The development of the National CSO Network as a test on the civil society maturity in Ukraine

Since 2016, GURT Resource Center together with partners has been implementing projects aimed at facilitating the development of the National CSO Network in Ukraine. This process is accompanied by the successful experience of European CSOs in building networks at the grassroots level.


On December 20-22, 2018, GURT initiated the Action Forum on the Building National CSO Network in Ukraine. The event was held in cooperation with the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organisations (NENO) with the support of Sweden, Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia.

The conference united leaders of civil society organizations who developed an action plan for the building National CSO Network in Ukraine for 2019 in an interactive format. In the long term, the Network will enable Ukrainian civil society to become an equal participant in the dialogue with central and local authorities as well as national and international donor organizations.

The forum was begun with a panel discussion on issues that must be solved by the National CSO Network in Ukraine. The discussion was attended by Director of the Volyn Institute of Law Iryna Haiduchyk, Executive Director of CO “100% of life” Anastasiia Dieieva, Project Coordinator at Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine Vasyl Romaniuk, Chairman of the Board of NGO “PROLISOK-BERDIANSK” Ivan Kharchenko. The discussion was moderated by Executive Director of GURT Resource Center Bohdan Maslych.

“GURT is our partner in the implementation of the values spread by the Swedish Government. Our support for such initiatives is based on a simple philosophy, which in turn is built on human rights and involves four components: non-discrimination, participative approach, accountability, and transparency. The building of the Network requires a clear understanding of its need. This is an ambitious initiative, which is the result of the events that are taking place in our country”, Project Coordinator at the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine Vasyl Romaniuk.

Anastasiia Dieieva told about the creation and functioning of the network CO “100% of life”, as the experience of umbrella organizations is an important component of further development of the Network. “Charitable organization “100 % of life” is the largest patient organization in Ukraine. It is important for us that our centers are united around common values. However, the unification should take place around the expected result, which we discuss together. To work effectively, we need to be aware of the real problems of people living in different communities. At the same time, we should not forget that civil society is a “watchdog”. It is obliged to monitor changes in the country. Civil society is an expert environment that has to offer solutions”, Executive Director of the CO “100% of life” Anastasiia Dieieva.

These ideas were also shared by the Network Steering Committee members Iryna Hayduchyk and Ivan Kharchenko.

“I hope this is the first panel discussion, but not the last dialogue that we will be able to hold on the building National CSO Network in Ukraine. I think everyone noticed that networking is a serious subject, which is discussed by everyone, sort of a trend. We should understand that the tasks that we will set ourselves, in the end, determine the possibility of creating the network. I have understood the need to build the Network when our organization became a hub for CSOs in Volynska oblast. These are not memorandums that ensure the existence of the network but an understanding of the common tasks that we can perform. In our local network, we try to pull up the newly created CSOs of the united territorial communities to increase their institutional capacity,” Iryna Haiduchyk, Director of the Volyn Institute of Law.

During the discussion, there was also raised the topic of expectations from the Network and of the possible participants’ contribution to its effective functioning.

“It is important that everyone can find the answer that he/she wants from the Network and that he/she can offer it. For example, the Network could be a communication hub. There are many common problems of CSOs that could be solved together. One of the tasks of the Network and/or regional networks should be the measuring of the interests of society and their representation”, Chairman of the Board of NGO “PROLISOK-BERDYANSK” Ivan Kharchenko.

You can watch the record of the panel discussion in the video below.


After the panel discussion, participants were divided into three groups that have been working on solving challenges the Network is facing– the development of regional CSO networks, the inclusion of national umbrella organizations and thematic networks, the design of the management system of the National CSO Network.

“The advantage of this format is that it allows involving many participants to discuss and solve common problems. The main condition is the challenges that are being discussed have to concern all participants. The topic of the forum is directly related to their everyday activities, so participants can make a positive contribution to the development of real steps that will lead to the creation of the Network. General experience in the public sector consists of hundreds of years, and this experience is aimed at the production of ideas how to improve cooperation between them,” Consultant for development of organizations and management, one of the facilitators of the event Joe Toepfer.

Within the action forum, the Network Steering Committee members shared their experience with other participants and worked together on the challenges facing the development of the Network at the local level.

“In Lviv, we have united five organizations. Three of them work with young people. In the future, we plan to hold an opinion festival in Stryi, going beyond the city, and continue to form a regional network at the grassroots level”, Chairman of the Regional Council of CYM in Ukraine Andrii Fendyk.

The forum was also attended by the representatives of umbrella organizations interested in creating the National CSO Network.

“As a member of the Association of charitable foundations, we are a small thematic network. We lack the ability to keep up with the information, advocacy, and accumulation of expertise. Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum is interested in getting access to a common database of coaches and experts. Demand for networking is extremely high but the tools that we use work only partially. In my opinion, there is no universal recipe for creating a network”, Director of the Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum Polina Niukhina.

While discussing ways of the umbrella organizations engagement to the National CSO Network, there was a question on the overall ability of CSOs for networking.

“The last-year forum showed that Ukrainian CSOs are ready for cooperation and networking but now there are still no leaders of this movement. However, we already have successful examples of regional networks such as the public network “Svoii”. While working in the group, I found out that most of the participants are representatives of newly established organizations that seek ways to unite and develop their capacity. They require resources. Nevertheless, I have not noticed the representation of a “critical mass” of experienced and persistent CSOs, ready to share knowledge, experience, and resources”, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Library Association Yaroslava Soshynska.

“At the conference, I saw the same problems that we face at the local level: people do not always see a clear picture of how the Network should be built. Also, people are afraid to take responsibility. However, looking for common ideas and values, we can achieve a common result in the building an effective network. I hope that after the conference we will come up with an action plan, which we will start to implement in the regions”, Director of the Volyn Institute of Law Iryna Haiduchyk.

The final part of the forum was the presentation of mini-projects on the development of the Network, which helped to look at the challenges and proposed solutions from different angles and to assess the needs of CSOs.

“After the forum, I had an idea to hold something similar for regional organizations that did not visit this event. On the first day, I thought I would hardly find something new for myself, but we have already planned a project that would be implemented in various areas,” Executive Director of NGO “Kalynove Hrono” Anna Borisova.


The participants of the Action Forum used the achievements of the conference “Future of the National CSO Network in Ukraine” in 2017. The monitoring of this event results, held in January 2019 by GURT Resource Center, showed that the building the Network at the grassroots level was hampered by the low institutional capacity of the involved organizations.

“I saw an extract from the developments of the 2017 conference participants in the handouts of the Action Forum. In my opinion, they provided a serious basis for real steps in building Network. I expected that the participants of the 2018 forum would move on. However, I got the impression that the discussion of various scenarios for the building National CSO Network just continued and there was no qualitative “jump”. I want to emphasize again the need to form a “core” of change agents who will take responsibility for the development and promotion of the Network”, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Library Association Yaroslava Soshynska.

The vast majority of participants of the future search conference 2017 also drew attention to the need for a coordination center, which would lead the process of building Network.

“I failed to implement the achievements of the conference. Several events were held but there was no result. I think it is better to target people that the building of civil society centers is the responsibility of the participants, not the task of GURT. Indeed, many participants expected that GURT would build the Network. In my opinion, it should be mentioned that here we create only tools but not tailored solutions,” Head of NGO “For the common cause” Liudmyla Pereverten.

During the monitoring, the need in the leading organization who will be the driving power of the Network was generally mentioned in the participants’ responses.

“At the conference, there were many young organizations that work on a volunteer basis without program activities and sustainable development. Due to the lack of experience in project management, I did not see here reliable partners. We are not an organization that can support them with resources. We need someone to lead the process of creating Network, but no one wants to take responsibility and be a leader,” Head of the NGO “Eleos” Serhii Dmytriiev.

One of the positive consequences of the events of 2016-2018 was the self-organization of the participants, who found a space for acquaintance, exchange of ideas and cooperation. In particular, three centers of the National CSO Network have already signed memorandums of cooperation with partner organizations. Further work on the development of the Network is a test of maturity for representatives of civil society in Ukraine.

For more information about the development of the National CSO Network in Ukraine please check the link

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