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A Fresh Look at Local Governance Programming in Ukraine

At IRI, we believe that sustainable results are more likely when supported by multiple stakeholders – political parties, civic activists, and local government officials.

Therefore, since January, we have been piloting an innovative local governance program in four cities across Ukraine—Khmelnytskyi, Dnipro, Mykolaiv, and Mariupol. With support from USAID, our new “deep dive” programming supports actors across the political spectrum to help the community implement meaningful reforms.

To support these efforts, throughout the year IRI fielded a series of national polls (found HERE) with oversamples in each of our four target communities to gauge whether citizen perceptions of local government responsiveness have shifted. And indeed, public satisfaction with the change of pace in cities has been steadily increasing since Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity—data that is in stark contrast to the general sense of pessimism Ukrainians have toward the national government.

We teach citizens and youth how to advocate for concrete solutions to local issues to their authorities. Through our Young Political Leadership Academy, we worked to hone participants’ leadership skills and give them an in-depth look at civic and political processes in Ukraine. 

With our Citizens Academy program, we worked with a dedicated group of activists in each community to draft project ideas that address specific local issues.

Although we worked with citizens of all ages, we were especially excited to begin working with Ukrainian high schoolers for the first time. This Youth Civic Academy program was for 15-17-year-olds, and for many, it was their first opportunity to learn about the Ukrainian political system and how to get involved.

While working with these demand-side actors, we also partnered with political parties and local government officials to address their ability to respond to citizen concerns. Through our Political Parties program, we worked with local political party branches to develop solutions to local issues and conduct greater outreach to citizens in between elections. 

In our Local Government Officials program, we worked with local authorities on strengthening their basic capacities and sharing best practices on how to involve citizens in local decision-making.

After working with each of these groups separately, we brought everyone together for a large Citizen Engagement Forum in each city. For many of our citizen activists, this was their first time interacting with local government! Our Citizens Academy and Youth Civic Academy participants presented their project ideas to local authorities. Forum participants voted on their favorites then worked together to outline next steps and strategies for continued advocacy on and implementation of the projects. Government authorities provided their feedback, too, and some even agreed to fund these citizen projects!

Last weekend, we brought all of our active citizens to Kyiv to showcase their projects, network and share best practices with one another. This culminating event, the National Citizens Conference, gathered more than 100 individuals and provided our participants with the opportunity to meet their counterparts from the other participating communities and get feedback and encouragement. We look forward to following the progress of these activists in the months and years ahead.

Finally, to conclude our year of programming in each of our four cities, in early December we will hold our Local Government Officials Conference in Kyiv, for officials from each of these four cities to gather and discuss their experiences tackling corruption and working to improve local service delivery. Stay tuned for that!