Macro-initiative on a micro-level

The Kirov Region, famous for its beauty and stunning countryside, is a poor region of Russia, where practical problems are extremely pressing. But it seems people have come up with an innovative way of solving the most urgent issues.

­They got what they asked for. Two slides, a sand bank and a beach. That might not seem like much, but for a small community in the Kirov Region it has become a leisure hotspot.

This type of project only cost $5,000. But there was no money in the local budget to build safe access to the lake until the regional government introduced the local initiatives scheme. When they heard of it, the village clubbed together and applied for a grant from a special fund. Within months, the beach was laid.

The locals were consulted over this, but it was their decision to build the beach. And as a result the grateful residents look after this place properly.

The idea of micro-projects was thought up jointly by the World Bank and the Kirov Regional administration. They provide about two thirds of the money, while local citizens have to find the rest – often going around houses to collect the money.

Nearly 200 micro-projects will be built in this region by the end of the year.

“We want to change people’s attitudes – instead of expecting things done for them; we want them to take initiative. We are giving power back to the people,” Dmitry Matveev, Deputy Governor of the Kirov Region told RT.

Today the residents are thrashing out the details of a new road. There is heated debate about the quality of the works, and whether or not the builders are falling behind.

“Unlike other projects, the financing of the road is completely transparent. We know where every ruble has gone,” said community leader Galina Gerasimova.

The village of Kalachegi has just over a thousand residents, several hundred of them petty criminals serving their time in a labor colony. It has one poorly-stocked shop, and for every road it builds, there are dozens more that need to be repaired. One micro-project will not solve all its problems. But it is a start.

The authorities cannot just expect ordinary citizens to come up with a solution for every single infrastructural problem that faces Russia. But at the same time, in a country where major projects often go ahead without consultation, this initiative is delivering targeted and valuable facilities and services to those who need them.

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