Beside You Writing Competition of Stories and Poems about Pets

The annual competition of stories and poems about pets, and the book based on the competition works

Photo of Анастасия n/a
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Anastasia Zatonskaya

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Russia

Headquarters location: city

Rostov-on-Don (though the competition is online)

Where are you making a difference?

In the field of pet-human bond. Our goal is to develop and maintain the community of creative, literary gifted people who care about pets, and the community of readers influenced by and willing to be influenced by their creativity spreading the word further, thus ultimately improving the attitude to pets and pet owners' culture in Russia

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started

July 2018

Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Re-imagining the role of pets in society

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • Less than €1k

Organisation Type

  • nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit
  • civil society: a community of citizens linked by common interests

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

As a member of the Russian animal welfare community I suggested having a writing competition to emphasize the International Homeless Animals' Day. This was 1.5 years ago, and I didn't have any special hopes about this event. Still, we received about 50 applications, and decided to publish a book based on these works, and make both the competition and the book annual. 2019 was a breakthrough – we received over 450 applications, with the competition attracting writing professionals, whose stories and poems hit a nerve, and we understood we should move on. So, we put our efforts and made the finish as the decent initiative – with winners, jury, sponsors, prizes and the website, promising to make the second book during the year.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We try to improve the culture of having pets in Russia. Changing the "it's just a thing" attitude to them with understanding that they are living beings that can think, feel love, joy, pain, despair, feel betrayed or rescued, all depending on how we treat them. I've always believed that literature is great power able to change the way people see things, and now I'd like to harness this power to change the way people treat their pets in Russia.

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

It's not really easy to be specific, when it comes to the subtle influence literature has on people, but I am going to develop this project further. It's been about 25 – 30 years that the literature about pets stopped being published in Russia, and I am going to reverse this situation. So my specific plan is: to hold the All-Russian annual writing competition of stories and poems about pets every summer to publish a book based on the competition works every autumn – winter after the competition to distribute the e-book not free of charge, but very cheap (less than 1$) if there are any earnings, to spend them on social advertisement of ethical pet treatment to widen the number of readers as much as possible to make special editions for children, and penetrate in schools reviving children's literature about pets

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

I don't think that the idea of writing competition is new in itself, but using the writing competition format as the channel of social advertisement and change of attitude to pets is definitely something that has not been employed in our country. Other minor technical innovations is using social network platform as the competition venue that is held 100% online thus opening doors to euthors from every cornder of the country, and using Ridero service for publishing the book. This gives us freedom not to be bound by strict contracts with publishing houses, not to limit number of pages, and not to charge cash from our participants to make their work a part of the book.

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

I guess pages of the book are one of the most powerful tools that can shape emotional intelligence and empathy in people, including children. Offering the right book the right time to the readers' audience could prevent a series of violent acts, abuses and acts of abandonment, since good stories teach people to think and feel what they have not come to otherwise. The more people are involved in writing and reading books about kind and responsible attitude to pets, the deeper the stories show the pet-human bond, the joy of being a pet owner, the pain that our irresponsibility can cause to pets, the more people will have improved culture of being a pet owner, and the fewer will be cases of abuse and abandonment we currently face in Russia every day. In 2 years, we engaged several hundreds creators in our writing community. Our next goal is to engage as many readers as possible.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

In essence, this is of course not a business project. So far, we sold 21 copies of the first book, but I think the social impact goes far beyond this modest output. Successful stories and poems have from 1000 – 2200 views in the social networks, with several hundreds authors involved in our community. Further I plan to measure progress by the number of views / comments / reports in the social network, number of works, number of authors, number of books sold and feedbacks received.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

The growth strategies we pursue include 1) distributing e-books at a very cheap price 2) creating special reading books for children and providing them to teachers and volunteers for classes with children about kind attitude to pets 3) developing special training courses for writers 4) steady increase of number of authors and readers 5) growing popularity of the competition and the book

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

Here Shared Value is obvious – first and foremost, this is improved culture of pet owners that makes them treat their pets in responsible and humane manner. This is fewer abandoned and abused pets, more happy owners that enjoy their pet-human bond, and more mentally and emotionally stable people. Fewer teenagers that ruined their lives through animal cruelty violations. The ultimate shared value is also a happier community that sees less pet tragedies, doesn't have to spend its efforts and resources on rescuing and helping pets in trouble. And the last, but not the least, is the enthusiastic community of creators that make a difference and see themselves a part of the creative stream that changes our pet owners' culture for the better.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

For 1.5 years our project has survived with almost zero budget except several thousand RUB we spent on advertising our sponsors in the writing groups of social networks and some fees we owed to freelancers for improving our website. So our basic plan of financial sustainability is to continue this way spending the time and efforts of the enthusiastic group of volunteers instead of purchasing third-party services. Still, having some financing would allow us to create the dedicated writing training courses, attract and retain more authors through paid advertising and broaden our publishing capabilities.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The current project team is about 10 people across Russia including jury members and organizational committee. These are all non-paid volunteer part-time positions. If the project continues growing I'd like to accumulate some kind of the payroll fund to remunerate the jury and organizational committee for the time they spend on the competition.

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

I plan to broaden the influence our writing competition currently has, involve schools, broaden layers of the animal welfare volunteers and writers engaged to ultimately create the community that has noticeable impact on improving the pet owners' culture through literature and creativity.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Attachments (1)

Writing Competition.pptx

PowerPoint presentation of the Writing Competition – brief history, readers' feedback, project in figures


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