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Mentoring, training and grant support as investments in the development of civil society

Publication date: February 16, 2024

Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, Head of the Communication Cluster of the Legal Development Network

Since the beginning of 2023, the Legal Development Network, together with the Czech humanitarian organization People In Need, has been strengthening the capacity of 12 civil society organizations from Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Chernihiv, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Poltava, and Mykolaiv oblasts to respond to the challenges of a full-scale war. Five of them are newly created, and four are re-established organizations that have been operating for more than five years. The initiative was implemented within the framework of the project “Resilient Civil Society and Media in Response to the War in Ukraine” with the financial support of the European Union.

Find out more about what the initiative has achieved over the past year.

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

“It is important for us to implement such mentoring and training programs for institutional development not only for the Network’s member organizations. Since the beginning of the full-scale war, we have been working to expand local partnerships. Such initiatives help to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations working in communities, which means that we will be able to interact with them more effectively and overcome the challenges of today,” said Olga Nastina, Executive Director of the Legal Development Network.


During March-September 2023, eight mentors helped their mentees (project participating organizations) identify gaps in organizational development and ways to improve. They already had previous experience of participating in a similar program and a history of successful interaction with their mentees (organizations accompanied by a mentor).

Together with their mentors, the teams of organizations conducted a self-assessment. They identified what they were doing well and what they would like to work on using the Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool (OCAT) developed by the Czech humanitarian organization People in Need.

In general, the representatives of the organizations assessed their identity and strategy, relationships, projects and resources, and internal management and administration. Based on the self-assessment, they were able to formulate priorities for themselves, which were included in the strategic development plan – quarterly for 2023 and for the prospect of 2024. In addition, they identified two or three priority goals that they would like to achieve with the support of a mentor.

Timur Kanataev, program director of the Legal Development Network. Photo by LDN

“Although this is not the first mentoring program we have implemented, it was new to most organizations. Therefore, they formed expectations that were largely inconsistent with the real essence of mentoring. We even noticed that organizations perceive mentors as “additional workers”. Therefore, it was important for us to explain who a mentor is and who a mentee is, what their responsibilities are, and that a mentor is someone who guides, shares their experience, helps summarize the organization’s experience, and gives a different view and perspective on the organization’s activities. The flexibility of the program was also an important part. When we or the organization realized that the mentors were not suitable for them, we gave feedback and, upon request, made a replacement. In the end, it gave a good result for both parties,” says Timur Kanataev, program director of the Legal Development Network.

Most organizations found out that they lacked developed policies and procedures, as well as strategies for organizational development. As they were trying to respond to the challenges of a full-scale war and implementing disparate activities in their work, mentoring support helped to structure and focus their work.

Halyna Donska, Chairperson of the Board of the CF “In Unity Our Strength” (Dnipro region). The organization was established in 2022 by IDPs. The foundation develops projects to organize various types of support for people with disabilities and those who were forced to change their place of residence. Photo by Halyna Donska

“Our mentor, when she started working with us, said that we needed to prioritize. There were many things we did because we wanted to help everyone. We worked through OCAT and realized that we would work with children and people with disabilities. We already had previous experience in this. We organized various creative workshops for children who were evacuated from communities under constant shelling. Initially, our organization consisted of four people, and now we have 25 members on a permanent basis. If we need to implement a major initiative, we can gather up to 100 people,” says Halyna Donska, chairwoman of the board of the “In Unity We Stand” charity foundation (Dnipro region).

In addition, during the mentoring, the initiative participants formed a request for a training program.


Iryna Chaika, Director of Organizational Development at the Legal Development Network. Photo by LDN

“In general, we worked with two types of organizations. Those that have been operating for quite some time, five to ten years, but due to the large-scale war, they were forced to relocate. Many of them have re-profiled and renewed their teams. In fact, they started their activities from scratch. And there were those organizations that began to form on February 24, 2022. Their teams are volunteers who have rallied to overcome the consequences of the war and help others and have recently registered their organizations. Again, the members of the organizations know almost nothing about how civil society operates. The rules of good governance, preparation of project proposals, and reporting were all new to many of them. Therefore, in the curriculum, we tried to take into account both their requests and the realities in which they work. To maximize its effectiveness, we developed it separately for the entire team of the organization, managers, lawyers, communicators, and financial managers,” says Iryna Chaika, Director of Organizational Development at the Legal Development Network.

Between October 2023 and January 2024, organizations were able to participate in 21 trainings on good governance, communication, creation and implementation of legal services, internal and external communication, project management, and more. This is more than 110 hours of training material.

The training program was implemented by 15 experts from the Legal Development Network and its member organizations: Podilska Legal League, Kamianets-Podilskyi Bar Association, Pravo, Northern Human Rights Group, Legal Unity, and Vostok SOS, a partner organization of the charity foundation.

Vladyslav Burenkov, Price Monitoring Manager at YES (Zaporizhzhia). Photo by Vladyslav Burenkov

“Our NGO YES was founded in 2018 to develop the civic competence of society by increasing the capacity of public institutions. However, due to the full-scale invasion, it radically changed the vector of its activities in 2022. Thanks to participation in educational events organized by the Legal Development Network and People in Need, our team has strengthened its internal capacity and adapted to the drastic changes. Personally, as a team member, I have significantly expanded my professional skills. In particular, we were able to conduct a self-assessment of the organization’s capacity using the OCAT tool and identify strengths and areas for growth; develop policies and procedures, which had a positive impact on our activities. The training programs were useful for me, and the knowledge gained at the educational events allows me to effectively use the tools in my work,” says Vladyslav Burenkov, Price Monitoring Manager at YES (Zaporizhzhia).

Vitaliy Okhrimenko, Director for Strategic Development of the Legal Development Network. Photo by LDN

“This program is an investment in organizations so that they become capable and subjective as partners whose potential has grown significantly to drive social change at the local level. It is good governance, this subjectivity and clarity that helps build strong ties with their other partners,” says Vitaliy Okhrimenko, Director of Strategic Development at the Legal Development Network.

The project is being implemented with the support of the Czech humanitarian organization “People in Need” and with funding from the European Union

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