some scope to act as “policy entrepreneurs” with some degree of influence over the direction of policy development and practice in their area of expertise. It presents the results of empirical research on the activities of NGOs working with vulnerable children in St. Petersburg and Samara, which reveals the interactions between these organizations and the authorities to be a complex, multi-layered process which, nevertheless, allows them some space for autonomy and the development of policy options.