1,400 civil society organizations and 2,186 activists from all regions of Ukraine shared the best innovative ways to drive reforms and bring positive changes to their local communities at the seventh largest national Civil Society Development Forum in Kyiv, organized by the national CSO Isar Ednannia. For six years in a row, UNDP is co-funding and co-organizing the Forum.

“My first message to the civil society is keep setting ambitious goals and high standards to drive the reform agenda. Use your amazing expertise and high credit of trust to empower youth and help them believe they could make real change. Stay united and co-create policies with the government, mainstreaming human rights, dignity and tolerance. And finally, for the civil society to thrive and promote more inclusive, equal and sustainable society, innovative approaches are essential,” said Osnat Lubrani, the UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine, in her welcome speech.

The Forum goers discussed the new tools and techniques, shared the best practices and lessons learned in organizational development, and analysed the new challenges faced by the Ukrainian CSOs.

One of the pressing challenges for the civil society in Ukraine is the financial sustainability. “CSOs must strive to be financially independent and diversify their funding. To this end, we encourage Ukrainian civil society organizations to deliver paid services to the citizens, authorities and business circles. What kind of services that could be? Legal aid, project management, analytics,” explains Serhiy Averkov, Head of the Voznesensk-based “Agency for Economic Development”, which belongs to the CSO-hubs network of Ukraine.

UNDP has been supporting CSO hubs Network of 15 organizations, which help less experienced organizations in their regions to grow and push for reforms at the local level.

“Conflict-related crimes must be documented and investigated,” says Oleksandra Romantsova from the Justice for Peace in Donbas Coalition, which unites 17 NGOs. “We call for Ukrainian government to ratify the Rome statute, which will help bring the human rights violations to international community. We really appreciate UNDP supporting our efforts,” adds the human rights defender.

48% of young people believe they have no impact on the country’s development. At the same time, 30% of Ukrainian youth is ready to take part in the community life. Small investments in youth that brought the essential changes have been also presented at the Forum.

“Our youth initiative group in Berezan town, Kyiv oblast, have managed to reach out to locals, and organized cleaning of the lake. More than a hundred town dwellers joined the activity – for some of them it was the first civic engagement in their lives,” shares 16-year old Mark Hryhoryev from “The New Wave” Youth Bank Initiative, joint initiative of Isar Ednannia NGO, Ministry of Youth and Sport of Ukraine, the Youth Worker Programme, and UNDP.

The innovative instruments that could help boost civic engagement and have significant behaviour impact are specialised online courses. Representatives of well-known Ukrainian online-education platforms Prometheus and EdEra and representatives of Chesno Civic movement explained how online tools could be practical in tackling such issues as corruption and conflict of interests.

“The conflict of interests is a complicated and tricky topic. We have two online courses where we explain the theory. After completing the course, the students could apply this knowledge right away in real-life situations,” said Victoria Prymachenko, Prometheus platform. The online courses developed with UNDP support and funding from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs are already used in Ukrainian schools, including the anti-corruption lesson launched a year ago.

The Civil Society Capacity Development Forum is a unique national platform for discussion of key standards and practices of the civil society organizational development, aimed at promotion of the capacity development culture among Ukrainian CSOs. The first Forum took place in 2012, and its audience grew from 200 to over 2000 participants since then.