Public Activism in Ukraine

Responsible and willing to develop – a person of such qualities can change reality. These people cannot walk past garbage in the yard, ignore bad roads or disregard a missing ramp. They do important things, laying the groundwork for indifferent and active community.

Civic activism is a demanding activity that requires time, motivation and a constant desire to change, develop and improve. Apparently, that is what stops most Ukrainians from active participating in public initiatives.

According to the USAID/ENGAGE, Ukrainians are well aware of the public involvement opportunities and are ready to participate in civic activities. For example, 18.6% of citizens state that they belong to public initiatives or participate in CSO activities. Every third Ukrainian (32.5%) claims that he or she attends community meetings. It is also significant that the respondents are more supportive of those public initiatives that meet their interests and preferences.

To bring citizens together, the activists first need to encourage the public to think how vital these changes are for every of them. As soon as we learn to take care of common interests, each of us will feel his or her own interest as a beneficial one. After all, living an active life in the community is an important challenge, where dignified life should prevail over a mere existence of animal living. Unfortunately, now the civic consciousness of Ukrainians has yet to be fully developed. It arises as a result of many factors. For instance, only a person that feels safe and stable is able to join activism. So, the willingness to bring changes and improve living conditions can be achieved only when Ukrainians are confident in their future.

Another reason why civic activism is still developing in Ukraine is the inability of the people to unite the community. Sometimes it happens that independent manifestations and initiatives of individual public activists face public pressure. The reasons for this are misunderstanding and inability to convey the message. That is why it is critical to take into account the opinions of all community members. Consider, for example, a situation when a person decides to set up a swing or a container for organic waste in the yard. But not all the neighbors support the idea, and even more – some of them are strongly against it. In this case the activist meets a completely new task. First, he or she has to bring the value of the idea to the public, and only then to encourage them for its implementing.

We use public opinion polls when we need to understand our citizens better. Thanks to such surveys now we know that Ukrainians are ready to support their community reforms even after the majority of them gave up hope on seeing the changes. Studying the Ukrainians` attitude towards corruption, activism, reforms, and other issues allow CSOs to pay attention to the processes that need their immediate support. It gives them the opportunity to work more efficiently on dealing with the critical issues in the first place.

Sometimes it is not possible to join a CSO on a permanent basis. In this case Ukrainians support the organizations either with volunteering, or monetary contributions, or simply with disseminating information about their activity. It helps to share a great opportunity among like-minded people and involve them in cooperating. And besides, if you dream about finding a friendly team capable to bring changes to your community, village or city, all you need is to take interest in community initiatives based in your area, attend their events and look for opportunities to join them. You should always take the initiative and offer them what you do best, as interns and volunteers are always of a great help in community organizations.

It is worth mentioning that successful public activities always bring pleasure to those who have been working on them for a while. Creating public spaces, holding trainings and workshops, supporting environmental initiatives on climate change – these and many other activities make a very small part of the CSO workflow. And at the same time very often it is a difficult job that requires a lot of psychological and physical effort. For example, think about the initiatives that help families to adopt children, combat illegal construction, develop new public transport routes, monitor corruption schemes in the government, etc. Because of these affairs activists and journalists are often persecuted, threatened and subjected to other illegal actions. Therefore, it is important to know how to protect yourself and what citizens are entitled to do in critical situations.

Civic activism is more about a way of life. It is difficult to call it a job, because each member of any CSO team devotes a lot of strength and energy to this cause. But the impact they get is much greater. When activists hear words of gratitude and support and see all the society benefits, the motivation to create new changes grows even bigger.

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