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The seminar focused on how to enhance the partnerships between civil society and the private sector leading to more social capital, stronger society and economic development. According to various studies, Latvia has low levels of social capital, a resource critical to ensuring a strong, prosperous society.
Joining the seminar were the following experts:
The event was moderated by leadership and good governance expert Inese Voika.
Inta Šimanska gave a short overview of NGOs in Latvia. In Latvia there are more than 19 000 NGOs, the majority of which are based in Riga (44%). The Civic Alliance in Latvia has recently adopted a system of evaluating NGO excellence, thus offering an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an NGO.
According to Dace Helmane, brand or corporate reputation and credibility are the main incentives for business to engage in partnerships with NGOs. These are followed by long-term stability, impact and innovation. Furthermore, businesses get motivated by the necessity to develop their people through these partnerships. NGOs remain primarily interested in the opportunity to access funds. However, long-term stability and impact are viewed as a motivating factor for NGOs to engage in partnerships with the private sector.
According to Ēriks Eglītis, Microsoft's vision is to create innovative technology that is accessible to everyone and helps improve people's lives. This year about 60 Latvian NGOs has received Microsoft's software donation including cloud services and new product development. In addition, Microsoft employees are encouraged to spend up to 3 days a year in volunteer work of their choice.
Professor Roger Ritvo reported on results of his recent research about the perceptions of NGOs in Latvian society. The majority of respondents thought that the main priority for NGOs should be culture and education. According to Ritvo, successful partnerships are characterized by shared goals, specific objectives, structured communication and top-level commitment. He said: "Partnerships should start small. Every success should be celebrated and shared publicly." He suggested that NGOs should become more open and transparent about their successes as well as lessons learned from partnering with businesses as this experience may encourage and inspire other organizations.
During the discussion, experts agreed that much remains to be done in order to engage society and business in the work of NGOs as well as to raise the profile of NGOs.
Dace Helmane has degrees in political and communication sciences, while her practical experience is associated with almost 15 years of ensuring internal and public communications in public administration institutions and consultancy. In the last three years, she has managed the InCSR, and aims to increase the understanding of strategic and responsible business practice among different stakeholders. Since 2010, Dace is also the coordinator of the Latvian Sustainability Index. This has helped her better understand the corporate environment and the needs of businesses.
Ēriks Eglītis is Country Manager in Microsoft Latvia since May 2011. He has over 20 years of experience in information and communications technologies (ICT) industry. He is enthusiastic about and has deep knowledge of how to use ICT for value creation for businesses, public sector, and individuals. Prior to joining the Microsoft team, Eriks worked in Samsung Electronics, where he was incharge of Telecommunications busi-ness in theBaltics. Eriks has developed and administered the development strategy of Information Systems in public and private sector - VAS Latvijas Pasts, SIA Lattelecom, SIA IBM Latvija, AS Software House Riga.
To strengthen and favor the work of NGOs Inta Šimanska has been working in Civic Alliance-Latvia since 2007. Along with Political Science studies Inta has gained the understanding of advantages and limits of the work of organizations and foundations to reach their aims and target-groups. Inta finds work in the NGO sector as independent, eventful and encouraging, but sometimes also limited in resources. Therefore, to fulfill the aims of NGOs it is great to create and strengthen bridges between the NGO sector and Public institutions and the Business sector, also mass media.
Roger A. Ritvo, Ph.D. is the Distinguished Research Professor of Management at Auburn University Montgomery (AL). A prolific author, Professor Ritvo has published seven books and more than 2 dozen book chapters and articles. He was selected twice as a Fulbright Scholar: to Azerbaijan in 2005 and then to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2012. His research on NGOs in post-Soviet countries currently focuses on changing attitudes in Latvia. He has served as Senior Policy Advisor to two Secretaries of the US Department of Health & Human Services in Washington, DC.
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Agrita Kiopa, Vice Rector for Science, Riga Stradins University