TEAM OF INNOVATORS FROM TERNOPIL CREATES VOLUNTEER PORTAL TO UNITE YOUNG PEOPLE

A unique initiative developed in Ternopil, the 2020 Youth Capital of Ukraine, has united representatives of youth organizations, universities and government authorities around a common goal — the development of the volunteer movement.

Volunteering creates numerous benefits for local communities and society as a whole, and is an important element in developing civil society. To what extent are Ukrainians ready to get involved in volunteer initiatives?

According to a 2019 sociological survey, nine percent of persons engage in volunteerism. One of the obstacles to attracting volunteers could be people’s unawareness of certain volunteering opportunities

FROM INSPIRATION TO IMPLEMENTATION

Photo credits: Science Centre Ternopil

This all started in 2013, when, while on an internship in Poland, the current head of the Ternopil Scientific Centre Mykhailo Syrotiuk, together with his colleague who is now the head of the Department for Family, Youth and the Protection of Children, which is under the umbrella of Ternopil City Council, Khrystina Bilinska, attended a scientific picnic in Warsaw for the first time.

“We were amazed, because such scientific picnics were among the ten most visited events in Poland. This is what inspired us to organize something similar in Ukraine,” Syrotiuk said.

Photo credits: Science Centre Ternopil

Upon returning to his home city, Syrotiuk formed a team of activists, with whom he organized his first scientific picnic events.

“While organizing these scientific picnics, we realized that our mission was to develop non-formal education. Then we established the Ternopil Scientific Centre, an NGO, and started to implement changes at the system level,” Syrotiuk said.

Syrotiuk and his team have held scientific picnics not only in Ternopil, but also in Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk. With support from the Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports, they have also organized training events for young activists from other cities and towns and taught them how to implement such practices in their communities.

“The Ternopil Scientific Centre is one of the first organizations in Ukraine to create a volunteer passport — a document that is similar to a workbook (a book that contains one’s work record) for young activists”.

Such documents, which are issued to activists, contain information and the number of hours they participated in volunteering activities, as well as information about the length of their volunteering service. Such passports not only certify one’s involvement in volunteering activities, but also aim to help young people find employment in the future”.

WE RISKED IT AND WON

Photo credit: Andriy Krepkikh/ UNDP Ukraine

“In fact, our team was preparing a completely different project called the Innovation Laboratory for the contest. However, two hours before the deadline we realized that our greater priority would be to resolve the problem of the insufficient involvement of young people in our community. That is why we rewrote our application and submitted another project — the Volunteer Portal, which brought us victory,” Syrotiuk said.

Photo credit: Andriy Krepkikh/ UNDP Ukraine

The authors see the Volunteer Portal as a communications platform that will bring together young people who want to participate in community activities and organizers of events who are looking for volunteers to be involved in various activities.

HOW WILL THIS NEW FACEBOOK FOR VOLUNTEERS OPERATE?

“The Digital Volunteer Portal is a platform for communicating with volunteers, which will enable young people to participate in interesting events and projects in their communities, while also enabling organizations to involve volunteers in their activities,” Syrotiuk said.

Photo credit: Andriy Krepkikh/ UNDP Ukraine

The portal’s terms of reference were developed together with representatives of the city’s youth organizations, universities, local governments and civil activists.

Each registered volunteer will have a personal account, which will contain their volunteering history, rating, as well as their identification document — a volunteer passport. Registered participants will receive notifications about volunteering opportunities in their city on the basis of the interests indicated in their personal account. If they express a desire to participate in a particular volunteering activity, they will be contacted by the organizer to discuss the details. After the event, both parties will be able to evaluate each other’s activities.

By the way, the development and implementation of the Volunteer Portal and the integration of volunteer passports into this platform are also facilitated by city authorities — such a portal will not only create new opportunities for young people, but will also help them find jobs.

HOW VOLUNTEERS HELP THE CITY IN DIFFICULT TIMES

“In recent years, Ukrainians have been actively involved in volunteering activities and helping communities,” Syrotiuk said. “In the most critical situations, active community members consolidate their efforts to resolve important issues in their city and country.”

The development of volunteerism is a priority of the city of Ternopil — the 2020 youth capital of Ukraine. The city council works together with many youth organizations and universities, while also making every effort to develop the city’s volunteer movement.

More specifically, in March 2020, the city authorities announced the creation of a volunteer database during the quarantine imposed in connection with the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Over 300 volunteers who want to help those in need have already registered in the database. This database will become the basis for the future Volunteer Portal.

Photo credits: Science Centre Ternopil

“During these difficult times, we have an urgent need for such a portal, because a specialised communications platform is extremely important for the community and volunteers themselves,” Syrotiuk said.

He is confident that this portal will not only be a convenient communications system in Ternopil, but will also inspire people in other Ukrainian cities and towns.

Among other things, volunteers in Ternopil Oblast joined in the initiative “Give a Medical Worker a Ride,” which enabled dozens of doctors to get to work during quarantine restrictions. They also participated in the “Within Reach” project that aims to provide food for Ternopil residents who live alone, elderly people, persons with disabilities, and other city residents who have found themselves in a difficult situation.

The Volunteer Portal project won the U-Inn 2.0 contest in the Innovation for Integrity category. The team of the Ternopil Scientific Centre used the UAH 200,000 prize to develop a technical solution for creating an online volunteer database.

The U-Inn youth initiative contest is an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, financially supported by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a part of the UNDP project “Civil Society for Enhanced Democracy and Human Rights in Ukraine”

The entry was authored by:

Anna Mysyshyn, Knowledge Management and Innovations Associate in UNDP in Ukraine;

The entry was edited by:

Tetyana Kononeko, UNDP Communication Unit

Originally published at https://medium.com on June 11, 2020.

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