Recent years have shown that Ukrainians inside the country and abroad can unite and become a driving force for the protection of Ukraine’s interests. Euromaidan and the Russian military aggression that followed have activated conscious citizens ready to engage in local or national social projects.
In order to engage people with changes inside Ukraine, non-government organisations and activists, both domestically and internationally, have created websites, including the GURT Resource Centre, Global Ukraine, and ukrinform.ua, which regularly publish interesting and relevant information about the Ukrainian diaspora, political analysis, information about activities, Ukrainian success stories, and opportunities to invest in different projects. However, these resources are presently limited to webpages, with none of these organisations offering mobile apps with similar content. Given the increasing amount of time people spend using smartphones and expanding functionality of these devices, mobile apps adopt significant importance, particularly in relation to increasing public engagement.
For this reason, NGO “Promote Ukraine” has developed a free application named “LEADS Ukraine” (LEADS: Learning, Engaging, Activating, Discovering, Sharing Ukraine), which will serve as a platform for coordinating Ukrainians abroad with each other and with their foreign friends. Yana Brovdiy, who participates in many events held by “Promote Ukraine”, shared her thoughts on the idea of the app:
“I believe the application is the next step in communication and interaction between Ukrainians, and therefore it has a great potential for development,” she says. “One of the possible elements of such application for a Ukrainian abroad or a foreigner interested in Ukraine could be the ‘Engagement Map’. It would highlight the organisations directly working with or in Ukraine, Ukrainian schools and clubs, universities studying Ukraine, volunteer projects, and businesses working with Ukraine.” Yana believes that “experts will be able to share their research or policy papers, activists – cultural and social projects and so on. All this will contribute to the creation of connections between Ukrainians and Ukrainian friends. It will be easier to unite professionals for the benefit of Ukraine. I understand that this is a key objective of LEADS.”
The main task of this tool is to connect professionals, activists, and engaged citizens with various pro-Ukrainian projects in Europe. Ukrainian expats and members of the Ukrainian diaspora live their own lives, and often are not ready to devote a lot of time to a particular organisation, but they join individual projects which are of interest for them.
The app will consist of an organisations and events map, with organisations themselves able to post their news, videos, and research. For organisations that have their own audience, the app will help identify new people who do not already know about the activities of those organisations. “The potential is great because not everyone interested in Ukraine knows about the existence of varying organisations or about their activities,” says Yana, “and the combination of informativeness, creativity and simple design will guarantee the popularity of this mobile application”
“As there is no effective tool for promoting pro-Ukrainian activities in Europe, we, as an organisation, do not have access to every potential participant, while potential participants themselves are not able to learn about our activities in time,” says Marta Barandiy, the initiator of the LEADS. “So we want to solve this problem, not only for ourselves, but also for everyone who is professionally involved in the Ukrainian issues. Facebook and meet-ups do not solve the problem of missing information, because they aim at an indefinite audience that exchanges huge amounts of data. It’s really difficult to monitor important moments on the newsfeed. Despite these modern platforms, we have repeatedly had situations when two organisations in one city are holding an event at the same time. This significantly reduced the number of people attending such events. But the goal of these organisations corresponds to ours – to enhance the effect, but not to reduce it.”
The LEADS app, therefore, offers the following advantages:
- All Ukrainian organisations are in one place; these organisations and their activities are easily searchable on the map;
- There is a target audience ready and receptive to receiving information. Anyone wishing to participate in Ukrainian life in Europe or interested in the activities of foreign organisations in Ukraine can download the application for free;
- Users are able to subscribe to organisations in which they are interested. The app sends users notifications about new events, news, and jobs. The notification function can also be turned off;
- Users can add an organisation to their ‘Favourites’ and monitor its activity independently without using the notification function;
- Users can configure their smartphones to automatically add appointments to their phones’ calendars;
- The app focuses on organisations’ activities, research, and jobs. This information therefore will not be lost in the ocean of other information, statuses and news;
- Users can search for necessary information using keyword searches; and
- The app is managed by the LEADS Ukraine Coordinator, who is responsible for keeping it up-to-date with current information. Sometimes, organisations do not post their events on Facebook, and it is impossible to follow every single site. This function will initially be performed by the coordinator, and subsequently, organisations will be given access to administrative accounts to allow them to post information themselves.
According to Victoria Rozendaal, a member of “Promote Ukraine”, the information will reach the right audience faster and more effectively: “Previously, we didn’t know how to reach people, but now, using the app, we will even be able to organise a demonstration in Brussels in just two hours.”
The LEADS team is currently working hard to attract participants from all over Europe and Ukraine. Volunteers, public leaders, activists and active citizens can all contribute to Ukraine’s global coordination. The experience of recent years has shown that the Ukrainian community has been left wanting the appropriate tools to promote Ukrainian interests to the world. The LEADS app will realize the great potential of foreign Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine and direct this potential to help build a prosperous Ukraine.