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December 2004
1 December 2004

NGO Sutyajnik lends volunteer experts to Union of Human Rights Defenders organization

NGO Sutyajnik (Yekaterinburg, Russia) gave a prime example of its mission as a resource center for Human Rights NGOs in the Sverdlovsk region when it loaned its volunteers, Judith Ahrens and Douglas Kramer, from the International Senior Lawyers Project, based in New York, to the Union of Human Rights Defenders organizations, Ekaterinburg, for a two-day, eight-hour workshop on Strategic Planning, on November 22 and 23, 2004.  The audience included the head of the Union, plus graduate students, volunteers, and representatives of such organizations as:  Amnesty International, For Human Rights, Rehabilitation of Prisoners, the Urals Association of Refugees, a human rights lawyers, and Archive.  There were 17 participants in all. 

The participants performed the strategic planning for the Union of Human Rights Defenders; however, they were encouraged to use the same process in their individual organizations.  First, the participants derived a mission statement, a concise sentence or two answering the question:  why does the organization exist, what is its purpose?  Then, the participants analyzed their current situation in a process called “SWOT”, in which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the organization are identified, prioritized, and then used to formulate goals (broad statements of what the organization wants to achieve) and objectives (statements of how the organization will achieve the goals).

Strategic Planning is particularly important for Russian NGOs which face two sources of volatility: the political situation and the external funding situation.  Without a careful assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a Russian NGO can become reactive and opportunistic rather than proactive and goal-oriented.  The strategic planning sessions focus on both internal and external factors, and thus allow all members of the organization to express their views of changes that could improve the working environment, making the organization more productive and effective.  Strategic planning should be used at least once a year, or when unanticipated shocks occur in the environment that significantly affect its future prospects.  The strategic planning materials were all translated into Russian so that Sutyajnik and the other NGOs can continue the process independently in the future.

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