Philanthropy indicator of society’s maturity, say corporate charity forum participants

ASTANA – The Kazakh capital hosted the first corporate charity forum Feb. 24-25 organised by Samruk Kazyna Trust social development foundation. The event served as a unique dialogue platform for activists, public authorities and businesspersons to exchange experiences in promoting philanthropic initiatives and strengthening social responsibility.

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Samruk Kazyna head Umirzak Shukeyev welcomed the forum participants and noted corporate social responsibility is a litmus test, indicating the maturity and evolution of the society, economy and state as a whole.

“The importance of this trend is evidenced by the attention the head of state pays to it in his policy. The President has repeatedly pointed out that we must consider the development of business through the prism of social responsibility, social transformation and building of a social state,” he said.

Shukeyev also urged participants to have open discussions and cooperate with each other.

“Today, representatives of the largest companies of Kazakhstan and Russia, local government agencies, parliament members, leading charitable organisations and international experts have gathered together in this venue. The forum should become a platform that brings together business, government institutions and public organisations for a social partnership. Each of you has experience in the implementation of social projects. Each of you has something to share. I am sure that the forum will help create the leaders of corporate charity and help transfer the accumulated experiences. This will give impetus to the development of social initiatives in our country,” he said.

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Famous Russian actor and philanthropist Konstantin Khabensky sent a video message to the participants, in which he said he was very pleased that charity is receiving more and more attention and becoming systemic and effective. Khabensky created a foundation in 2008 for children with brain tumors and severe brain diseases.

The forum opened with the plenary session “Corporate Philanthropy: Social Role of Business in the Society’s Development.” Kazakh senator Darkhan Kaletayev, Gazprom Neft regional policy head Anna Kazarina, Pavlodar region Akim (Governor) Bulat Bakauov, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Eurasia managing partner Mark Hannye and businesspersons Raimbek Batalov and Aidyn Rakhimbayev discussed ways of building mutually-beneficial partnerships between the government, business and non-governmental organisations to promote charity. They also shared some success stories and effective social projects.

Kaletayev, Samruk Kazyna Trust chairperson of the trustees’ board, spoke about the foundation’s main principles, goals and objectives based on values such as efficiency, social relevance, consistency and transparency.

“These values ​​are close and clear to all modern organisations involved in the development of social programmes. We must improve the quality of social projects, make them more systematic and large-scale, bring up leaders in this field and secure continuity of sharing experience in the future,” he said.

Kazarina believes social projects should be mutually beneficial to all stakeholders, including the government, business and non-profit sector.

“Without the participation of all three parties, bringing charity to a new qualitative level is impossible. All three of these institutions are interested in the qualitative development of the social investment tools that can provide a long-term effect. Business can bring not only financial resources, but expertise, thereby enhancing the charity tools,” she said.

On the first day, the organisers held various workshops, seminars and a concert. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the purchase of special equipment to help blind and visually impaired children learn to read.

Day two found the foyer of Astana Opera hosting an extraordinary interactive exhibition where social projects were regarded as art pieces. Every exhibit and installation was related to one of the successful social projects of Samruk Kazyna Trust.

The second day of the forum featured “I Believe,” an open conference with 12 speakers engaged in unique social projects, including Miloserdie voluntary society fund head Aruzhan Sain, Vlast online magazine chief editor Vyacheslav Abramov and Samruk Kazyna Trust national consultant Sholpan Baibolova.

The participants shared their personal stories, spoke openly about how charitable organisations work and challenged the status quo around disability. Often the speakers themselves, and those in the audience, could not hold back tears.

The story of Veniamin Alayev, executive director of Kenes Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centre, seemed to have touched everyone in the audience who gave him a standing ovation after his speech.

Alayev was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was only nine months old. His parents never gave up on him and provided him with a good education and opportunity to live a normal life. Alayev, however, remembers how different his life was from those of his friends and what a challenge it was for his parents to have him grow up and be educated in a regular public school along with healthy kids.

He now has a family, baby daughter and significant job. His work focuses on making society more inclusive for people with special needs.

Alayev admits his success story is an exception to the rule. Society needs to open up to people with disabilities, he believes, noting schools must be ready to accept students with disabilities and employers to recruit them as adults.