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Executive Director of the Republic Institute, co-founder of the All-Ukrainian Active Community Initiative, participant in the fifth set of the School of Strategic Architect


The Respublika Institute was founded in 1997 as an analytical center, but its role has never been limited to collecting and evaluating information about the situation in the country. Almost from the very beginning, the organization tried to influence the processes, actively participating first in the movement "Ukraine without Kuchma", and later - in the events on Euromaidan.  

Executive director of the organization Oleksandra Hlizhynska after  Euromaidan became a co-founder of the All-Ukrainian Active Community Initiative, which works to strengthen the capacity of local activists to influence the development of their cities and towns. In 2019, she joined the School of Strategic Architect. Thanks to the training methodology - ecosystem approach, strategic thinking and building sustainable partnerships - she developed and defended the vision of active communities in Ukraine, which she now presents to partners from government and business environments in different cities.

The Respublika Institute will work on the sustainability and systematic activity of citizens, and in 5 years the organization plans to involve at least 1% of the population in public activity.  

We spoke with Alexandra about the maturity of the community, strategies for influencing NGOs, the values of society, and the power of leadership.  

- We will talk a lot about the public sector in general, but I would like to start with a public organization as a key unit of this environment. Actually, what does the sustainability of a public organization consist of?

- First of all, the sustainability of a public organization depends on our answer to the question "Why are we created?". If we can adequately respond, if we present a picture of the future we want to reach, the organization will succeed. By "we" I mean not only the leaders of the organization, but also its members and supporters. The more the organization extends its mission to target audiences and partners, the more sustainable it is. Of course, if we talk about sustainability, it is the financial capacity of the organization, and organizational capacity, the ability to withstand risks and change. You need to be able to adapt and know how to make the best of change.

- Business earns money and can plan its future in some way. State institutions are always funded. Moreover, state institutions have institutionalized and declared power. CSOs, on the one hand, cannot guarantee financial support for the next ten to twenty years (at least in Ukraine), on the other hand, their influence is also quite limited. What are these influences: support of people, recognizability of the organization, donations? Where to look for these levers?

- In my opinion, public organizations in Ukraine are quite influential. When we talk about any organization, whether it is a business, a government organization, or a public organization, its influence is always relative. Our organization cooperates with various structures, we spend a lot of time communicating with government agencies, and to be honest, I often wonder how they still exist. But if we talk about the strength of public organization, then, of course, it's people. The social influence of a public organization is the strongest. If an organization is able to unite people, create partnerships, if it is ready to defend the interests of its target audiences, then it is a strong enough organization, and it has influence.

- Is there a certain crisis of public confidence in the public environment now? There is a feeling that after the Maidan, support for social movements and the public environment was more visible. Many people were involved in volunteer work. Now everything seems to have returned to average. Surveys show that about 7.5% in Ukraine are ready to be involved in community service.  


- When the Maidan took place, and after it the war, we had extremely serious reasons to be united. But many Ukrainians have very high expectations. We imagine a perfect picture of the world, and we want it to come true tomorrow. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Changes in society have been going on for a very long time, according to Western scholars, some sixty years. And we can't wait sixty years, we need faster. We understand that citizens want to choose a person today and have a result the day after tomorrow. The war intensified many things: both volunteer movements and civil society. Today, this activity is declining slightly. Moreover, this activity today often turns into aggression, which deepens the crisis in public relations. As a public sector, we must do everything possible to reduce the number of crises and disagreements in our society. We need to be more tolerant of each other, be willing to hear each other, and that's when we can make informed decisions.  

- Doesn't this mean that today we are united against a certain crisis, rather than a common understanding of our already peaceful future? Today there is an unprecedented level of hatred, which, in particular, is manifested in violence. What can society unite around now?


- It is easier for us to fight against something than for something. Because "for something" is not always clear, and we do not always know how to measure it. Our task as a civil society is to look at those areas where we can unite, try to understand each other's interests, and look for weaknesses in the system that exists and that we want to change. Whatever area of change we take, we need to think about where the weakest part is and what we can do so that a chain reaction can be launched on our activities tomorrow, which will guarantee us sustainable development. If you think more broadly, consider systems, study them, see how they are built, see with whom and how you can influence these systems, you can find solutions. I think that most organizations (including business and government organizations) need to understand that only together we can achieve great change in our country.  

- But how to determine where we are needed?


- First, you need to understand where the organization is the strongest, where its competencies allow you to participate most actively and effectively, where you can find partners and develop this capacity. If we work one year on one topic and another on another, we are not focused and we are not evolving. For example, our organization understands that it must be an expert in activating citizens. We are the people who have worked and will work to help people reach their active potential, to help build their community, to make it stronger. When I was just starting to be involved in social activities, going to various events, studying this field, I noticed that during the year I saw the same faces. I thought there was something wrong with that. Then the Maidan took place, our team saw how strong our people are, how ready they are to defend their rights and be active. We began to think that we could make sure that this activity was not from revolution to revolution, but was permanent, and we could change even small problems, but systematically. By being active systemically, we can influence large processes.

- Doesn't this activity depend on certain trends and demands in society? After all, there are relatively convenient and comfortable topics for work, and there are complex and quite contradictory, which may not coincide with the expectations of society. What strategies can there be?


- It seems to me that the decision on the one hand is very simple, on the other - very difficult. Advocacy is available at different levels. There is a level where we work purely with people who suffer from the problem. Or we work purely with the authorities to make a decision. But, unfortunately, public organizations often forget about the population. And these are people who are the bearers of certain ideas. If we don't talk about ourselves, if we don't share success stories, if we don't tell people why our activities are in their best interest, we will never succeed in life. We must always remember the dialogue and the communication of our ideas to a much wider audience. And then we will have sustainability, and support, and partners, and cooperation.  

- Actually, about cooperation strategies. State institutions may not like, dislike, act contrary to. At the same time, we understand that public organizations must cooperate with other players in one way or another, and here the question arises: how and with whom? Can, for example, a public organization be successful in "deep opposition"?


- I would say that deep opposition is very profitable in a crisis situation, when it is urgent to solve some hot problem. But the question is whether over time such activity does not turn into criticism, and whether in this position we can adequately evaluate all the proposals? It is very important, including, to stop emotions in time and to think: and this offer really does not approach us, or, perhaps, it is necessary to agree to it and to work with it? Here strategic thinking, understanding of what steps consist of achievement of our purpose helps. I'm protesting today, but what do I need to do after the protest? The strength of unification is that different organizations may have different strategies. For example, there are organizations such as watch dogs, which are more critical, more indicative of shortcomings. On the other hand, there are organizations that are ready to look for partnerships that are ready to cooperate in this particular situation.  

- Who in such a situation should be the architect of cooperation? A public organization is always at risk of being held hostage to certain political processes, possibly business processes. Who should drive?


- This is a question of how not to betray your ideas. They need to be clearly understood and the limit understood. The organization must clearly understand who it is willing to work with, what its ideal partner or partners are, and look for them. That is, by defining the boundaries of cooperation, and clearly adhering to them, we can form strong coalitions. Yes, business has the finances, the authorities have the power, but NGOs need to be strong people, strong followers who will help create a certain cultural environment that they stand for.

- Where can public organizations look for these followers? Because, as we have already said, statistically there are not so many who are ready to spend time on it and be really involved.


- If we talk about followers, it can be a passerby on the street. How to convey an idea to him? The organization needs to think about channels and opportunities. For example, we have a network of coordinators, through whom we reach ordinary people who yesterday did not think about activity, today they have identified the problem, the day after tomorrow they united, and a week later they came to power and began to defend their position. . Today we have more than 147 organizations of various plans: libraries, businesses, cultural organizations, government officials, educational institutions that are ready to work with us for our purpose and mission, because they see the point.  

- Are there any specific abilities that the leader of the organization must have in order for him or her to convey the idea to the right people?


- If we talk about the qualities of leaders, I would single out at least two: first, to love people, and secondly, to be patient. The readiness for dialogue shapes just how much we are ready to expand our circle of supporters, how much we are ready to work with the population. Of course, this is not a revolutionary approach. This is evolution. But otherwise a person is unlikely to understand that our work is important primarily for herself.

- Is the public environment mature enough to form such leaders who are ready to work patiently and very focused on changes that may not happen quickly?


- It is important for any leader to notice small changes. When a baby is just born, we don't expect her to take a spoon to her mouth right away and start eating on her own. This cannot happen. Young parents notice how the child develops and acquires some new abilities and opportunities every day. The same situation with the people we work with. It is necessary to observe even insignificant changes. In fact, a leader can grow out of any environment. The main thing is to think about how to achieve the result, what steps it consists of. If we have the answer to this question, then the changes are tangible.

- Is there any fundamental difference between leaders in business, in power and leaders in the public environment?


- If we talk about the ideal situation, then at the mission level the leaders are the same. Because they clearly understand what they want, they know how to engage people, know how to hear people and build a common strategy to achieve results. The consequences can be different. If in the public sphere it is mainly a social effect, in business it is the creation of wealth and financial profit, in the public sphere it is policy development. We may differ in such details, but I do not see much difference in management. Unless NGOs use a softer influence. If part of the business environment and the public sector remains with the administrative style of management, then in the public sector you will not go so far. We have either love or not. This is what gives us the opportunity to work, move, and develop for a long time.

- Actually, about the development of leaders. Is it appropriate to use business approaches in a public environment and vice versa? Is business education relevant to the development of leaders in non-business areas?


- The school of strategic architect is extremely powerful and opens the eyes of those people who do not fully understand other environments. I studied here and could see what the participants were talking about, what their strategies were about, how they were thinking, how they were making decisions. We have something to learn from each other, unequivocally. The strength of public organizations - in communication and development of common ideas, common decisions. When a person feels like a co-owner of an organization, it is difficult to find a stronger and more motivated team member. And this can happen only when a person makes an effort and puts his ideas, when he feels the need for this organization, and he can be creatively realized in it.


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