How displaced organizations learn to help themselves to make their IDPs assistance more effective
Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, communications manager of the Legal Development Network
From September to the end of December, representatives of displaced public organizations received more than 95 hours of 20 webinars of the first training modules of the project “Capacity development of local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine”.
They gained knowledge, experience, and skills in the areas of organizational development, management of changes and emotions, creation of effective legal services, communications, etc. The vast majority of them already provide legal assistance to internally displaced persons, and some are still planning to provide it. Managers, lawyers, and communicators develop their superpowers not only during webinars, but also thanks to mentorship.
We remind you that public organizations from Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Chernihiv oblasts participate in the annual program of the project. The initiative is implemented by the Legal Development Network (LDN) with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Ukraine and the Government of Canada.
Although there are still two training modules ahead, the project participants and the team have already received their invaluable lessons and have a clear idea of the direction of further development. We will talk about some of them below.
Improvement of legal services
The first module was visionary for immersing all participants in one legal capacity-building context. Marlon Manuel, the senior adviser of the Legal Empowerment Network, notes that according to research statistics from the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, a third of the entire population of the Earth does not have effective access to justice. The reasons for this phenomenon are different, among them:
- lack of information about the law and what people’s rights are, who to turn to for protection of rights, and that their rights have value.
- when the justice system is too complex. So even if they know their rights, they have no idea where to start.
- in many cases, the legislation is discriminatory, it is not about protection, but about balancing power, so it does not protect people who do not have resources and do not have this power at all.
“Certain steps must be taken to strengthen legal capacity. First of all, to provide knowledge about legislation, various mechanisms, and how to analyze and apply it in accordance with different situations. We are talking about understanding and being aware of the context of legal issues. The second is the movement from knowledge to action, both individually and socially. Knowing that they have rights and that those rights are valuable. People also need to understand what they can do. But if legislation itself is problematic, the legal capacity building community helps society shape the law, and promote changes to legislation,” says Marlon Manuel.
In the next module, experts provided practical tools on how to apply the outlined approach in practice to help internally displaced persons. At the systemic level, the study of legal needs helps to create quality services and implement changes.
“You can design some solutions only when you have enough data about the problems in the community. Of course, you can implement a service and think that it works well. But it’s not really about change. Only relevant data help to argue certain decisions, to communicate constructively with representatives of the authorities, and to be the basis for finding resources”, notes Vitalii Okhrimenko, the expert of the educational and practical Human Rights Friendly Community Program, program director of the LDN. For more than three years, he helped initiative groups study legal problems in communities and design tools for solving them.
A separate part of the modules was strengthening the professional skills of lawyers regarding the procedure for compensation for destroyed/damaged property and protection against gender-based and domestic violence.
To understand the organization’s mission and values, to think and plan strategically, and to implement good governance practices, trainer, PhD of political sciences, head of the Garnet social technology studio Ruslan Bakhtyiev helps. Many of the organizations are only on the way to this because they were created only in 2022. A significant number of them have the opportunity to review internal policies and procedures taking into account the information received.
“I understand that I work with different organizations according to the level of development. I often draw attention to the fact that there is no need to devalue the organization’s previous experience. Even if it has just been created and has not yet been institutionalized. After all, without this experience, you cannot move to a higher level. At almost every webinar, I talk about the stages of the organization’s development. It is important to understand which of them it is on because each has its own characteristics and difficulties. The knowledge about this helps to better understand the situation, what to expect, respond to challenges more carefully and choose the right tools,” says Ruslan Bakhtyiev.
An important part is the development of both individual specialists and the team as a whole. The participants traveled the path from the development of emotional intelligence, from self-management to change management together with trainer Iryna Hlushchenkova.
The representatives of the organizations note that they are already using the acquired knowledge to restore the institutional capacity of the organization and optimize resources (human, financial, time, etc.) in conditions of loss of housing, income, physical social, and cultural ties in the community by the organization and its members. And the method of quick stress relief helps bring emotions back to normal after long worries.
One of the important superpowers that help increase an organization’s influence, attract additional resources, advocate for change, and maintain trust is communication.
“Before starting any information campaign, or project, you need to study your target audience, because it is they who are the key to achieving results,” emphasizes Maryna Hovorukhina, the trainer and communication expert. Training participants learned to research their key audience, form a key message, and learned about the intricacies of using various tools for effective communication.
“One of the important communication tools is the ability to focus on goals. This helps not only in everyday communication but also when communicating with journalists. No matter how much they try to provoke you to talk about something else, you need to keep the focus in your head – your key message. It can become the bridge that will save you from defeat,” says Maryna Hovorukhina.
How to use communication not only to increase the influence of the organization, and advocacy but also for legal education, was taught by the editor of the website ldn.org.ua, and trainer Olena Orlova. She shared tools for preparing legal consultations and success stories that she uses in her daily work.
Ten mentors help them to apply the acquired knowledge of the organization (mentees) as effectively as possible and to formulate the goals they want to achieve even more clearly.
“To sum up the work of mentors in general, we can conditionally divide organizations into two groups – those who have formed goals and are on the way to creating an operational plan, and those who are on the way to establish cooperation and determine what we will work on,” says Anna Uvarova. She emphasizes that it is very important at this stage to adapt to the pace of your mentees.
“Although all my mentees are displaced, they are very different. I really want them to develop and become a step higher. One of my mentees’ organizations was just created, that is, they never engaged in public activities or project activities. Now they have united, and I am sure that when they return home, they will continue to do their activities. Now they see where they have gaps and what needs to be done in order to achieve more goals,” says Kateryna Maltseva, the mentor, and the head of the board of the NGO “STEP” (Zaporizhia).
“I try to keep my mentees out of their comfort zone because I’m giving them something new anyway. Organizations and even team members are at different levels of development. We need to catch the same wave so that we all move synchronously,” Timur Kanataiev, program manager of the LDN, who helps with the development of four organizations, shares his work experience.
Among other things, the team of mentors is currently advising on the preparation of a proposal for a micro-grant competition for the provision of legal assistance to internally displaced persons, which is supported by the United Nations Development Program within the framework of the United Nations Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Program for project participants in January 2023.
How in the situation of a full-scale invasion of the russian federation on the territory of Ukraine, not only to work, but also to strengthen one’s capacity, said the head of the CF “National Humanitarian Programs” Tetiana Volynets. Her organization has been working in Dnipro since 2015. From the beginning of their establishment, they provided legal assistance to veterans of the ATO/JFO (Joint Forces Operation), and from February 24, 2022, they began to advise internally displaced persons as well.
“The educational and mentoring program helps to structure the organization’s activities: it is a matter of strategic planning, communication, and work with personnel. We see that it really needs to be done, it is important. Until recently, we mostly solved urgent problems.
Self-assessment of organizational capacity helps us a lot to understand what our gaps and strengths are. We also like to cooperate with our mentor Timur Kanataiev. His advice is very effective, as is the experience he shares. Since we will participate in the UNDP microgranite competition within the framework of the project “Capacity development of local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine”, it changes our approach to the preparation of the application so that it meets both our needs and the donor’s point of view. We did not have such experience before, and it is very cool that such an expert team is working with us”, notes Tetiana Volynets.
At the same time, Tetiana notes that in Dnipro, as elsewhere, interruptions in energy supply hinder the high-quality work of the organization and participation in the educational program. After all, “as soon as you start watching the video, the light disappears again.” So, if in the first module, the representatives of the organization could participate according to the schedule, they will have to make up for the second one.
“The main challenge for the participants of our project was the long-term power outage and, as a result, the absence of the Internet. We understand that once light and communication appear, they begin to address the most pressing issues, and learning takes a back seat. We record every webinar, organize consultation sessions, and make research on knowledge, but we feel that it is not enough. So we are still looking for the most effective format and I hope we will find it. After all, any crisis reveals the potential for development like nothing else,” says Iryna Chaika, organizational development director of the LDN.
The project “Capacity development of local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine” is implemented by the Legal Development Network with the support of UNDP within the framework of the UN Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Program with the financial support of the Government of Canada.
The UN Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Program (UN RPP) is implemented by four UN agencies: the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Framework for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and the United Nations Agricultural Organization (FAO).
The program is supported by twelve international partners: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the US Embassy in Ukraine, as well as the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.
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