In a time marked by wartime challenges and post-war recovery, the Union Civic Initiatives of Ukraine (ALDA member) has taken remarkable strides to empower communities and authorities alike through a project that prioritises dialogue. Under the banner of “Creative Dialogue Labs”, the Union Civic Initiatives of Ukraine, with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, seeks to bridge the gap between local authorities and community residents, fostering not only understanding but also active involvement in decision-making processes.
Yuriy Stepanets, project coordinator and chairman of the board of the “Union Civic Initiatives of Ukraine,” emphasised the pressing need for effective dialogue amid the backdrop of a full-scale invasion. While Ukrainians united to combat external threats, they remained equally concerned about the future of their communities. This project aims to introduce practices of decision-making commonly employed in EU countries to local government representatives and the active public. By doing so, it prepares Ukrainians to participate in the nation’s recovery programs, which hinge on self-government and strong community cohesion.
This groundbreaking educational endeavour unfolded in 120 communities across Ukraine, making “Creative Dialogue Labs in Communities” one of the most substantial initiatives in the country
In 2023, an impressive 232 dialogues took place, engaging approximately 4000 community residents from 12 regions. These dialogues addressed a wide array of issues, including landscaping, waste management, youth involvement, street renaming, safety in educational spaces, social protection of vulnerable groups (including IDPs), veteran rehabilitation, and their integration into community life.
Facilitators, trained in dialogue practices, played a pivotal role in moderating these events, and they are now well-equipped to continue fostering dialogue on various post-war recovery matters in their communities.
Ksenia Lytvyshko, project coordinator in Poltava Oblast, highlighted the significance of the dialogue approach in building relationships and fostering mutual understanding. Effective communication between authorities and citizens is often lacking, leading to growing conflicts. By providing an open platform for discussion, this project seeks to bridge that gap, enhancing public trust in local authorities through increased engagement.
During a press conference, the project also unveiled the manual “Dialogue Practices for Understanding and Participation,” designed for local government employees. This comprehensive resource covers theoretical aspects of citizen engagement in community decision-making and offers practical tools for organising dialogues of varying complexity. It also shares insights on interaction and communication during the dialogue process. The manual is readily accessible in electronic form on the Union Civic Initiatives of Ukraine and U-LEAD with Europe websites. Additionally, the experts behind this project are prepared to provide consultations to other communities interested in adopting a dialogue-centric approach.
The “Creative Dialogue Labs” project demonstrates that dialogue is more than just conversation; it’s a catalyst for positive change and community cohesion. In a time of profound challenges, it paves the way for a brighter future where communities actively participate in shaping their destiny, hand in hand with their local authorities. Through dialogue, Ukraine is forging a path towards resilience and a stronger, more engaged society. As part of our network, we wholeheartedly celebrate our member and the project’s impressive achievements, along with their dedicated and influential contributions to the country.