As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, attendees of the third Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium, co-hosted by The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) and the Network of Engaged International Donors (NEID Global), gathered for both information and inspiration. One particular session, Philanthropy’s Role in Ukraine: Supporting the Future of Democracy and Civil Society was part of the Symposium’s Shaping the Future workshop track, although it could have just as well been part of the Taking Action Now track. Ukrainian society is continuing to face extreme humanitarian, social, and economic challenges caused by Russia’s continued brutal, genocidal attempts to eradicate Ukraine as a nation. At same time, as this session made clear, this conflict is on the cusp of the global struggle of democracy vs. authoritarianism, with implications far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
The presenters crystallized three key points for funders to understand as they consider the needs in Ukraine against so many other conflicts and issues that compete for the spotlight today. Session speakers, united in their belief that Ukrainians will indeed eventually achieve victory, included Open Society Foundations Director of Special Initiatives Anthony Richter, Razom for Ukraine CEO Dora Chomiak, Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Melinda Haring, and, joining virtually from Kyiv, International Renaissance Foundation Deputy Director Inna Pidluska. They made a powerful case for why in addition to humanitarian support, longer-term, strategic, and systemic interventions are critically necessary, why that matters beyond its borders, and that philanthropy can play an important role in both modalities.
A Twenty-First Century Vision of Democracy
Images coming out of the country paint a picture of devastation and transience, as victims seek to remain close to their homes until they are forced to flee to safety or for basic humanitarian needs. What does not come across in the news footage is what Ukraine is truly all about as a country. As a post-Soviet society, Ukraine overwhelmingly embraces democracy and European values. It has forged a civic identity which is pluralistic, tolerant, and inclusive of various ethnicities, religions, and identities.
A Creative and Economic Powerhouse-in-Waiting
Ukraine has become more open to the world, willing to embrace different approaches and solutions, and to share its know-how. Its IT sector is particularly strong and is helping shape more accountable, transparent, and efficient government services. War has brought out not only resilience but also creativity. Although some of it is happening by necessity now during war, when Ukraine moves into recovery and reconstruction it will pilot ideas and projects that will serve as models for other parts of the world, whether this be in establishing a green economy, e-government, education, democracy, or innovations in other spheres. With a strong civil society, highly educated workforce, and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, Ukraine offers good investment opportunities.
A New Model of Civil Society in the Making
There is growing public demand for a new social compact that is human-centered and locally driven. Partnerships between business, civil society, and government (particularly on the local level) are abounding. Philanthropy can play a huge role in creating spaces for such collaboration. Philanthropy also can help bolster international solidarity around such models, especially in the Global South, by supporting societies building more truthful narratives, fighting disinformation, and creating broader coalitions with impact on other issues that face us all.
The group closed with a clear message. Ukrainian civil society is exhausted by almost 600 days of war. Yet, as noted, they believe in victory. Outside solidarity and support only further fuels that belief and their resilience as they fight to build a better Ukraine.
If you would like to learn more about funding Ukraine, the Council on Foundations hosts a Philanthropy Supporting Ukraine Funder Roundtable Series. TPI offers two strong blog posts by Maggi Alexander, Director of its Center for Global Philanthropy, that funders can reference: Shifting Power and Resources to Ukraine: What Donors and NGOs Need to Know and How to Effectively Respond to Humanitarian Crises Across the Globe. And finally, if you know you would like to give in some way, TPI also offers a list with organizations by service type for easy review and decision-making: Philanthropic Resources for the Ukraine Crisis. I encourage you to read through these materials, and follow your head and your heart on behalf of the people of Ukraine.
Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash