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Children and Business, by Alina Radchenko, BlogActiv.eu, 24 May 2013

Consumption of children’s products is growing, and this trend will remain in future as such products, no matter how complicated, are easy to use and don’t require any particular skills. Some special training was necessary in the past and might took years making consumption by children almost impossible. This is not the case now, and it appears that the industry of children’s products brings up its consumers from early childhood making up the needs and setting directions for development. However, the influence of children on the environment where they are growing up in is being often neglected.

All the children are great creators if not impeded. It is just necessary to secure favorable environment, for example, to develop their entrepreneurial skills, and not necessarily through school lessons as it is often suggested. Take the case of American billionaire Richard Branson. He came up with his first business model when he was about nine years old. He decided to grow Christmas trees. With a friend, they planted 400 spruce seeds in a field near the house. Planning a Christmas tree business, a boy of nine operated as an adult. A bag of seeds cost only five pounds, and the tree could be sold for two pounds – seven hundred and ninety-five pounds of net profit. But rabbits devoured his seeds and the young Branson took revenge.

He managed to get the rabbits shot and sold them to the local butcher, for a shilling apiece. It helped make a small profit. Naturally, Branson was supported in all of his “foolish endeavours” by his mother, who instilled in him a key fact: he would benefit from undertaking a business he loved and that he shouldn’t think too much about money when starting a business. When a student Branson started a newspaper inspiring a youth help center to support, for example, struggling nurses who wanted to have their salary raised, pregnant unmarried girls or those looking for students-tutors.

The other example is Fraser Doherty. 14-year old Fraser started making a jam to his grandmother’s recipe. His first customers were the neighbors and school peers. When Fraser was 16 years old his business grew so profitable that he had to leave school so as to work full time. In 2009 his company’s revenue reached $1.2 min.

Cameron Johnson started his first business at the age of 9 making invitations for parties. By 15 years old his bank account statement showed $300.000-400.000, and by school leaving age his fortune exceeded $1 min.

Cameron Johnson started his first business at the age of 9 making invitations for parties. By 15 years old his bank account statement showed $300.000-400.000, and by school leaving age his fortune exceeded $1 mln. 13-year old Zhenya from Perm region (Russia) earned his first million rubles with a mock show “Kababa”. At first he and his friends performed at schools in their home town, now across the whole region. Zhenya started his business only a year ago and earned 1 148 000 rubles with a workforce of 5 people.

We admit that children have entrepreneurial skills and can be successful businessmen. So, why do we rarely talk about the involvement of children in creating products for them? For some reason the industry doesn’t involve children into testing the products aimed for them. However, in many developed countries there are attempts among major manufacturers to test children’s products on children and involve them into production and development stages. Children have better understanding of what characteristics their toys, clothes and other products should have. But unfortunately this practice is not widely spread. Obviously, this has nothing to do with child labor. This should be just an overall tendency rooted from the idea of “people’s products”. For example, Ford has launched its “People’s Car” program enabling public discussion of a concept car. In terms of childhood, one of the key problems is an absence an efficient communication platform which could bring together officials from different institutions and community. Teachers do not talk to doctors about how to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Architects are not interested in the lifestyles of people they build houses for, especially given the fact that children take up considerable space, and simply use standard drawings and templates. Such communication would be possible if we all follow the idea of super value of childhood.

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ALINA RADCHENKO: “CHILDREN MUST DEVELOP MORE COMPETENCES TO STAY COMPETITIVE IN FUTURE”, Peques y Más, 18 April 2013

What is Generation 2030? What is the objective of Generation 2030?

Generation 2030 is a public initiative whose objective is to “put children first” – making interests of children key to public policy agenda, and instilling respect to their unique talents and way of thinking into everyday life of parents and adults in general.  We seek to do so through educational activities, by compiling, sharing and promoting best practices that exist in different countries. The concept originated in Russia in 2008.  We founded an NGO and a public program Childhood which have been implementing projects in Russia for over three years.  We obviously cannot claim exclusive credit for this, but we see considerable results and changes already:  there is a growing movement of parents willing and trying to change the very way they interact with their children, and the state has moved the issue of Childhood to the center of the public agenda, having established the position for Children’s Rights Ombudsman and making childhood key themes in the Presidential State of the Nation addresses. Now we intend to take the initiative international, possibly setting up an international organization.  The task is challenging, it requires dialogue of many stakeholders and cannot be addressed on a national level only.

What does “Follow the Baby” slogan mean? 

Each child is a person in every sense of this word.  His or her talents, views, capabilities and aspirations are totally unique.  And conditions should be created to unlock this unique potential and individuality. Parents and adults should not dictate children their lives’ roadmap and try to apply “one size fits all” approach.  Rather, parents should listen and hear their children, and provide them with support in developing their unique traits.  And policy makers should make children equal partners in designing state policies and evaluating their impact – something that is all about non-existent today.

What other initiatives like this one there are in the world? What makes it different from visions of other initiatives and organizations?

We are happy that we are not alone in this way of thinking.  For example, Daniel Kropf and his Learning for Well-Being program puts a child in the very center of educational system, by moving away from standardized, top down system that is widely accepted today. Our difference is holistic approach.  We have identified several areas that have to be addressed in a combined and complex way – education, healthcare, parental care, city ecosystems, among others.  We strongly believe that only a systemic approach will yield positive results.

What features does the Russian system? How applicable are the results of Russian studies to other countries?

Our approach is based on a roadmap that became a result of a foresight research that was conducted about three years ago.  We have identified crossroads – points in time, by when certain policy changes need to be implemented to ensure positive scenarios for a particular issue area (migration policy, educational reform, etc).  Our research was Russia-specific, Obviously, but I am confident that a lot of it is quite relevant to many other countries around the world.

What are the key drivers of global change in the coming decades? What are the key challenges? How this will affect children education?

These are obvious – technological breakthroughs, environmental pressures and demographic change are key.  Their impact is overwhelming and universal.  Shifts that are taking place in the lives of people and nations are rather tectonic, unpredictable and fast-paced.  Now and more so in the future, people will be “living several lives within one lifetime” – changing professions, residencies and environments.  School as an institution no longer has a monopoly on providing education, other “ecosystems” take on greater roles – community, internet, television, etc.  To prepare for challenges of the future, children need to be motivated to study continuously.  And the traditional “classes and discipline” system of education should change, to make an individual child the center of the system – influencing the curriculum, employing newest technologies and interacting with other educational ecosystems.  To be competitive in the future, children need to have competencies rather than “uploaded files of information”.

What do you see as the main obstacles to implementing your initiative? 

Stereotypes is probably the greatest obstacle.  Moreover, the existing ways of treating children is a system, it is multi-layered and involves education, healthcare, social welfare, etc.

What are the main challenges facing by today's educational institutions?

The present system – generally speaking – is over three centuries old.  It is no longer fitting for the world we live in.  It is based on “one size fits all” approach, it often doesn’t recognize or leverage unique capabilities of children, it is geared towards the amount and accuracy of data “uploaded” into the brains of pupils.

How do you think educational success should be evaluated? 

Ultimately, the success is defined by the level of competitiveness of individuals and nations.  Human capital – not military might, or geography, or natural resources – is the driver and definition of a nation’s competitiveness.  By 2030, this importance will become overwhelming.  So if schools can provide competencies, motivation to learn, understanding and flexibility towards the surrounding world, appreciation of own culture yet respect to others, this would be success.

What is the right balance between ensuring creativity and providing the necessary skills and knowledge?

There can be no defined percentages.  Again, every child is unique:  some are creators and individualists, some prefer execution and team work.  A teacher should obviously give some necessary basics in a way of information and skills, but in each case the story will be different.

How do you evaluate the explosive growth of distance (online, remote) education? What is your overall opinion of the appropriate role of technology, including various gadgets?

Technology and gadgets are great, unfortunately they are not used enough.  But at the same time, technology cannot substitute personal interaction between a teacher and a pupil.  Gadgets can help with consuming information obtaining competencies, particular in areas of professional skills development, but they cannot replace human support, environment, nature, plants and animals.  Environmental thinking is critically important, and this cannot be developed through gadgets only…

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GENERATION 2030… FOR A REAL EDUCATION, The Prisma, 14 April, 2013

This organisation was founded with the aim of defending and strengthening public policies in support of the interests and educational development of children. In order to create a more just and sustainable society the education children receive now is fundamental.

Education cuts, which in many countries have been driven by the economic climate, have translated into less investment in public education, in fewer teachers, in the increase in class sizes and in the disappearance of grants and support for study, among other changes that have damaged the quality of education.

Measures that have provoked the indignation of the general public and many organisations. Faced with this reality and concern about the shape of the future of society, Oxfam International has recently launched the initiative “Global citizenship for teachers”.

A declaration signed by educational professionals that emphasises the importance of education today for the consolidation of a just and balanced society in the future. An aim that coincides with the programme UNESCO is carrying out in support of education for sustainable development.

According to the United Nations, an educated society will help to solve the problems of hunger, of climate change and encourage sustainable consumption, amongst other benefits.

Generation 2030

This initiative is about defending the rights of children and promoting public policies to improve children’s well-being. To this end, Generation 2030 was founded and instigated in Russia to be an organisation that will focus its efforts on guaranteeing quality education.

According to Alina Radchenko, Head of the Secretariat of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and founder of Generation 2030, the strength and competiveness of nations in the coming years will be determined by the human factor rather than by military force and the possession of natural resources as they are at present.

“The future of our civilisation are the people who are currently three, five or ten years old, so we must strive to assure their well-being and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will face in the future”, explains Radchenko.

“Generation 2030” was founded in a nation that heads the world list of the most populated countries in terms of higher education, according to the latest OECD report.

This study states that in Russia 54% of people between 25 and 64 years of age have a university degree. Canada and Israel rank the highest.

Nevertheless, Alina Radchenko’s organisation has been created with a view to further improving this data.

It is argued that “population growth is at the point of stabilising” and that countries will cease to impose restrictions on immigration.

Strengthening the education of children will enable the attraction of foreign investment, will create a less corrupt society and will develop qualified citizens capable of maintaining the purchasing power of pensioners.

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RUSSIAN ORGANIZATION INVESTIGATES NEW WAYS TO INVEST IN HUMAN CAPITAL BY SUPPORTING CHILDREN’S RIGHTS, EUbusness, 4 April 2013

Russia is recovering from the exhaustion suffered after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The country wants to play an important role at the regional and global level. This time, leaving aside natural resources and military forces, and focussing on the human factor to improve the lives of children and invest in their future. Generation 2030 is an organization dedicated to making recommendations for the development of public policies, laws, regulations, business activities and/or general public values to ensure that the interests of children are taken into account.

This initiative, founded by Alina Radchenko, Head of the Secretariat of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, raises the idea that the competitiveness of companies and nations in the coming decades will be determined by the human factor rather than the provision of natural resources or military force. "The future of our civilization is the people who currently have three, five or ten years. So we must strive to ensure their well-being now and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that they will face in the future", says Radchenko.

Generation 2030 seeks to place children in their rightful place as the largest recipient of all that happens in the world. The origin of the organization can be found in the concept of "demographic transition point" that developed the Russian scientist Sergey Kapitsa arguing that the period of exponential population growth is almost over, and the world population will stabilize. As a result, nations will begin to compete for more immigrants, instead of fighting the phenomenon of migration, as it is currently the case.

Another trend that considers Generation 2030 is the ageing population. In the coming years, the ratio between the number of older and younger people will increase, so we will need a qualified workforce more productive to at least maintain the purchasing power of pensioners. Moreover, the importance of Service Sector in the world economy is growing. This is a sector intensive in labour and human capital. Hence, the investment in human capital will increasingly take a bigger role in economic policy decisions. Because of investment in human capital, Russia will turn into a destination for investment in the future, as it will have better qualified people. Moreover, a society with better human capital is a less corrupt society.

Before these changes take place, we are already seeing tensions between countries - religious conflicts, racial and cultural. Applying stricter immigration laws is not the answer today and will not be the answer tomorrow.

Generation 2030 aims to make children the main actors in political and social decision-making processes, and integrate the efforts of various national and international organizations dedicated to the protection of the rights of children, promoting research and best practices to create synergies between them.

The organization not only focuses on the political class but also to inform and educate the public about the importance of supporting children in all facets of life. Generation 2030 website is a platform (www.g2030.com) for the exchange of information, opinions, ideas and innovative views of experts from around the world.

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CHILDREN ARE LEAST PROTECTED CONSUMERS, Business Mirror, 21 February 2013, by Joel Pablo Salud / Editor in chief, Philippines Graphic

Despite technological advancements, children all over the world face the threat of toxic materials not only in the environment but in toys and other products made for them. Filipino consumers and legislators, from 2010 to 2012, have raised this issue, prompting Congress to push for investigations. The international community is launching a fierce battle against toxins. But after all is said and done, can we safely say our children are safe?

Last year Congress approved on second reading House Bill 6552. The bill intends to regulate importation of children’s products such as school supplies, toys and other articles for child care that may contain toxic chemicals. Proponent of the bill was Rep. Anthony del Rosario of the First District of Davao del Norte.

In the other chamber, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago pushed for Senate Resolution 556, a four-pronged protection policy that outlines the following provisions: ban or restriction on the use of toxic chemicals in products for children; “right to know” clause for consumers, which includes labeling of products; full disclosure on the use of chemicals from manufacturers and importers as condition of sale in the country; and promotion on environment-friendly development of children’s products.

The slapdash implementation of the law, however, failed to deter some manufacturers from producing “toxic toys,” and other products, thereby exposing children to harmful chemicals and elements.

Global problem

The problem, having reached global proportions, alarmed the international community. The World Health Organization (WHO) 2011 Training Manual on children and chemicals marked, among other things, toys and baby-care articles as contaminated sources of toxins.

“Objects: toys, baby cots and other materials that come into close contact with children may have toxic components or contaminants, such as leaded paint used on wooden toys. In the medical domain, there is concern about the presence of phthalates in tubes and in catheters, as well as in pacifiers. These products may also be found in toys,” WHO said.

3 million and counting

Based on studies made by Aseha Qld Inc., a volunteer community organization, the production of toxic chemicals and their use expose the most vulnerable of all—our children—to several health hazards.

“Approximately 100,000 synthetic chemicals are being commercially produced with 1,500 new chemicals being introduced each year [UK Royal Commission www.rcep.uk.org]. The majority of these chemicals have not been adequately tested for their effects on human-adult health, much less tested for their impact on children and the developing fetus. We are exposed to many of these in our homes in the form of consumer products such as TVs and computers, children’s toys, furniture, carpets and other types of flooring, cosmetics, fragrances, etc.”

The adverse effects are staggering. The 2002 WHO and the United Nations Environmental Program (Unep) study estimated “that approximately 3 million children under the age of 5 die every year, due to environmental hazards.”

Russia’s and Unicef’s bold solution

Apparently, not all are taking this sitting down. Generation 2030, an assembly of experts from Unicef and the Russian Federation, are attempting to bridge the gap between producers and manufacturers of children’s products and their young consumers. The idea they are proposing is not only groundbreaking; it is bold.

“Competitive pressures, particularly in a global economy, force producers to look for cost-cutting measures, and only the best of them refuse to compromise on quality,” the group’s web site said. “Children then become the least protected consumers, threatened by hazardous materials. Furthermore, regulations and guidelines in today’s world of fast-developing technologies often fall behind the new materials and products. Advertisers constantly seek balance between effective promotion and responsible treatment of children as consumers of the information.”

As the means to a solution, Generation 2030 puts the child right in the middle of the creative process as regards designs and production of children’s products. “Children’s participation in the creation of products is a whole separate issue. Best producers involve their little customers in the creative process, and not only get ahead of their competition, but also deliver a very important social service supporting development of children.”

In the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the idea of consulting children paved the way for them to design their own “dream city” in miniature.

Child’s economic value

In the BusinessMirror talk with Alina Radchenko, head of administration of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, she said the practice of having children participate in designing the cities of the future opens a world of possibilities on how children can contribute to society at large.

“Although not a full decision-maker, children should be considered first priority in whatever we do for society,” she told the BusinessMirror. “A child’s interest should be given ample weight. A child-focused mindset can do wonders for the cities of the future.”

The same idea can be used in the production of children’s goods. Radchenko further explained, “We rarely talk about the involvement of children in the process of creating products for them. Often the industry does not include children in the creation and testing of products. In developed countries, children play a major role in the conceptualization and design by major manufacturers of children’s products. Children are the best judges of what they want. They know what characteristics toys should have. This is where the ‘economic value’ of the child comes in.”

Continuing battle

At the home front, Filipino children are still at risk from children’s products peddled in various cities around the country. Based on the latest EcoWaste Coalition report posted December last year, 45 percent of the 200 samples tested for toxic material contained “one or more metals above levels of concern that were not known to unsuspecting consumers.” One particular metal of serious concern was lead.

“Out of 200 samples, only 110 [55 percent] passed the screening for heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury,” said EcoWaste. “The other 90 samples [45 percent] failed and were found to contain one or more metals above levels of concern that were not known to unsuspecting consumers. Most ‘toxic toys’ were found in Cebu City [28 of 50 samples], followed by Davao City [23 of 50 samples], Cabanatuan and Gapan City [21 of 50 samples], and Pasay and Manila [18 of 50 samples].”

Unicef and the Russian Federation had opened its doors to the idea of involving children in the conceptualization and production of children’s goods as a “best practice” solution. Apparently the international community is gearing up for a showdown with producers of “toxic toys.” Is the Philippines ready?

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MOST VALUED PLAYERS, Itogi, 2 April 2012

“In future our children will have to compete with the children from developing countries who receive distance learning” – says Alina Radchenko, the head of secretariat of the Civic Chamber of Russian Federation.

Sociologists and demographists are unanimous - competition between countries for the so called ‘human capital’ will drastically increase by 2030. According to the Russian scientist Sergey Kapitsa, the earth’s population growth primarily comes from the developing countries. The European population is aging rapidly. Alina Radchenko, the Head of secretariat of the Civic Chamber of Russian Federation, believes that this process can be geared down only by efficient demographic and migration policies related to the children’s welfare in particular.  Ms Radchenko runs a charity foundation “My Generation” which has initiated a public program “Childhood”.

-              Alina, it seems you are talking about the children who are not facing any real problems, while there are so many children in need like orphans, or those experiencing domestic violence, illness...

-              Orphancy, domestic violence and illnesses constitute a very serious issue.  Fortunately there are many organizations dealing with it. However, I would like to draw attention to another issue related to child development. It is time to think about it seriously. Back in the Soviet times, there was at least a ‘Ready for Work and Defence’ system, developed and promoted by the Ministry of Defence, whereas today children are ‘useless’ for the state institutions undergoing major transformations. The institution of family is in a major crisis. According to the statistics 30% of children are born out of wed lock. Another 30% of children are born in single-parent families.

-              So what’s the solution?

-              A sustainable well-developed child welfare policy must be implemented step by step. It appears that so far nobody has seriously thought about the future of today’s children. Today their life is determined by phone, internet, television and various gadgets. This is a world of information, sometimes not accessible for adults. We should stop thinking about school as a single source of knowledge.

-              Are you saying that school will soon seize playing its key role?

-              I am not prepared to predict future of school, but it will be increasingly difficult to put in the pupils’ heads the knowledge sourced from the books yellowed with age. Rule of thumb shows that in future our children will have to compete with the children from developing countries who receive distance learning or attend open-air schools. In such schools the kids sit around a teacher on a lawn with netbooks and learn the world. These are the children of computer age, perfectly capable to process information.  Do you think our children will be able to compete with them?

-              Our traditional school is widely recognized for its fundamental approach to learning. It helps many Russian specialist find job abroad.

-              Our school is geared towards natural sciences and mathematics.  And speaking honest this is a past glory. It’s getting more difficult to maintain this image. The most experienced teachers are aging fast. In other countries they employ simulators, biorobots and other advanced learning tools. We must create smart and engaging educational ecosystem to stimulate interest in learning, and fundamental science will be supported by younger generations.

-              What should be the role of parents in the learning process?

-              The role of adults will change. They need to learn how to see personality in a child.

-              How?  Are you suggesting that everyone without exception should take a ‘parent course’, receive an appropriate license?  It is most unlikely that everyone will support this idea.

-              We don’t think this approach should be applied to everyone. This is a model we are offering to the regions for discussion. According to the sociologists, the young families have lost so-called ‘experience of childbearing’. The multi-generation families are in the past now. At the same time, a lot of information on child care is available, though sometimes it can be difficult to understand even for a specialist. In terms of our initiative “Childhood” we have launched a learning course for parents teaching how to interact with a child. When designing this course we were curious, whether it would be in demand?  Believe you or not, there is a great interest. Among the lecturers are specialists from different areas including healthcare, psychology, sociology, etc.

During one of the discussions we considered an idea of ‘parenthood as a job’. Many people treat parenthood as a real job. Why not help them get state funding?  The government funds kindergarten. Why not fund parenting then? For example in case if a child can’t or is not willing to attend kindergarten?  This is specifically relevant to families with many children.

-              In this case everybody will prefer staying at home with children!  And there will be no need for kindergartens.

-              I am not sure.  We don’t suggest getting rid of kindergartens. We propose creating alternative like nanny service overseen by the government. We expect a kindergarten plays an essential role in child’s development, while it remains a kind ‘storage facility’. They might be well equipped, but the personnel, particularly in Moscow kindergartens, are in most cases the migrants with poor knowledge of the Russian language. Alternatively, they are the compatriots with low demands, who work there because they cannot find job elsewhere. Their motivation is as low as the salary. The sociologist Ivan Zabaev studied kindergartens in Russia and in Europe. He discovered that the highest level of aggression is demonstrated by the personnel.  And now think about an absolutely open-minded child facing such aggression. Its mind is getting deformed, and the child starts perceive the surrounding world as a threat.  This happens in a supposedly safe environment – we think that kids are supervised by professionals, and nothing bad can happen.

-  But where else can a child get experience of interaction with other children?  Where can he or she socialize?

-              First, kindergartens are being successfully replaced by pre-school education centres, where children spend half a day.  Second, who says that bringing together children of the same age and with similar social backgrounds is the only way of socializing? Have you ever seen an adult community based on same age and same income principle?

-              Conscript army, for example.

-              Exactly. With this type of communities, we would have been extinct. We should not compare army and children.  No argument, interaction is vitally important, but ecosystems for upbringing children still have to be different.  For example, all children have an absolute ability to learn languages before they are three years old. If we miss this point, learning languages at the age of ten will become much more difficult. My daughter is three years old, and she speaks four languages. She doesn’t realize she is learning different languages.  She is just staying in a multi-language environment interacting with speakers of three languages – our friends, the adults and children, from UK, Arab countries, China…

-              Not everyone has friends from different countries. It’s pointless to talk about educational ecosystems with the mothers living in the middle of nowhere, who are forced to take children in kindergarten simply to make living.

-              In such towns in the middle of nowhere, as you say, it is easier to respond the challenges we are talking about. It may come as a surprise, but our ideas are often supported in the provinces. People there are really eager for a change to the better.  All is needed is a political will of regional authorities and sensible social policies. Since we are approaching children as a national strategic resource, the funds necessary to pay parenting can be raised. It is necessary to conduct an audit of social services.  It is estimated that there are more than 50 thousand institutions dealing with children’s issues in Russia.  All of them are state-funded, and their functions often overlap. The country is in a position to reform these services and assign new functions to these institutions.

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WE’VE LOST CHILDBEARING EXPERIENCE, Sol’, 25 May 2011, by Ivan Kozlov

Human resource is something one can’t take away from Russia. Oil deposits will be depleted in some thirty years, but there always will be brains for another social experiment, especially if to work with not adults but children. Longsighted people like Alina Radchenko, the Head of secretariat of the Civic Chamber of Russian Federation, and Sergey Popov, the President of International Methodological Association, have already developed an ambitious futuristic program. The foresight project “Generation 2030” is based on the calculation of the future. Radchenko and Popov (he is a father of three children) are sure that children is an only resource worthy of investing.

At request of “Sol’”, the ideologist of the project Sergey Popov described a child of 2030 – a kind of genetically perfect cyber-child prodigy fluent in any foreign language, and who most impotently doesn’t attend school.

  • The program “Generation 2030” is based on a foresight technology and a roadmap. Can you please tell more about this?
  • First of all we conducted a study to identify most possible future scenario, and then produced a roadmap specifying various aspects. Each of the aspects is supplemented with a crossroad. For example, if there are no changes in migration policy, and we do not shift from guest workers to educated people with families, the demographic level will drop dramatically. Thus, the crossroad is augmented with a program to secure quality migration.
  • How would you amend the existing migration strategy?
  • The answer is very simple – the universities abroad. Some time ago several Russian oligarchs tried to establish a Russian university in Tajikistan. It is necessary to amend the law to enable people to come to Russia with their families or start families here. This has been done in the US. That’s why the estimated population there will exceed one billion by 2040. But in Russia we see demographic decline, and the only solution is to invite people from abroad and grant them Russian citizenship.The same approach is adopted with regards to each of the program aspect. Foresight should help identify crossroad points to develop further programs. One of them focuses on parenthood.  
  • What’s wrong with parents?
  • We have lost childbearing experience. Third generation of families prefer not to have many children. And children do not have due experience of interacting with youngers and elders. Then, they become parents and feel scared when need to swaddle a baby, or they don’t know what to do with it.    - You mentioned foresight technology had been adopted by many developed countries. Can you please give an example of how it works?
  • There is a great deal of examples. In South Africa the foresight study was conducted with regards to the youth and children with a purpose to convert the blacks and half-blacks into full-fledged citizens. They worked out a comprehensive plan of actions to make them civilized people, but not criminals and outcasts. There was a very distinct segregation.  
  • Among other things you explore are “social stereotypes” related to childhood. What are they?
  • People think that school and kindergarten are the best options for their children. This is not so. There is a huge technological breakthrough, and kids adopt it much quicker than adults. We are really behind our children with this. Children source the most of new information and knowledge not at school. School can’t get adapted to the digital era or any further technological breakthrough.   
  • Many people agree that contemporary education system has decayed and is absolutely useless. But those who still support it have a strong argument – socialization in a school group.
  • In the US about 10 mln families do not take their children to school. There are millions of young people who have never attended school. Statistically those people are not less socialized and much more successful. They are much ahead of their peers in colleague. Besides, not many realize what socialization is. In practice, school destroys socialization. The school groups consist of the children of the same age, however the greatest effect can be achieved within the groups of people of different ages, when children learn from the elders and teach the youngsters. Children spend time at school and often don’t know how to talk to a policeman, anyone they are not familiar with or just a grown-up.   
  • What status does the program “Generation 2030” possess? Is it implemented by the government? Or it’s a public initiative?
  • This is a public program, though many government institutions are getting involved.
  • You criticize “teaching methods aimed to bring up spiritless performers for industrial economy and conveyor manufacturing”. However, the government claims there is a lack of “performers for manufacturing” in our country – therefore, for example, the amount of humanitarian universities is being cut down in favor of technical ones.  
  • This is a problem of our government. Obviously some different things are mixed up and confused. If you are talking about the initiatives suggested by President Medvedev, they are targeted to the engineers rather than workers. We are far behind in technological development and innovative economy which requires non-industrial production. Now we see rapid deindustrialization in the developed countries with small production sites fully automated and technologically advanced, instead of huge plants. That’s why they need different type of employees – not only disciplined, but those who can think. Creative people can’t be stamped out.     
  • Does your project depend on the political environment in the country? Innovation course is strongly associated with only one person – President Medvedev. The others if they come to power in 2012 might set up another priority.   
  • They might have their own views whatever they are, but that not so important. The issue is about something different. We will be so much behind in many areas, that willing or not the program will be implemented – either through business or politics, there is no other way out. In this way the country might be led into a deadlock and it will take long to get out.
  • Does that mean your plans will be implemented sooner or later whatever political situation is?
  • Absolutely, it’s not long to wait. Since 2015 the existing government mechanism won’t be able to overcome numerous problems. It will be necessary to amend it.
  • You suggest introduction of a system that would allow identify talented children. But if we segregate gifted kids, this would mean there are less gifted ones. Bloggers will claim discrimination.
  • They might claim whatever. This system has a different meaning. 30 years ago the research conducted in the developed countries showed that practically all skills are gained by kids before 7 years old. Then those skills are being developed. That’s why $1 invested into a child under 7 is equivalent to $100 invested in elementary school, to $300 – in the middle school and $3,000 – at the university. We see a shift towards early education all over the world. A certain mechanism is needed to enable gifted children to move faster. And one more thing – people are talented in different areas. I am saying that talent will be found in everyone but in different areas. This is not a hierarchy structure and not a ladder. We just must not make the children slow.     
  • Innovator Maxim Kalashnikov is sure that by 2045 we will be able to “create genius”- new bio technologies enabling creative skills in kids will evolve. Your ideas are somewhat similar.
  • There is a great deal of nootropic drugs consumed by 70% of American school-children. There are even more complicated technologies speeding up brain activity and capacity.
  • Does that mean in some twenty years children will be fed with stimulators like with vitamins?
  • This already happens in some countries. Though this is not the key tendency, it will significantly facilitate the process.     
  • The project “Generation 2030” is being demonized and confabulated on the Internet. What program statements are most often misconceived? 
  • First of all, it’s often misunderstood that our program has only one main line. It is designed to show different options, so that the responsible people start responding. The situation is changing and the need in children is different compared to the Soviet Union times. Parents, innovative business and government need children. One of the bloggers posted that the program “Generation 2030” suggests licensing parents. This is not the case. They also say that everything in the program is against family. This is nonsense. We are discussing options of how family life might be changed, but don’t force and don’t issue instructions. Someone said as if we suggest destroy family involving juvenile justice –this is where all these misinterpretations originate.            
  • And notorious brain chipping is also one of such myths? When being interviewed the leader of the program “Generation 2030” Alina Radchenko said that in future brain chipping will be a reality and we won’t be able to disregard this.
  • There are already a number of techniques enabling sending information straight to the brain. This is simple. For example, blind and deaf people can see and hear through the waves translated via a camera or a recorder straight to the relevant nerve. These are still very expensive technologies, thought the developers are sure they will be much cheaper by 2020-2030. People will be able to read quicker. Technologies are very interesting thing – one can kill with a hammer, but the other can batter down a nail. I have no idea why someone has ascribed malintent to us.   
  • Are there any other technologies that seem fantastic now but can possibly generate value for children over a decade?
  • All over the world they try to make a cheap laptop affordable to every child even in the poorest country. Wi-Fi access anywhere across the globe will be a reality in some few years. Distance education – children will learn having access to Internet and not attending schools. This would allow provide education without construction schools in Africa, China and India. There will be online translator, since 2015 as a cheap application for a cell phone. If we talk to each other in different languages, for example Russian and English, we will still understand. This will change the situation dramatically as cultural barrier disappears.  
  • Apart from what you have already mentioned, what else differentiates kids in 2030 from children in 2010?
  • First and foremost, key characteristics will be laid down by parents even before a child is born.   
  • Do you mean genetic modification?
  • Absolutely. This already happens with disabled children and definitely will go on. In 2030 a child won’t be sent to school. It will live in a developmental technological environment. For example, it will crawl point to point instead of smooth floor which significantly reduces its moving abilities.     
  • Aren’t you afraid of public criticism? Ideas of genetic modification always result in a wave of protests.
  • When the first ever railway engine was launched in England, medical society responded with numerous articles claiming that speed higher than 20 km/h has negative impact on psychic, i.e. anyone who takes a train goes mad. There will be similar reaction now.   
  • The program “Generation 2030” has not been yet launched at full scale. Can people start it privately?
First of all parents must spend time with their children. Now they prefer to send them to a kindergarten or school where the interaction doesn’t last longer than 15 minutes. Children learn reading not at school, but when sitting close to mama and papa. Such initiation takes place due to high level of trust. The other thing is that the society changes a lot from technological standpoint – when a child plays a computer game and sees that his tutor doesn’t understand anything, this results in some distrust. The same happens with parents. When a school aged child understands that his mother and father do not know how to text sms-message, a kind of a barrier appears. Parents should conceive their children as a source of development. Then the situation will improve.          

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FIVE MAJOR PARENTS’ MISTAKES, Nezavisimaya Gazeta , 18 August,2010, by Alina Radchenko

No further economic achievements will be possible if we do not respond some critical teenager related issues.  Much attention is paid to the children and their future in the Concept of Russia’s state family policy to 2015 proposed by a working group headed by Elena Mizulina. The Concept is focused on the issue of strengthening social and ethical negative deformations in the child and teenager environment constituting one of the major threats to the national security and Russia’s future. This is a long-term problem which would inevitably impact the society and the state.  If no targeted measures are taken all economic achievements of our country might simply fade away.

The key idea behind the family law and policy in Russia is the maintenance of a nuclear family. At that, it doesn’t consider the new forms of living together which evolve in the contemporary society. Some people think that there is no comprehensive family legislation in our country. Family Code as a part of the civil law considers family and children in terms of the property and commodity-money relations.   

We need a new Family Code targeted to creation of the legal environment to build a variety of family life modes depending on the individual choice. The discussions on family policy are often built around the tactics, and nothing is being changed about the strategy.  The modern family has changed a lot. It has different values and some of them are not yet defined. 

The area where it is still not late to make the changes is the quality of human capital in Russia.  This issue is urgent more than ever all over the world. It is not about currently working people, but next generations, i.e. our children who will define the image of the country and live in a different world, where the raw materials and other important resources won’t be of such a high value. Some strategic issues must be put on the agenda, i.e. the areas where the whole world is only getting prepared to compete in future. 

First and foremost it’s necessary to get rid of the stereotypes which make it difficult to understand the issues of childhood. Many parents are used to strict regulations. However, the technological development is so fast that if a person doesn’t get some skills when a child, for example related to the information technologies, he or she might be left far behind. 

The experts have identified some basic stereotypes which currently shape the attitude to this topic in the Russian society.  Let’s try to describe them shortly.

The first stereotype says that parents love their children. However, experts say, the most of the parents are indifferent to their children and perceive the care about them as mere responsibility. Love mostly appears in some critical or extreme situations (illness, accidents, entry into the University, etc.) and is not used as a tool in daily care.      

The second stereotype convinces us that every child needs a permanent control and care from a grown-up. This is also not so. When a child is under control, it has to follow the rules set up by the grown-ups. However, children are actually brought up in the control free areas like a yard, street, etc.

We ate sure that all the children are similar. This is a mistake. In the current environment it’s hardly possible to say so even about the grow-ups. And the difference between the children is even bigger. This stereotype originates from an old-fashioned educational system.    

There is a postulate that all children must grow up in families. Based on this claim we segregate secured children (those who are brought up in families) and non-secured (the ones who don’t have family). According to the experts, unfortunately the current family structure puts the brake on the child development. In the developed countries children are brought up in the varied environment of different educational communities, clubs, children’s institutions, etc.

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WORLD EXPO INVITES CHILDREN TO SHAPE THEIR FUTURE, Xinhua, 1 June 2010, by Zhan Yan, Hua Chunyu, Wu Yu

Shuttling between pavilions at the Shanghai World Expo, 14-year-old Wu Xinhui feels he has traveled to many countries in one day.

"I like the roller coaster in the Switzerland Pavilion most and playing basketball by touching a screen in Lithuania," says the Shanghai Fengjing Art Middle School first grader.

He was impressed by new technology on display, including a polluted water treatment system in the China Pavilion, solar power generation and wind power generation. "These technologies can help cut carbon emissions, which is important as the earth has limited resources

"My dream city would have more exciting architecture and people would take care of the environment," Wu said.

The World Expo provided a variety of activities especially for International Children's Day, but Wu had his suggestions. "Some pavilions just show films on their ethnic culture.... We like real, genuine things, more interactive things. The queues are too long and more doors should be open to let visitors in."

The Russian Pavilion had miniature constructions built from children's paintings of their dream cities: tree-house cities, a school-city on tortoise back and candy-shaped cities.

"In my future, people have decided to live on trees because there is too little space left on the ground so we will live in tree-houses. In the meantime, the plants and animals will recover on the ground," said a Russian teenager in a videotaped message on his tree-shaped city.

Alina Radchenko, head of administration of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, said the displays came from a national competition among children in Russia to create the city of their future.

"They essentially did all the planning and the plans were produced by the adults. This is a unique example how children can take part in shaping their future," she said.

"Child must be treated as a first priority in city planning though not as a full decision maker. So instead of having adults decide what is most proper for city planning, involve the children in the process, think about their interests, try to take their interests into consideration," she said.

In the Denmark Pavilion, the Little Mermaid, Denmark's iconic statue based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, attracted children waiting to take photos with the fairytale beauty.

Christopher Bo Bramsen, Commissioner General of Denmark, said he believed the 96-year-old statue contributed greatly to the glamour of the pavilion.

He said Chinese children knew more about Andersen than people in other parts of the world.

"A good city should be one where children live happily. Two concepts are most important to define a good city: welfare and fairytales. People, especially children, should live in a city with clean water, air and good traffic, along with some cultural aspects, including theaters, paintings and beautiful monuments," he said.

Six-year-old Yu Haoming was playing an armed policeman in a children's vocational role-playing community.

"It's cool to be a policeman. My job is to catch bad guys," said the boy. With four other children, he entered a bank, staffed by other role-playing children, to investigate a suspected robbery.

His mother, Yu Cuili, said, "I don't want to stuff him with too much knowledge. I hope my son can grow naturally and be happy."

Anatoly Prokhorov, art director of Smeshariki, a popular animated cartoon series in Russia, said, "It's like integrating the disabled into our society decades ago. Now the disabled are equal with others in our society. And now we should do the same with children.

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WHAT’S BEHIND FORESIGHT OR TECHNOLOGIES OF FUTURE BUILDING, Mamontenok, April-May 2010, by Natalia Ziganshina

The childhood is not an only issue that requires great involvement. But in terms of the foresight project it might take the central place. The childhood related issues are directly tied to the future. The public program “Generation 2030” was initiated two years ago by the head of the fund “My generation” and the head of administration of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation Alina Radchenko. The whole life of this young woman consisted of business, then politics, public service, cooperation with foreign partners. At last she gave a birth to a child. All these created a solid base and made her think about systematic problems of the childhood in Russia. In this interview the ideologist of the project “Generation 2030” Alina Radchenko told about foresight and its primary objectives and shared her view on the future of our children.

The future is being created right now – this is not just one of the messages from the manifests declared by the intellectual avant-gardists. This is a practise of contemporary life. What will be the future of our country in half a century? What place will it take on the world scene? In what country the next generation will live? These are the questions no one discusses in Russia. Government, business and society are totally occupied responding to the current issues they face now. We are in a situation when we can only react but not anticipate.   

Transition to the innovative development and global competition make us think about some area we need to develop so as to secure the dignified future. Childhood is obviously not an only area that requires public involvement. But in terms of the foresight project in particular this area might take the central place as childhood directly relates to the future. Those who are 10-15 years old now will be the backbone of the Russian society by 2030-2040. It depends on our efforts we are making today whether the growing generation will live in a country with innovative economy or in a “dwarf country”.   

In innovative economy surplus profit is created not due to the material production, sale of natural resources or capital conversion. New economy is built on innovations and continuous creation of next level opportunities – technological, social and intellectual.    

Owing to the special technologies enabling creation of images of the future, which start involving lots of people – ordinary consumers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, public servants and politicians – future is often considered when making decisions. Thus, the future gradually comes to the real life from the futuristic reports and scenarios.    

Foresight technology is one of the key elements of the innovative economy. It appeared as one of the first working technologies aimed to mobilize people’s efforts to create future. The process of involvement of maximum stakeholders in building the future is even more important rather than the result. 

Everything is simple

Foresight working mode strikes with its originality. For example, Intel announces that a new nanotech computer will be produced by 2015. The company places an order for the processing base development for this new product. Scientists and research centers have to compete for the research financing. As a result the science is flourishing and the market receives a great deal of innovative technologies. Intel share prices are rising and the company can continue funding its research programs. At the same time the consumer market is being shaped. Though the product itself doesn’t exist yet, the consumers already discuss the color of their future nanotech computer. A lot of efforts are made, but the most important is that all the players are engaged – from the producer to the end consumer.  All together they work to shape the future where a nanotech computer will exist. The possibility of such future rises sharply as thousands of people work for that.

Foresight appeared 30 years ago and became one of the key instruments of the innovative economy.  At first it was used to shape the future in the area of technologies. Then they started using it in business – roadmaps and foresight project results formed a base for business projects. The roadmaps are grouped by topics – education, living standards, culture and international partnership, cooperation between generations.      

Road map

For Russia foresight still remains a kind of innovation rather than life practice. The initial research is being conducted and the road maps are being developed. They are used like “a navigator” or “a battle map” allowing the participants understand what the others can do and what the circumstances might be.

When creating a road map they set apart the phenomena which develop in a certain way regardless any efforts and that ones, which can be influenced by the society.

Among the whole range of technological innovations the experts identified those which will have the greatest influence on children in Russia. You may see these innovations on the map and the estimated time of introduction to the mass consumers. Many findings should change the view on the necessary measures in the area of childhood. For example, the half of the world’s population will use Internet by 2015. The language barriers will disappear for the most people in the developed countries. It will be possible to get remote education via Internet from any place on the globe. The Future development options must be considered by policy makers in the area of education and manufacturing goods for children. It is necessary to offer children a set of different educational options alongside with traditional schools. Besides, when creating innovative technologies and life environment, it is important to take into account where the interests of children lie.

Late discussions

Today many discuss how to overcome the global economic crisis, how to tackle demographic decline or what type of economy bet on. The list of issues is very long, but the interesting thing is that it is already too late to think about it. The competition is lost in many areas and the winners have already got their prizes. We are only getting prepared to come out to the starting strip, though it is already too late. Therefore it is very important to put on the agenda some of the strategic issues in the areas where the whole world will be competing soon. 

We have to agree with Daniel Thorniley who claimed Russia has nothing else to set on stake except educated young people. This is actually true. The idea of “human capital” and its leading role in defining competitiveness in the modern world is known from the mid of the last century. We are pretty sure that the area where we still can compete is a quality of human capital. This has never been so urgent before. It’s not about today’s working people (nothing can be done about them), but the next generation – our children who will define the image of the country in some 20-30 years. They will live in the world where raw materials and other important resources won’t have that high value anymore.         

Mamontenek: As far I understand foresight is a kind of a technology enabling shaping our future?

Alina Radchenko: Yes, you are right. Foresight is a relatively new social technology which helps shaping the future. It has been used all over the world since 1960’s. The forecast is done based on the expert analysis. There is a number of techniques ensuring accuracy of such forecasts.      

M.: Is this technology applicable to any area?

A.R.: Practically to any area. But we came to an understanding that the childhood is the most important area for our country. This understanding resulted from the work carried out by Civic Chamber, analysis of the social and economic programs enrolled by the government, President’s messages and our own consideration of Russia’s future. We realized that it is often suggested to invest in something that no one will need in 20-30 years… Human resource is an only object for investments where we still can compete. 

M.: Why are you stuck to 2030?    

A.R.: By 2030 our children will become active citizens who will support us. Thus, our main goal is to invest in the children. Today, all of us – parents, public institutions, right defenders and government – have to think about this and make efforts where necessary to ensure our children are successful in future.  We try to understand what the positive and negative scenarios of the country development are by 2030. What we should be prepared for in economics, social area and ecology if we do nothing now? What we can achieve if make some efforts in this or that area? What is the most positive scenario? Every time we pass a crossroad, the chances for a positive scenario are different depending on whether we make any efforts or not. If we do not respond the challenges of the future the scenario will be negative. If we do, there obviously will be a shift to the positive scenario.

When we compare different scenarios we can develop a road map, which is actually similar to a geographic map - the horizontal line indicates the time, and the vertical line shows the areas requiring efforts. This is what a foresight technology is in a couple of words. Our project identifies the areas where we all need to work.   

M.: Are your conclusions based on the existing technologies - social, scientific or industrial – or you attempt to look into the future?

A.R.: We make our forecasts based on the existing developments. For example, some of our opponents having no deep understanding of the project say we call for the brain chipping. And we do not call for that. We just say there are different programs in the area of technologies or genetic engineering which will be implemented irrespective of whether we launch foresight or not. The brain chipping is also a matter of time. In the near future it will be a part of our life regardless our wish. The question is whether we and our children will be prepared to live in such environment?  Will our educational system remain competitive if it is possible to buy a chip with any professional competences? It is important to survive and not to hide in this environment. When winter comes we put on fur coats. And when the brain chipping is a reality, we also should be ready for that.

M.: Can you please give any examples of successful implementation of the foresight?

A.R.: The foresights are always being developed in relation to some objects. This technology is widely used in business. NOKIA was the first to implement this technology successfully. Some time ago the company was engaged in production of the industrial rubber goods and wood. Once they thought about potential directions for investments. They conducted a foresight research and realized that mobile communication is our future. They invested in that area. They have lost many of their stakeholders, but now they are the leaders in production of cell phones. At that moment many did not understand them.

M.: What areas are in the focus of the project “Childhood 2030”? 

A.R.: Many of them. For example, access to medical care, healthy lifestyle and maternal health. We also focus on family, school and educational environment. We talk about business for children and responsible behavior of the producers which might negatively impact children. Foresight creates a framework for many participants in a variety of areas where some efforts are required to ensure positive results. We decided to split the project into the areas to simplify the process. However, this is like looking at an elephant through a small magnifying glass – first you see a tail, then a trunk. But it is much easier to step aside from the current understanding of the childhood and look at the problem from a different angle.

M.: I think it is not that difficult to involve civic institutions into this work. But how to get the ministries interested?

A.R.: We are talking to the ministries as well. They say “No problems. Just create a platform, engage the experts and the society and we will also join the discussions”. The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Internal Affairs – all of them are ready to join and work out together the policies in the relevant areas. This is how the synergy can be achieved. Actually the lack of the single entity responding the issues of the childhood and coordinating he efforts is the key problem at the government level. 

M.: Do you plan to involve children into the project?

A.R.: Definitely we involve children. They start thinking globally and realize their important role today and tomorrow. They do not conceive themselves anymore as invalid citizens whose life will start later. Children must understand that the future is being built today and it is in their hands either. One of our objectives is to make the project accessible for everyone – children, grown-ups, government. They all must see that this is a real platform for creation.

M.: What are the next steps in implementing the project?

A.R.: There will be Russia’s pavilion at the global exhibition “Expo-2010” in Shanghai. Its humanitarian program is based on the foresight results. The topic of Expo is “the best city for living”, and the Russian motto is “the best city is the one where the children are happy”. We arrange expert groups. One of them is a web-based (2010-2030.com). During the exhibition the children can take part in designing the environment and the city where they will live in future.  

M.: The idea is a very larch-scale and obviously requires significant financing…

A.R.: The idea is global and we suggest everyone to take part in its realization. If you have relevant experience and desire, we are open for cooperation, probably as yet at the level of any particular city, school or family. Pilot projects always require more resources for trials, engaging experts, etc. When a technology is mastered its further implementation is much easier and cheaper. That’s why we ask the Moscow City government to make Zelenograd a pilot project for the children friendly city. The Mayor of Murmansk proposed us to implement the project “The city for children”.  We have already started this cooperation. We suggest reallocate the overall funding in the interest of children. It is necessary to invest in childhood alongside with nanotechnologies, gas, space, machine building and banking system. Children are a priority “sector”. They are key strategic resource and human capital.   

M.: What made you start this project?

A.R.: I live to create paradise on earth (smiling). I think everyone dreams about this. I was engaged in business, politics and then found the shortest “way to paradise”. I break the walls and raise bumps but still enjoy what I am doing. I feel this is our reality. I don’t need to justify my own existence. I follow the principle – do what you have to do and let it be what it will be.  

According to the analysis conducted in terms of the foresight projects, there are two periods identified when Russia will experience its own crisis:

2012-2016

There will be several simultaneous processes:

  • Generation change (the people who have never lived in the Soviet Union and do not understand values of the great state will take the key roles in business and politics);
  • Electorate change  - politics won’t be directed to the retired former Soviet Union citizens;
  • One-off (within 2-3 years) depreciation of the technological equipment and infrastructure collapse. 
  • Demographic decline (working-age population rapidly will go down);
  • Forced migration;
  • Dominant role of new economic giants (China, India, United Europe);
  • Rapid decline in oil revenues.

2030-2040

  • The whole world will finally shift to the innovation path: transition to the innovative economy will be completed in the countries where it’s just started;
  • The key industries will be mastered by the New World (China and India), and Russia won’t be able to compete. Today India and China shift to the economy of the “double rails” based on combination of industrial and innovative principles;
Russia won’t be able to maintain its uniqueness and competitiveness on the global level and will become a “dwarf country”.

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STRATEGY “CHILDHOOD”, Tribuna, 3 March 2010

Child protection was put high on the agenda during the session of the civil society working group (set up as part of a new U.S.-Russia bilateral presidential commission) recently held in Washington, which indicates the significance of the problem for both countries, and suggests that a common solution might be found. Alina Radchenko, a member of the working group, the head of secretariat of the Russian Federation Civic Chamber and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the charity fund “My Generation” told about the meeting and the related issues in this interview.

-  What impressed you most when discussing the problems of childhood during the session?

- On the one hand, all those threats the children might face are very similar in both countries –violence, drug addiction, unhealthy eating and simply ill environment for growing up. Both the American and the Russian governments have a very narrow view of the problem, and the relative institutions only respond to the negative after-effects. Obviously it is very important to resist child’s pornography, alcohol abuse, etc. However we must take some specific actions to secure real opportunities for life and success. 

- What do you mean?

Childhood is a very complex many-sided sociocultural phenomenon. It is hardly possible to cover all aspects of the problem in terms of one interview. These include legislative issues, education, medicine, architecture, ecology, media environment and many others. For example, let’s talk about technological aspect. We have entered the epoch of technological revolution. Nowadays it is impossible to do without a computer whatever your profession is. This process will continue more and more penetrating in our everyday life. There will be a lot of technological innovations which will ease our life on the one hand, and make kick the old habits on the other. Besides the world is getting more open creating new opportunities and throwing the challenges we need to be prepared for. So that our children are able to make use of this diversity of gadgets and be competitive in such an affluent world, we should provide them with relevant skills and knowledge, which obviously requires new teaching methods and technics. Unfortunately, these ideas can hardly find any support even at such influential platform as the Civic Chamber. Figuratively saying, the regulatory bodies as well as civic organizations would rather fight the fire than prevent it.

-  I understand we did not get far behind of America here, did we?

- In America the problems concerning childhood and child protection are raised by non for profit organizations, which have a very long and successful experience in such matters. An authoritative American organization Children’s Defence Fund issued a Cradle to Prison Pipeline report, highlighting that the US government ensures only one of the children’s rights, that is to get imprisoned for committing a delinquency. But the American institutions, being well organized and developed, entirely took up those aspects overlooked by the government. Thus, the 4-H Council, one of the largest American institutions of more than 12 mln young and adult volunteers, has been working for decades, implementing numerous programs and projects for children and youngsters to foster skills in such spheres as sciences, technology, healthy lifestyle, etc. There is one more institution worth mentioning – the Close Up Foundation, which name means ‘close and thorough examination’. The fund nurture skills of community involvement, familiarize the children with the structure of the U.S. government. There is a myriad of such organizations in America which contribute to socialization of a child in moral, social, educational and civic aspects.

However, it did not reduce the number childhood-related issues. According to the data provided by the United States Department of Justice, nearly 10% of senior high school students were subject to gun threatens, 20% experienced Internet intercourse with pedophiles, about 200 children are arrested daily for delinquency acts involving violence and  400  - for  committing offences involving drugs.

These data primarily witness the well-developed and strong American fiscal system, which not only registers acts of crime, but also qualifies the symptoms of such acts as a committed crime. The U.S. government is very precautionary in questions concerning child protection. If a child is crying for an hour, and there is no reaction on the part of the parents and relatives, then police or relevant services get control over the situation. But such interference in a family private life is always painful and often causes family destructions. That is why Russian legislators should keep it in mind and abstain from exact adoption of the international system. The civic organizations claim that the government pays insufficient attention to the strategic problems of childhood. It is necessary that the government and social institutions cooperate, because NGOs are not able to solve such problems without assistance.

-  What prevents them from cooperating, say in America?

- Probably, too strict regulation of lobbying. The matter is that in the U.S. social institutions have the same rights as business enterprises when promoting their interests. By the way, it affected the work of our working group either. We faced some difficulties when widening the agenda on childhood-related issues, for example such as protection from harmful influence of information. I reckon the cause lies in the fact that the wife of the working group co-chairman, the American citizen, deals with this subject in the social area. Representatives of the U.S. social organizations openly told us that they hope to bring child protection related issues high on America’s government agenda with the help of Russian NGOs.

By the way, we have already succeeded herein. The agenda of the working group was widened and we all agreed that we should not focus on violation acts against children solely, as these acts reflect the state of the childhood sphere as a whole. We also discussed potential joint projects, which could be rolled out by the civil institutions.

-  Could you please tell about the interaction of the American and the Russian NGOs following the sessions of the working group?

The American NGOs are open for cooperation to draft a roadmap. It should encompass joint activities targeted to child protection and creation of adequate environment for development. We hope this map will enable Presidents of our countries to elaborate a long-standing agreement of actions. We intend to engage public society in drafting this document. After all, the open discussion may result in a profound material that may serve the basis for national development strategies in the sphere of childhood protection.

-  How would you describe the Russian strategy?

- It is very important that childhood becomes a strategic target for social investments. Those who are children today will secure the competitiveness and sovereignty of our country in some 20-30 years and provide for our old age. As long as our government treats children as a certain cluster which needs just protection, nothing will change either in the sphere of childhood, nor in the country in general. We should substantially reconsider the priorities when making decisions.

- The charity fund “My Generation”, where you act as a Chairman of the Board of Trustees, introduced a social program “Childhood”, which provides solutions to the problems the Childhood faces nowadays. The program provides a substantial long-term outlook of development in most important life spheres. At the same time it clarifies, what should one do to ensure the positive scenario of our country’s future. May this program somehow help in elaborating the strategy?

- Obviously a systematic approach is required to solve these problems. Unfortunately it is still not adopted in our country. First of all it would be useful to screen the social institutions and services, as well as governmental bodies engaged in childhood issues. I don’t think all of them are following the right direction. For example, in Russia there are as many children withdrawn from their families per month, as in France per year. This fact is indicative of the existing system failure. Actually, the government is more likely to provide an orphanage with necessary financial support, than a needy family, although it is obvious, that a child should preferably stay and be brought up in the family.

Such institutions and services have never been screened so far. They account for nearly 70 entities operating independently with no cooperation. The legislative framework needs to be updated. What functions do they have? What are the sources of financing? How do they achieve their objectives? We have to analyse of these aspects and work out the mechanisms enabling effective and targeted work.

-Is there any possibility to cooperate with the American NGOs in terms of the foresight project?  

- Well, the foresight project includes a “responsible parenthood” aspect. We raise an issue of education for parents which would allow them get the skills necessary for bringing up children, establishing close relations, etc. In the U.S. there is a cluster of relevant public organizations. We have such organizations in Russia either. We could successfully cooperate and share knowledge and experience in this area. In terms of the foresight project we have already set up a few educational platforms for parents in a number of cities across Russia.

- Does international cooperation always bring benefit?

You know, I’ve recently come across a very nice ABC book. There was a picture of a mother and her daughter with a caption for a child to spell “m-o-t-h-e-r b-r-o-u-g-h-t M-a-s-h-a p-o-r-r-i-d-g-e a-n-d c-o-c-o-c-o-l-a”. Probably this company sponsored the edition, but the content imposes an unhealthy model of eating behaviour. Unfortunately, this is not a single example. Why do Mars bars available on the Russian market contain more sugar than the bars sold in America? It is a common fact that overly sugar consumption inevitably leads to diabetes. In the Internet you may find agencies, offering to place advertisements on the mirrors in girls WCs at school. It is a proven fact, that everything, placed near or on the mirror is perceived by young girls automatically and unconsciously, so this place plays a strategic role for goods promotion.

A small number of parents are aware of such technics of influence and how it may affect the children’s health. The school authorities claim these problems to be beyond their responsibilities. Thus, there appears a vast space where children are subject to uncontrolled commercial pressure. The civil community does not oblige business to take up the policy of responsible behaviour toward younger generation and business is not inclined to either.

During the working group session I delivered a report on responsible business as one of the most urgent issues where the American and the Russian NGOs might cooperate. But we should keep in mind that no matter what measures would be taken and what legislative restrictions would be imposed, if the community remains unconcerned with the problems of youth and childhood - there will be non-appropriate goods available to children like than colourful ABC.

-  How the Russian NGOs might benefit from cooperation with the American partners?

- In the U.S. we have met with many organizations which engage a lot of children and adults as volunteers and get funding from charity. The government provides just small support grants. However, these organisations successfully operate. They do have really valuable experience from which our NGOs also might benefit.

The American social organizations have great experience in dealing with children. By the way, in our country the decision was made to establish the center responsible for search of lost children. The American partner who has been doing this for over 25 years already will share its experience. This doesn’t mean we will replicate the American center. Our organization will be compliant with the local environment. The American partners also say we need to adopt only those practices which suit us best. Besides, to some extend they use experience of the Soviet Union. To my mind, sharing experience and implementing joint projects is the best and very specific outcome of bilateral cooperation.   

-  What are the next steps the working group is to take?

- The next session is scheduled for spring 2013 and will be held in Russia. The agenda is being drafted now. We will report on the results we achieved since the last meeting. We will definitely have much to say about the childhood-related issues.

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CATCH UP AND OVERTAKE, Argumenty I Facty, 8 April 2009, by Konstantin Kudryashov

When someone wants to indicate low importance of an issue, he says: “Is it really important? It’s just a child’s problem!” However, it’s time to reconsider this phrase and confess a “child’s problem” took shape and requires immediate response. The specialists from the charity fund “My Generation” came to this conclusion a year ago and initiated research project “Generation 2030” using Civic Chamber as a platform. The ideologist of the project, Chairman the Board of Trustees of the foundation “My Generation” and the Head of secretariat of the Russian Federation Civic Chamber Alina Radchenko set up the key objectives as follows: “We should to identify any possible scenarios and priority directions for childhood development in Russia – the areas where the joint efforts of the society, business and government are urgently needed”. 

Foresight

Honestly speaking, when people learn about the project for the first time many think the research conducted by the International Methodological Association comes down to the following thesis: “If you don’t educate and guide you child, it will grow up ignorant and hooligan”. But this first impression is absolutely misleading.  The project is based on foresight technology which is not a forecast as many might think. This is rather an instrument enabling to architect the future. However, the key thesis “educate and guide” remains unchanged. The key question is how to do that so as not find oneself surrounded by hooligans and ignorant people by 2030? The President of the International Methodological Association Sergey Popov is sure that so far the situation is not really good: “According to our search results, just a few parents can clearly answer the question why do they need children. It turns out people give birth to children instinctively. And this is a very weak motivator. As a result, a child is perceived as burden. This is not an allegation. According to the statistics, 40% of children are unwanted. Kindergartens and then schools increase the distance between children and their parents, and 70% of children become “aliens”. Even advertising of goods for new-borns have negative implications – “it’s very difficult to take care of a baby, and only this product can help you”.  

Instead, the researchers suggest designing a “funky childhood” concept, when bringing up a child becomes an interesting and exciting process assuming benefits and prestige. Some steps toward this have already been done – for example, maternity capital – but this is obviously not enough. The researchers suggest equip all educational systems with good computers. As early as in 1993 the historian and member of the Academy of Science Boris Rybakov said that we were entering a new epoch which can be compared with the times of Cyril and Methodius – this is an epoch of computer literacy. And those who won’t learn the new ABC will remain far behind the others. The modern researchers support this opinion: a 5-year old child who knows how to operate a computer will be far ahead of those who saw it for the first time at the age of 15. And they won’t be able to reduce this gap.            

Get out of school!

Well-oiled words like “educational systems” make us think on why not to say just “schools”? “If you ask my personal opinion on the existing school format, I’ll definitely answer that it makes no sense rto maintain it further”, - says Sergey Popov. “That school we all are used to is primarily targeted to socialization rather than education. And socialization is focused on teaching the children strict social hierarchy. Roughly speaking, it makes children obey the elders, and then, when they are grown-up, automatically obey the seniors. There are definitely some advantages in this system. However, they are fewer and fewer each year. The disadvantages are significantly outweighing – people wait for the orders and instructions loosing social mobility, and are absolutely helpless in emergency situation. By the way, the economic crisis proved that very well – in the U.S. less people got panic when losing job compared to Russia. They better concentrate and can easily gain new profession.    

As an alternative the researcher suggest distant learning available 24/7 which is quite possible if relevant environment is secured, first of all in terms of computerization. About 5% of school children in our country already take up various forms of external studies. About 15% live in Moscow.            

That would be logic to assume that the project will be focused on Moscow. However, Sergey Popov doesn’t think so: “First of all the capital city is too conservative. And it is too rich. It’s a misleading perception that excessive financial resources might speed up the development.  On the contrary, people prefer compensate with money and forget about the problem for a while rather than find an effective solution that would eliminate it. No we can’t afford postponing the search for a solution. If we don’t take care of education and overall childhood now, by 2030 the population in our country won’t be able adequately respond to the situation across the globe”. 

To some extent such a conclusion reminds famous Stalin’s report delivered in 1931: “We are 50-100 years behind the advanced countries. We must overcome this gap within 10 year.  We must do that otherwise we will be crashed”. Then Stalin told about industrialization. Today bringing up of young generation comes forefront.   

By the way, recently when speaking before the students and teacher at the London School of Economics and Political Science Russian President Dmitry Medvedev quoted Bernard Show as saying that only weak people complain about the circumstances, and the strong people create the circumstances. Actually, the key objective of our foresight project is to create the circumstances.   

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