The Home Which We Built
The Socio-Ecological Union was "dreamed up" on August 6, 1987 in the Kavkaz Biosphere National Park. At the beginning of the Socio-Ecological Union, there was the desire to gather under one roof people for whom it was "not all the same" - Not all the same with the country, with its nature and culture, with its people, with our children and grandchildren. These are people who are ready to work for our common future. On the eve of perestroika, the SEU was one of the large amount of organizations accepted by the larger power.
Fortunately the founders of the SEU stood on a foundation that had been checked over time, since most of them had been actively participating in the Druzhina (people's patrol) Movement for environmental protection - the only large informal ecological organization in the USSR with almost a 30 year experience. The first official Conference of the Druzhina Movement took place almost on the same days as the first Conference of the UN on the environment. The Druzhiniki gathered in September 1972 in Moscow while the leaders of world governments met in October in Stockholm.
The organizational principles of the Druzhina Movement, under the system in which, by 1987, more than 100 student associations took part, were not complicated:
1. The ruling organs do not rule over the members of the associations but by all means help them do that which the members of the association believe to be necessary and important.
2. The main task of the ruling organs is to facilitate the fullest possible information for members of the association.
3. The common capital of the association is experience and knowledge which the members of the association actively share with one another and with like-minded persons from other associations.
These principles were proposed to the delegates of the Founding Conference of the Socio-Ecological Union, which took place on 24-26 December 1988 in Moscow, to which came, for the creation of the first public all-Union ecological organization, people from 89 cities of 11 Republics of the USSR. In accordance with these principles the real axis, around which the life of SEU "rotated" was, and has remained, the Center for Coordination and Information, which over the next decade turned into a developed, technically well-based structure.
2. Organizational Structure
2.1 Self-organization, bottom-up
In order to organize a campaign, a flow of letters of support, or any other activity, members of the Socio-Ecological Union need NOT ask for permission from the leadership. The information system of the SEU is constructed in such a way so that to achieve this it is enough to send communication to a well known electronic address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it will appear in the electronic post box of the majority of the other members of the SEU. To take part or not take part in the proposed undertaking, how specifically, and when to take part is decided independently by each member of the SEU. The role of the Center for Coordination and Information in the realization of such activities consists of cooperation by publicizing the activity in the press, attracting the attention of the foreign community, if that is necessary, as well as helping those members of the SEU who do not have access to electronic mail.
2.2 Access to resources
No less democratically constructed in the Socio-Ecological Union is the access to resources. No, not to money -- in the SEU there are no membership fees nor, as a result, no common account. We are talking about access to all types of information, or, more specifically, to sources of reliable information. During all the years of its existence the Center for Coordination and Information is busy every day with linking activists of the ecological movement with experts - specialists in different spheres of science, with jurists, with organizations which are responsible for preserving the environment, with journalists, with other public organizations in different parts of the world. And, on the other hand, uniting employees of governmental ecological organizations and journalists with activists of the public "green" movement. And when, in the post-Soviet space, the first charitable funds opened up, the CCI of SEU began to help with information about where and how to receive financial backing for one's work. SEU was the first organization in the former USSR to publish instructions about how to write good requests for grants. In 1993 a book was published with the appealing title -- "How to ask for money". Ever since 1993 to this day CCI of SEU by all accessible means distributes, free of charge, to all those who want it (and not only to its members) information about funds, programs and other forms of financial support to the public movement in the CIS. At first this was by the electronic postal network Live-Net (the first edition came to light on 25 December 1993) and then in the form of a book "Sources of Financing" (1997 and 1999) and a data base which was put on a diskette and is now also in a form directly accessible on our data base of funds on the Internet (www.econline.ru).
2.3 The armchair of the chair is absent
One would wonder, as a detail, is there, in the organization, a position of "the head", a position of "the first among equals" or something like that, or not. In the Socio-Ecological Union from the moment of its founding the position of chair of the Council is absent, and all members of the Council are equal, they all have the authority to speak in the name of the Council if necessary, signing - as a sign of respect to the traditions of the environment as co-chair of the Council. Such a uniqueness had to be several times defended during arguments with those official organizations which wanted to have business with the most highest boss (then was thought up "all are co-chairs") - and yet already 12 years the SEU hasn't had conflicts concerning the right to rule.
In the social movement that we know there is nothing close that can be found as far as the diversity united under the wings of the seven cranes. Among the members of the Socio-Ecological Union there are village school clubs and the national Movement of Greens of Georgia and Azerbaidzhan, groups of radical youths from the Movement to Preserve the Rainbow and the respectable Norwegian Bellun Fund which is supported by 10 thousand Norwegians, the Great Don Cossak Army and many smaller groups of citizens of the countries of the CIS which are defending their rights to a healthy environment and to the receiving of reliable information, Ecologia Trust – a branch of the well known Scottish alternative settlement Findhorn and the Pacific Center for Natural Resources in California, employees of the governmental system of environmental protection of Palestine and Friends of the Earth of Finland. And all of these very different people, based on all we know, find in the SEU something which they would not have had if they stayed outside.
3. New Programs
The Sixth Conference of the Socio-Ecological Union (September 1997, Kazakhstan) opened an epoch of internal structuring of SEU. Its inhabitants, remaining SEUites, began to become united in their interests, or more accurately put, in the resolving of problems. At this Conference the following programs were founded:
4. The doors are open
On the average once a week there comes to the Council of the SEU a request for admittance into the Socio-Ecological Union, although no one undertakes special campaigns to attract new members. And membership in the SEU, it would seem, gives no special advantages. We share everything with which we are rich, independent of membership. In the list of free postal delivery of the SEU newspaper "Bereginya" that are about 900 addresses while "Vesti SEU", with all sorts of inserts, goes out to more than 1200 activists in the ecological movement, only a half of whom are SEUites. The doors of the Center for Coordination and Information, its shelves with newspapers and books are open to all - no one at the entry asks for a membership card. Why join the SEU, that a delicate question which is not asked; if you ask you may not receive a frank answer.
In our times of crisis the Socio-Ecological Union seems like a brightly lit home in a winter's night. It represents a roof over the head during bad weather. Its inhabitants will run out in defense if someone attacked you. When you go into the home you will meet understanding, warmth and care. In this home something is always going on, new ideas are being given birth, interesting discussions are going on, enthusiastic people meet together.
Yes, this picture is the ideal, toward which we are striving. And now its already 12 years that those who go in and who stay have not dried out. Founded in the USSR, the Socio-Ecological Union has a long time ago gotten outside its borders and crossed over oceans, and its friends live on all the inhabited continents of the planet.
SEU- Moscow, 1999