In the government-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, DRI Ukraine is in constant dialogue with non-governmental organisations and local activists. On 18-22 July, within the framework of “DRI School on Practical Democracy” we worked with activists from Bahmut, a city in the north of the Donetsk region. For five days nineteen participants learned about the ongoing process of decentralisation and the new powers that the local authorities in their region had gained. With the help of DRI experts, the participants worked on media strategies for their initiatives and also learned about various communication and advocacy tools. In practical sessions, they brainstormed possible ways to coordinate and create coalitions with other local initiatives and pan-Ukrainian organisations.
In their region, the school participants are engaged in activism on a range of issues including anticorruption, ecological, feminist and human rights initiatives. They pointed out that, being close to the conflict area, Bahmut receives a lot of international and national attention. As a result, the city often hosts a wide range of educational activities for civil society. Despite this, opportunities can still be sparse for these activists given that it is not a standard practice for such events to be open to everyone and accessible to grassroots activists. That is why they appreciated the opportunity for learning, training and dialogue that this DRI School offered. One participant, Halyna Oleynikova, a head of the NGO “Mama-86,” shared her impression on the value of the school: “when you have knowledge and skills you are more confident, and you can act, react and improve the things that are not working here […] We need more of these educational activities as they can help to tackle the prevailing passivity among the locals here.”
Furthermore, the participants were encouraged to develop their own follow-up projects which their local communities can benefit from. In supporting such projects, DRI hopes to give participants the opportunity to apply the new tools provided by the School’s experts and, through use, see how effective and reality-changing these tools are.
The School was organised in cooperation with the Charity Fund Vostok SOS. Five more “DRI Schools on Practical Democracy” in Southeast Ukraine will follow.