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From humanitarian crisis to recovery strategies. First experiences of the Link platform in Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts 

Publication date: January 31, 2024

Strengthening the coordination of humanitarian response in Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts and developing recovery strategies for affected communities are the main focuses of the presentation of the achievements of the Link coordination platform. Discussions with representatives of communities from both oblasts and humanitarian organizations took place in Mykolaiv on January 19-20. Read more about the achievements and plans in the article

Representatives of communities of Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts and representatives of humanitarian organizations discuss coordinating humanitarian response. Photo by LDN

Systemic dialogue on coordination and development

For more than five months in 2023-2024, the Legal Development Network (LDN), together with the international humanitarian organization People in Need and with funding from the UK government, strengthened the capacity of local governments, volunteer groups and local activists to respond to the challenges of full-scale war, coordinate and increase the effectiveness of humanitarian response in Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts.

The initiative includes the Link humanitarian response coordination mechanism, strategic development plans for three communities in Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts, and an IT solution for humanitarian aid providers. Humanitarian response coordination is becoming part of the recovery strategies of the affected communities.

Olga Nastina, Executive Director of the Legal Development Network. Photo by LDN

“We have been able to begin a systematic dialogue on two important areas that can bring victory closer: humanitarian coordination and community development and reconstruction through strategic planning. Thanks to a consortium of international partners and civil society organizations, we can hear the voices of the community to make the coordination mechanism work successfully. This experience can already be shared with other communities as an example. It is impossible to talk about the recovery of communities and territories without a vision of their future. That is why strategy development is an important element of this activity,” said Olga Nastina, Executive Director of the Legal Development Network.

How the Link coordination platform works

The Link coordination mechanism helps humanitarian organizations, residents, and community leaders understand the current situation. Based on the data collected, an automated IT solution, a unified system of verified needs, is being developed. Its components include a CRM system, an interactive map of the region’s communities, a call center, and infographics. Humanitarian organizations will have electronic accounts on the platform to address unmet needs. And communities will be able to understand the situation with the closure of needs through an interactive map.

Regarding the work results, Timur Kanataiev, Program Director of the Legal Development Network, noted that Link will help identify unnoticed needs and address them quickly. During the presentation, attendees could scan the QR code to learn more about the platform. Photo by LDN
During the Link platform presentation, attendees registered to access the database of verified needs. Photo by LDN

“We continue to review the needs and work to identify new needs, but we are not limited to that. When our employees visited communities, they noticed a need to separate psychological and legal assistance. We realized that we should involve the online legal aid chat and lawyers from the Legal Development Network,” said Timur Kanataiev, Program Director of LDN.

The total number of needs registered on the platform by the end of January 2024 was 725 (463 in Mykolaiv oblast; 262 in Kherson oblast), of which more than 81% were verified.

From the left to the right, the specialists in collecting and verifying needs in Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts Daria Lynnyk, Violetta Rulyk, Maia Zemliannikova, and Nataliia Chystiakova. Photo by LDN

“The Link mechanism is already a bridge between the provider and the community. Our goal is to help communities move to manage priority and strategic needs to reduce the impact of the factors that cause the humanitarian crisis. Then we can move on to stabilizing the situation and thinking about early recovery,” said Vitalii Okhrimenko, Strategic Development Director of the Legal Development Network.

Regional coordinators Oksana Tropina (Kherson oblast) and Vadym Zhepalo (Mykolaiv oblast) spoke about the specifics of community needs assessment and verification. Photo by LDN

How a community development strategy is formed

An important step in strengthening the capacity of the de-occupied and most affected communities to coordinate and recover was the development of strategic plans for the Mishkovo-Pohorilove and Shevchenkove communities in the Mykolaiv oblast and Bilozerka community in the Kherson oblast.

Active community representatives from various sectors were involved in developing the strategies. In this way, they understood the movement vector and were inspired to act together, as these are all their common achievements.  

First, in-depth interviews were conducted with representatives from different areas of community life. These areas were followed by facilitated meetings with stakeholders who influence community development. The results of the meetings were summarized in a two-day session on community strategy development. The meeting and session materials were structured and described in community strategic development documents.

Stages of creating a strategic community development plan
Ruslan Bakhtyiev, head of the Garnet Social Technology Studio, who facilitated the development of strategic plans in two communities in Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts, is convinced that the work creates a common vision and understanding of the development of all community stakeholders. Photo by LDN

“Community development is first and foremost about the people who will develop it. We work on the principle of inclusion. The groups included representatives of the authorities, the business sector, the civil society sector, and internally displaced persons. I would like to note that the community’s residents have an inner determination to implement the work that has been done,” Ruslan Bakhtyiev said separately, commenting on the work of the community during the classes.

Key strategic goals by area for the Bilozerka community in Kherson oblast, identified by facilitation meeting participants. LDN infographics

Key strategic goals by area for the Shevchenkove community in Mykolaiv oblast, identified by facilitation meeting participants. LDN infographics

Vitalii Okhrimenko, Strategic Development Director of the Legal Development Network, spoke about the survey’s initial results on understanding community residents’ development strategies. Photo by LDN

“It is important that during the strategic planning process, participants did not think in terms of ‘operational goals’ or ‘strategic goals’, but rather in terms of ‘what we want to build and what we need to do’. The inclusiveness of the process meant that people without strategic planning skills could speak up. And their opinions were heard, processed and considered in the final document,” said Vitalii Okhrimenko, Strategic Development Director of the Legal Development Network.

Following the successful strategy development in the Bilozerka community in Kherson oblast and the Shevchenkove community in Mykolaiv oblast, a sociological survey has been launched to check whether the strategic development plans are relevant and important to the community residents. The survey will also include the opinions of relocated residents and professionals needed to restore the communities. The verified research data will be presented in February-March 2024.

Community leaders on next steps

During the discussion, community leaders shared their vision for where to go and the next steps to take.

During the event, LDN representatives (center) presented a copy of the strategy to Oleh Pylypenko (far right), head of the Shevchenkove community. Photo by LDN

Oleh Pylypenko, head of the Shevchenkove community (Mykolaiv Oblast), defines the effectiveness of the strategy by improving the quality of life of citizens and the growth in the number of residents can be an indicator of the community’s comfort. He is convinced that the community has the potential to become a model for the Mykolaiv oblast.

“During the facilitated sessions, we found that people were focused on their areas and less involved in other areas of community life. At the strategic sessions, they became more aware of these areas and helped to develop a common vision. Strategy is about moving from a dream, a general vision, to what we want – what we are about and where we are going. Everything we see around us was once someone’s dream. But for a dream to become a reality, it must be clearly articulated. According to preliminary data from a sociological survey, 62% of Shevchenkove community residents can influence all processes in the community. So, people can access information, and their opinions are considered when making strategic decisions. At the same time, 73% of residents think all community revenues come from agriculture. But in reality, the lion’s share of budget revenues comes from processing enterprises that operate and resume operations in the community. It needs to be communicated. The main task now is for people to see the strategic picture more broadly and for us all to move in the same direction,” says Oleh Pylypenko.

The head of the Bilozerka community, Ihor Ostrivnyi (Kherson oblast), despite the frequent shelling of villages in the current period, is ready to think about the future and emphasizes strategic steps to return residents to the community.

Ihor Ostrivnyi (center), head of the Bilozerka community (Kherson oblast), received a printed copy of the community’s strategy during the event. Photo by LDN

“We are trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our community with the help of experts to increase our efficiency. Together with the administration, volunteers and various organizations, we are developing a strategy for 2024-2027. I really hope that the hostilities will end soon and people will return home so that our young people can see that we have been working, that there is already a foundation on which to build the future,” said Ihor Ostrivnyi.

During the discussion, the representatives of the Dariivka community expressed their intention to consider the strategy of reconstruction of the Bilozerka community as a guideline for determining their development path.

The development strategy for the Mishkovo-Pohorilove community in Mykolaiv oblast is being finalized.

Andrii Botanin, head of the Mishkovo-Pohorilove community (Mykolaiv Oblast). Photo by LDN

“I became an observer during the meetings and allowed the young people to express their opinions. We thought we knew everything. We had more than a hundred services in the Administrative Services Center. Then we realized we could do three cool things: meet humanitarian needs, develop strategic plans with specialists, and look at all the processes unbiasedly. It would be good to continue working together to build institutions. In the process of strategizing, we have managed to unite different communities. We have similar challenges. People want change and to rebuild the country as a whole. Writing a strategy is an impetus for municipal cooperation in the southern region. First of all, we are writing a development strategy for the South,” said Andrii Botanin, head of the Mishkovo-Pohorilove community.

Kherson oblast

Mykolaiv oblast

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