Civic Education Course Alumni Unite to Engage More Citizens in Democracy
On February 3, 2020, 11 Ukrainian students announced the registration of a new nongovernmental organization (NGO) called the Youth Democratic Association, or YODA. The organization aims to promote democratic principles and ideas and protect human rights and freedoms through youth-targeted public engagement and education activities.
YODA’s co-founders live in four different cities, study a variety of academic disciplines and enjoy varied hobbies. But they share a common experience – they were all participants in the interactive civic education course, Democracy: From Theory to Practice. The course was developed by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and is currently taught at more than 20 universities across Ukraine.
Thanks to the course, YODA’s co-founders deepened their knowledge and developed skills to effectively participate in democratic and public processes. As part of their participation, they completed student action projects, a course prerequisite.
“Due to the course, I learned more about the work of local government, the concepts of tolerance and inclusion and refined project-based skills. But most importantly, I am no longer afraid to take the initiative and solve problems myself.”
– Danylo Vavriv, Co-Founder and Board Chair, YODA
The students developed the idea to establish the NGO during a three-day summer school organized by IFES in July 2019 for the most active alumni of the Democracy: From Theory to Practice course. Students from different parts of the country met and were able to develop their leadership skills, improve teamwork and communicate with like-minded colleagues.
The summer school encouraged students to share their course experience and deepen their knowledge of gender equality, inclusion, media literacy and peaceful conflict resolution. After three intense days of training, heated debates on important public policy topics and evenings of teambuilding, the participants realized they were ready to tackle social problems in Ukraine and are capable of changing society together.
“Of course, without the summer school there would be no YODA – we all met there. While we have been spending all our time together there communicating a lot with each other, we realized that we have common ideas and views on how to introduce changes in the country. Thus, our union was a logical result of the course and the summer school.”
– Valeriia Hudz, Public Relations Manager, YODA
To encourage students, IFES provided institutional support by organizing a strategic session and advising them on the intricacies of NGO registration in Ukraine. Since their first meeting, they have worked together to register the NGO. In less than six months since the summer school held by IFES, YODA is now officially registered and the students are already working on its initial projects.
This year, YODA plans to implement two projects in Lviv: a civic education course for high school students and video simulations of the local election process to increase citizens’ involvement.
“As for today, we plan to implement a project that outlines the main aspects of the Democracy: From Theory to Practice course targeted at 16- to 17-year old school children. And, in the autumn we are going to launch a project aimed at preparing both the adult population and youth for the local elections. Using a video format, we want to depict how the voter should act in various situations happening at the polling stations, including emergencies.”
– Asia Romanenko, Project Manager, YODA
IFES supports YODA’s aspirations to provide effective civic and voter education to a wider community and will support its organizational development, particularly in fundraising and project management to ensure its autonomy and future expansion.
“To involve young people in the democratic process in Ukraine, we need to make it ‘trendy.’ However, following this ‘trend,’ young people should still realize responsibility for their actions or indifference. We believe that the most important thing is to show young people a perspective and to convince them that their actions influence the country’s development. Then people will be drawn to change.”
– Ihor Tymofieiev, Deputy Board Chair, YODA
Within a few years YODA plans to build a broad sustainable network of young change-makers, cooperate with Ukrainian and international partners and continue to implement successful civic education projects. The establishment of YODA to provide local solutions to strengthen democracy displays the impact of IFES’ civic education programming in Ukraine now and in the future.
IFES’ activities in Ukraine are made possible with support from the United States Agency for International Development through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), Global Affairs Canada and UK aid. Established in 1995, CEPPS pools the expertise of three premier international organizations dedicated to democratic development: IFES, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. CEPPS has a 20-year track record of collaboration and leadership in democracy, human rights and governance support, learning from experience, and adopting new approaches and tools based on the ever-evolving technological landscape.
Since 1994, IFES has played a key role in the emergence of democratic electoral processes and institutions in Ukraine. Through this period, IFES has developed a reputation as a reliable source for impartial analysis and high-quality technical assistance in the fields of electoral and political finance law reform, election administration, civil society capacity building, civic education and public opinion research.