Author’s note: Earlier it would not have come to my mind to give any extensive comments on the above subject – I was of the opinion that this was clear to anybody else, too, that it did not need any detailed explanations, However, it turned out that there still exists a different opinion on public relations work and that this opinion seems to be rather wide-spread. I have the impression that there is a dividing line between the „Soviet“ way of thinking about what public relations work should look like and the activities of non-commercial organizations (NCOs) of nowadays.
The Soviet understanding of public relations work was based on a number of particular principles:
However, the most essential thing is that according to the Soviet view public relations work could not have any aim or purpose, but was either a hatred obligation or a means of achieving some personal aims. And this is, where we actually find the dividing line between „Soviet“ and „non-Soviet“ thinking. As far as „Memorial“ is concerned the situation looks as follows: there are people, for who the work for „Memorial“ means a certain aim (and I know quite a number of remarkable examples proving this statement), and then there are others, for who this work does not mean anything else but the satisfaction of their own ambitions or the improvement of their own materialistic situation (and, unfortunately, I am aware that their number is increasing).
Today, incidentally, we do not only talk about aims and means, but to the same extent about responsibility. For some reason or other people are of the opinion that, as soon as the work of an NCO is based on enthusiasm, none of its members bears any responsibility. We are working without pay, well then – let them say thank you that we are doing something after all. And in case one has been given a grant, this financial support is not subject to any concrete project, but to be understood as an appreciation and reward for previous, unpaid efforts. However, the work done on the basis of a financial support requires some concrete commitment – and work without pay does not mean the lack of responsibility at all. In this case responsibility merely divides up on different levels, which, among others, depend on the grant – not exclusively, but „among others“ only, because there are much more important criteria to take into consideration.
NCOs often oppose to the commercial organizations, precisely for their name. However, „business“ is not a synonym of „money“, but has to be equated with „activity“. For this reason the business structure of an NCO is by far more extensive than it seems to be the case at first glance. The financial possibilities of an NCO are not that small after all, but the projects, in general, are utterly complicated and extensive. In order to be able to cope with all these given facts, one has to apply certain methods of ruling and controlling, certain technologies of administration, just as they are also applied on the business sector - by taking into consideration any kind of improvements, of course. By the way, I have seen several examples that someone coming from an NCO successfully changed to business – and the other way round, too.
All I am going to explain further below is not related to amorphous NCOs, whose activities are limited to idle talking on the occasion of more or less regular meetings. Here we are talking about dynamic NCOs, which carry through projects (often in cooperation with other organizations), among them organizations that receive financial support - and here responsibility can be defined on eight different levels.
In the given case I am not talking about a person’s responsibilty before the organization in general (although this would be more than appropriate), but about an NCO member being responsible to the other members of the NCO and its partner organizations, i.e. the question is not judged in a high sense, but on a quite practical level.
The first level of responsibility – that is the chairman’s responsibility. There is the wide-spread opinion that this job represents an honorary position, and that its holder was deservedly entrusted with the corresponding tasks. I believe, however, that in this position he is on an important level of responsibility. It is just the chairman who is responsible of how „Memorial“ is going to develop, what kind of reputation it will have and much more. The chairman is responsible for everything, for every single step done at „Memorial“ – not only to the members of the society, but to the partner organizations, as well. Even though he does not conclude any contracts, he is, after all, indebted to those who grant financial support. Even in case another member of the organization aimlessly wastes the money, the responsible for this will always be – the chairman. He will be asked: why did you believe this person, why didn’t you check him or her. I refrain from talking about cases, when in difficult situations quick action is needed, the chairman has to drop a decision, provided that it is not possible to convene a meeting or to call the board. By the way, I would like to remark that the above responsibility is accompanied by quite a lot of rights (otherwise management and control would not be possible).
The second level of responsibility – is with the deputy chairman. This includes everything stated above with regard to the chairman, however, on a slightly lower level – although, upon the absence of the chairman, the burden of responsibility is completely taken over by the deputy chairman.Let me explain that the post of the deputy chairman is no honorary position, either; on the contrary – it is a rather responsible job, and this is why the responsibility of the deputy chairman is much greater than the responsibility of any other Memorialist. Jupiter would not even allow himself to make any mistake of the kind one would forgive the most stupid person.
The third level of responsibility – is with the leaders of those projects, which are carried out by means of financial support, regardless of whether the people engaged in the project are paid for their work or realize the project on a voluntary basis. Although this is another banality, let us not overlook that a contract has been signed between both organizations (the one that granted the money and the one receiving it), namely that the NCO has completely taken over a concrete obligation. In this very situation it is quite out of place to work in accordance with the principle: „May they say thank you that I am doing something, after all“. The project leader is personally responsible for the success of the project and for the use of the money. Whereby he is not only responsible to the financial supporters and to the board (which has the right to controll his work), but to the NCO all in all (let us not forget that there exists some kind of historic recording of the grants, and once we have forfeited this very grant, we might easily forfeit the following one as well. Thus, the fate of the present project, as well as the realization of the next both depend on the project leader).
The forth level of responsibility - is with those people, who work on financially supported projects on a paid basis. The project leader and the board have the right to demand account from them about the complete development of the project: excuse me, you get paid for a concrete work, but please do it within the specified time and comme il faut.
The fifth level of responsibility – is similar to the forth, but here we are talking of paid work. However, this work possibly might not be paid for on the basis of a concrete grant, but for the general, continuous and regular work (at „Memorial“ this usually is the work of a lawyer). It is not important, whether this person is a member of the NCO or a called-in specialist – the main thing is that he receives money for a concrete task. In case he does not do this work or does not do it within the specified time – then he simply will not receive any money, and he will withdraw from this job. This situation (as well as the previous) is in no way different from responsibility in a commercial enterprise.
The sixth level of responsibility – is with the leaders of projects carried out on a voluntary basis. In this case, as a rule, we do not find any responsibility towards other organizations (those, for example, which grant the money). But there is at least a responsibility towards the NCO on the whole: if you have agreed to take over the leading of a project, then please be so kind and keep your promise. Financial sanctions are not applicable on you, and you do not hold the existing money in trust, but you are responsible to your comrades – to those, for example, who work with you on this project, as well as to those, to who you promised to realize this project. You promised to organize something – well, then do it!
The seventh level of responsibility - is with the volunteers, who participate in the project. In contrast to the project leader they are only responsible to the task they fulfill in this project (although, from the logical point of view, they should take care of the matter in its entirety). However, if a volunteer does not do his job conscientiously and with a great deal of care, he will not be able to climb up higher than to the seventh level – he will rather descend to the eighth.
And finally the eighth level of responsibility – which is with those people who are merely episodically engaged in this matter, following their own wish and their own programme. This may be members of the NCO or outsiders. Suddenly someone appears on the scene, with fifty photographs in his hands, all numbered – well, he could have done it or leave it.
Anyhow, we will be grateful to him, in spite of the fact that he did not do this work as it would have been desirable with regard to quality. But you never look a gift-horse in the mouth.
This hierarchy of responsibility does not have anything in common with the scale of rank in business. Above all, when climbing up this ladder, the useful effect does not necessarily increase, or it increases in a completely inverse proportion to the brought-in efforts – so that any financial interest, as a rule, is of no importance. Personal ambitions quite often have a certain relevance (well, some people might like the additional titel of a „member of the board“). Fortunately, however, the possibility of self-realization often turns out to be the main motive power, the possibility of doing something really important and necessary.
It is most essential to understand that only on the eighth level of responsibility we will hold the view: „May they be grateful that we are doing something, after all“. Scarcely have you risen a little in the hierarchy of responsibility that you at once have to change your views fundamentally. It is not important, on which level you are – but you have taken on an obligation; well, than fulfil it and do not refuse to comply with the demand of those, who have the right to control you and who claim for this right after all. By the way – it is not only those people on top of the „ladder“, who do have this right of control, but just any of the other members of the NCO, as well. The fact is that we are all working on one and the same matter (which is yet another difference between an NCO and a business structure) and do not busy ourselves for some superior or other. But it looks as if I have started to talk about a banality once again – oh, I am most upset about this myself.