Preliminary conclusions from the study of the needs of organisations working on the social inclusion of youth in Ukraine show that although the Ukrainian state institutions are still not equipped good enough for the challenges Ukraine is facing, many community organisers tend to withhold a good deal of criticism they show in private conversations or which can be heard from ordinary citizens. Because of the war and still lacking civic tradition of public criticism of the authorities, the whole public discourse is distorted, which influences the youth inclusion community too. Some criticism towards the state institutions is also dismissed just on the ground that the current officials are better than those from the previous administration.
Ukrainian people and organisations working on youth inclusion are doing amazing job. International donors are the main source of funding for the surveyed NGOs – they give 34% of the funds. At the same time 28% of voluntary work combined with 8% of membership fees and 7% of community resources make 43%. The Ukrainian state give the studies organisations only 5% of the funding. At the same time funding and capacity building is the most frequently mentioned need. Ukrainian community workers also combine rather high self-evaluation of their management skills and the need to learn – and to help others learn more – about the field-specific issues.
Ukrainian NGOs have developed skills and competencies needed to deal with both the general context of operations in Ukraine and the sector specific intricacies. They have enough energy to satisfy what is demanded by the bureaucrats who give just 5% of what the organisations get. Dialogue with the authorities is at the same time needed by some and not trusted by most of the NGOs. This energy can actually be used not only to help the youth learn how to comply with the inefficient bureaucratic system, but also to change it non-violently and in the interest of the people of Ukraine, the EU and the rest of the world.
The marginal state funding is not the only problem though. Conversations with the Ukrainian officials in charge of the youth policies testify that despite of the reformist rhetoric the current administration cannot become an efficient partner of the NGOs in changing the rules of the game. Although the current administration got power at the elections which become possible due to violent clashes and removal of the Yanukovich administration, even the most open bureaucrats do not see how civic activism can help the youth with less opportunities and the rest of the country. This attitude from the part of the state feeds the feeling of the citizens with less opportunities as helpless victims.
It is definitely up to the NGOs to start changing such an attitude. They can learn a lot from each other, from NGOs and experts outside of the traditional youth inclusion community. They can unite and make sure they are heard and policies are changed not only at the local and national level. The Erasmus+ can become a partner in such an effort, providing resources – not only funds, but first of all knowledge – to help change the system, not to help sustain it. To be able to do this the Ukrainian youth inclusion community needs to partner with other organisations having experience of direct nonviolent actions, to learn to pressure the state institutions in order to change them or even remove them and create the better ones from the scratch.
To be able to assist in this the Erasmus+ plus must first of all learn itself how to change policies non-violently and then to find among the local actors the agents of change to partner with them. The best way to help the Ukrainian youth with less opportunities get socially included is to help these people become leaders of changes for the sake of the rest of the Ukrainian society and help the general public understood and recognise that Ukrainian youth with less opportunities is opening more opportunities to the rest of us.
Representatives of 65 organisations were interviewed for this study by Dmytro Potekhin and Natalia Petrushko in December 2015 – April 2016. The following cities were represented: Bila Tserkva, Bukovel, Dobropilya, Vinnytsia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Kremenchuk, Lviv, Lutsk, Hrytsiv, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Uzhgorod. Although no organisations currently based at the occupied territories were interviewed, founders of at least two recently started organizations had to leave their homes in the Crimea, Lugansk and Donetsk because of the Russian occupation. The study was coordinated in Ukraine by Dmytro Potekhin. These preliminary results presented here are solely views of the coordinator of the study and not necessarily represent position of any institution of the European Commission. The final results will be published in May by the SALTO-YOUTH, a part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy and a network of resource centres working on European priority areas within the youth field.