1. Dostup do Pravdy: the secret of FOI success

    Last week, Ukrainian Freedom of Information site Dostup do Pravdy processed its 10,000th FOI request.

    That’s pretty impressive, given that they launched just a couple of years ago, in 2014.

    We offer hearty congratulations to the Dostup do Pravdy team. We’re also looking very closely at how they achieved this level of usage, because the site runs on our Alaveteli platform — and we’re keen to share the secrets of their success with the rest of the Alaveteli community.

    So we called Yaroslav, one of the team, and asked him to outline the various factors that have helped boost the site’s popularity. We’ll be writing this up in more detail as part of a guide to marketing Alaveteli sites, but for now, here are the headline points.

    Link with a news outlet

    Dostup do Pravdy was set up in collaboration with Ukraine’s biggest online news outlet, and from the beginning they have employed a journalist to work solely on stories generated through Freedom of Information.

    This has given them several great advantages: a ready-made audience for their most interesting requests; a channel through which to ensure that the general population knows about their rights in FOI; and professional expertise in pulling out which information was the most newsworthy.

    Troubled times

    Of course, no-one would choose to live through political upheaval, but there’s no doubt that Ukraine’s recent history made the populace all the more keen to access facts.

    FOI proved a crucial tool in uncovering and publicising stories of corruption, such as the diversion of funds meant for the army, when high-up officials were coincidentally seen driving top-of-the-range BMWs.

    Stories that grab the public’s imagination

    Right now, Dostup do Pravdy are working on a campaign to find the owners of historic buildings which are falling into disrepair, a story which has captured the attention of the wider community.

    Similarly, they’ve probed into figures on domestic violence cases, a story which got picked up by all the national media.

    On the road

    Ukraine is a relatively big country, with some regions where internet access is poor. The Dostup do Pravdy team are partway through a series of 15 grant-funded ‘roadshows’ in which they invite local activists to come and learn more about Freedom of Information, and train them in how to make requests.

    These activists also help to spread the word amongst the wider community and local media. Where there is no access to the internet, they revert to the lower-tech FOI channels of phone and written letter.

    The visits are also an opportunity to meet with officers from public authorities — the people on the receiving end of the FOI requests.

    Employ an intern

    There’s always more work than there is time to do it, when you’re a small team trying to make a big difference. Dostup do Pravdy were only able to find all the details they needed for their historic buildings project by employing an intern who could go through all the various registers to find crucial information.

    Use social media

    Dostup do Pravdy have seen great increases in visits to their site, both in terms of people browsing information, and those who go on to make an FOI request.

    Alaveteli does allow for a certain amount of discussion of requests, via its annotations functionality, but Dostup do Pravdy also have almost 10,000 followers on Facebook, and it’s here that they’ve seen discussion flourish. It’s also a great platform for sharing their investigative stories, and publicising their events.

    Users also come to Facebook to ask for assistance in making their requests, or following up those that have gone unanswered. Administrators encourage users to keep pushing for the information they require, and can point out where authorities are in breach of law, or point them in the right direction to get further help from the Institute of Media law, who can offer legal aid and advice.


    So there you are: that’s the combination of factors that have led to success for Dostup do Pravdy. We wish them all the best as they charge towards their next milestone. Будьмо!


    Image: Juanedc.com (CC)

  2. Building a Social Media Network and Platform for Debate and Advocacy of Freedom of Expression in Ukraine


    In December 2010 Tony Bowden travelled to Kiev to take part in a one day workshop for NGOs, journalists, state officials and social media activists. I have asked one of the organisers, Boyko Boev from ARTICLE19 to let us know more about the event and MySociety’s contribution to it.

    “Entitled Building a Social Media Network and Platform for Debate and Advocacy of Freedom of Expression in Ukraine the workshop was designed to share experience on advocacy via social media in Ukraine and abroad, point to the opportunities for online campaigns for freedom of expression, and explore ideas for a policy paper on the use of social media for protection of freedom of expression in Ukraine.”

    The workshop presented work of various London based ARTICLE19 programmes introducing various aspects of advocacy work both on national, as well as international level – their challenges and opportunities. The local input was provided by Vitaliy Moroz from Internews who talked about the use of social media in Ukraine.

    Tony was asked to present MySociety projects:

    “Tony’s presentation fitted nicely with the presentations on social media advocacy demonstrating how Internet can become instrumental for social oversight over public institutions and online tools bring about transparency of public management and improvement of public services.”

    When asked for more feedback on Tony’s input, Boyko responded:

    “It was great to have Tony  on board as his presentation brought in another perspective to our workshop. The Ukrainian participants were very active and at the moment I am seeking ways to engage them in freedom of expression advocacy. It means that I should think of a project on this subject. The idea is to use social media/online resource for information sharing and campaigning for freedom of expression and media freedom in Ukraine.”

    If you want to get involved or happen to know already running advocacy projects in Ukraine do let us know!

  3. Transparency for the reforms

    What problem are you solving?:

    This project stipulates to overcome the informational vacuum in Ukraine caused in coverage of activites of the local authorities during the financial and economic crisis, namely to create an efficient mechanism aimed at providing of transparent coverage of local government activities to the citizens.

    Describe your idea:

    On the basis of results of monitoring, questioning of local experts and journalists and focus-group researches (2009) we plan to conduct a series of meetings of dialogue groups aimed at organization of regular compilation of requests to local authorities from the representatives of social and demographic groups mostly suffered from the crisis. We plan to send these requests to local authorities regularly once a month, to analyze the responds and to disseminate this information through local media, Internet and also (at the second phase of project) at the official sites of local government bodies.
    The short-term result: establishment of interaction between the authority, business, public and media aimed at settlement of key problems in 6 regions the target audience of which will be 6-8 million of citizens.
    The long-term result: dissemination of the project in other regions of Ukraine the target audience of which will be 25-34 million of citizens.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    Yuri Nesteryak – Ph.D., President of Association “Spilnyi Prostir” (ASP).
    Oleksandr Chekmyshev – Ph.D., coordinator of monitoring projects, Head of Equal Access Committee (EAC).
    As a consortium of organizations ASP/EAC has implemented 54 projects (public informational campaigns, media literacy; professional and ethical media standards; media monitoring, questioning, focus-groups researches).
    Our donors: NED, Freedom House/USAID, Eurasia Foundation, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, MARTA program of the Government of the Netherlands, International Renaissance Foundation, NDI; PAS of the Embassy of the USA, OSCE, Council of Europe, European Commission.

  4. Public web-media: Public informational center of social partnership

    What problem are you solving?:

    Collaboration of three sectors – power, business and public is necessary for harmonious development of democratic society. Each of them executes the functions which are indisputably directed on solving of certain society problems. However accumulated efforts can result in more effective dealing with urgent issues through forming of problem and joint search of ways of its decision by all possible methods and ways, but within framework of basic functions of each sectors.
    As representatives of all sectors of society repeatedly marked during the discussion of the harmonious development issue, absence of experience and skills of co-operation of authority and business with the third sector constitutes a certain problem in harmonious development. One of the reasons is a limited access of active representatives of society to traditional MASS-MEDIA that requires search of alternative sources of informing.

    Describe your idea:

    Establishment of non-politically committed informational resource which from one side will provide community with complex of social professionally worked out information (interview, reporting, analytical video- and audio-materials, articles etc.), and from the other side it will provide development of civic journalism, primarily on the bases of Web 2.0 technologies.
    That center will provide NGOs with free of charge informational services.
    The project is expected to fill in the informational space with socially significant information – video-clips, interviews and analytical materials on public activists, NGOs, initiative groups’ activities.
    For increase of reach and its engagement into the process of social partnership establishment a project developers foresee the holding of complex on-line events.
    This information will assist in establishment of partnership between NGOs themselves, NGOs and Business, NGOs and Authority.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    Members of the NGO «UkrProstir» have over ten years of successful experience in the field of media development and implementation of PR-campaigns in social and commercial areas and of work in publishing sector.
    The main purpose of the organization are:
    – to improve the effectiveness of non-governmental organizations and to promote active cooperation in the third sector, NGO interaction with the authorities and the media
    – to develop information programs with NGOs to strengthen civil society
    – to attract the community to discuss important social issues.
    – organization and holding of press-conferences, briefings, presentations, roundtables;
    – preparation and placement of press releases, press announces, special materials for Mass Media;
    – design and production of audio-video clips of social advertising;
    – websites development – design, programming, imposition, administration;
    – development and implementation of social, advertising and PR campaigns.

  5. zminy.org – network for social activists

    What problem are you solving?:

    Presently many public activists use already existent social networks for planning of the actions, mobilization of volunteers and search of resources, for realization of own ideas.
    Existent social networks do not have the proper functional. This stops activists from more active use of newest WEB 2.0 projects.

    The specialized internet-project must cover next necessities of public activists, who work on grassroots levels.
    – mobilization of activists/volunteers,
    – search of resources,
    – search of social technologies and civic instruments,
    – co-ordination and management of initiatives.

    Describe your idea:

    The purpose of project – create an internet-functional which will help to organize the public activity by facilities the Internet. A social network for practical activity of public activists must become a result projected.

    It’s planned, that a portal will have three blocks:
    1. Actors: people, organizations, community,
    2. Actions: projects, petitions, problems,
    3. Knowledge: how to do changes.

    The feature of project will be a presence of separate block of project management. It will be to conduct planning of actions, measures, campaigns. To co-ordinate the collaboration of activists within the limits of one project. In public – collecting a money and other resources for embodiment of project.

    As a result an internet-resource must help:
    – search of activists,
    – search of knowledges (examples, histories of success, public instruments),
    – realization of ideas.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    Civic Assembly of Ukraine is an informal network of NGO’s, independents experts and activists, which was formed for the position consolidation of civil society to the strategic problems of Ukrainian society through a open discussion.
    Assembly based on «grassroots activity» principle. Assembly activity operates in principles of responsibility, openness, objectivity, solidarity and indifference towards political parties.

  6. Rating of dangerous bills

    What problem are you solving?:

    From time to time people learn about the new law only after our parliament voted for it. Often laws are harmful to the interests of a specific group of citizens, or even for all. In order to be able to watch in advance, we could create a site to let users follow and rate draft bills.

    Describe your idea:

    To increase transparency of parliament, this project lets users to keep an eye on draft bills by keywords or by draft author with RSS and email alerts.

    Collective rating for bill drafts and bill’s authors could be represented in form of “top-Nth most dangerous legislations”. It will bring awareness for citizens and will make future collective actions possible.

    Simultaneously information about the rating should be told to the authors of the bills by e-mail and (or) fax communication.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    media activist and programmer, work for http://zaua.org

  7. YurbA! Majority Around!

    What problem are you solving?:

    Simplifying and activation of local community communications exchange.
    In spite of active use of Internet and mobile services, Ukrainian still have lack of experience to use new media to cooperate and coordinate actions on local level. There are several barriers for eInclusion in Ukraine:
    1) lack of projects for community use of technologies; 2) weak motivation to use new media for mobilization, declaration of personal opinion; 3) low level of development and access to e-resources in regional authorities; 4) low feedback between public servants and community.

    Describe your idea:

    Юрба [jurba] in Ukrainian means “crowd” or “swarm”. Our project should be based on strength of neighbourhood cooperation for local community crowdsoursing for community engagement and public policy making.
    Based on experience of FixMyStreet, SeeClickFix, Near.ly, Peuplade, Yourstreet, NeighborForNeighbor and many others we plan to develop open source platform integrated with FrontlineSMS. The basic modules are communal services, transport, ecology, health, work&business, criminal, prices etc. Each citizen could inform about the problem and also send ideas how to solve the problem. Ideally it should integrated with twitter and facebook accounts of the community.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    We are the group of political and communications studies in Rivne Institute of Slavonic studies. We have strong relations with municipal and regional authorities as well as NGOs, business, Universities. We are interested in innovative international projects in the field of eInclusion in Ukraine

  8. Each person has a right to have dignity life. Till the very end

    What problem are you solving?:

    Citizens of Ukraine have no adequate acsess to pallitive / hospice care. There are about 1.5 million of people who need it each year.

    Describe your idea:

    We would like to lauch modern Internet page which will enable us to inform people about their rights to dignified life till the end of their life.
    This site should be transparent, have accountable information, have tools for two-way communications, good analysis of information etc

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    We are operating since 2007. We are national association, this means we have branches in all 25 regions of Ukraine. We have about 50 individual and collective members.

  9. Petitions in action!

    What problem are you solving?:

    All the existing web-site for on-line petitions are not fully suitable for russian speaking space, and those exiting in Russian and other cyrrillic languages are organized in a way – that you can submit any kind of petition (sometimes not very effective and thought of), afterwards such web-sites are full with bad petitions. For example, petitions to presidents on any type of problem.

    Besides, the general level of civic activism is very low in these countries, so we would like to higher it through the petition in action project.

    Describe your idea:

    so we would like to develop the interactive petitions project which will be accessible in different languages with pre-selection and consultation of petition-makers, building a community of civil activists and building a full system of creation, submission, sending the petition and getting the answer.

    In many ways, our idea is very similar to one of your web-sites in Number10 e-petitions.

    We want to make people aware and responsible of what they do and help them to develop a good petitionthat can really be halpful in advocacy, and also with consulting them on how to use other advocacy instruments instead od starting an immediate petition on any case.

    We develop it together with IT company from Ukraine. and would like to get your advice and consultations and also technical assistance in implementing this project. The web-functional itself is alost ready, so we are about to launch it wuite soon.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    Youth Human Rights Movement – is the larget youth activists community in Europe.

    We are:

    Human rights University, Laboratiry for social changes, community of activists for mutual help, suppoirt and solidarity.

  10. Universal web platform for Civil Society in Newly Independent States

    What problem are you solving?:

    We are working on development of platform of content management systems for creation of multi-functional web-sites that would match the following criteria:

    – security (keep data safe, and lower the risk of stealing, misusing and intervention as many of sites will be developed in difficult conditions – repression, pressure)
    – usability (simple process of creation a web-site)
    – accessibility (the platform must be accessible in different Cyrillic and other lannguages)
    – open-source
    All the existing open-source systems are either non-accessible in Russian (Ukrainian and other Cyrillic languages) or does not fully match all the mentioned criteria.

    Such a system needs to be developed for the aims of non-state sector in Newly Independent States (post-Soviet countries), mainly for civil society organizations, youth groups, independent media agencies etc.

    We would like to get the technical support, software advices ad general consultations in this project.

    Describe your idea:

    We are working on development of platform of universal engines – content management systems based on open-source approach that lets to create interactive multi-functional web-sites.

    Preferably, the project will be developed on DRUPAL basis.

    The target group for this project is:
    CSOs, civil and youth groups from Ukraine and other CIS countries;
    civil networks and communities: thematic, regional, international and interregional;
    activists and authors of any civil initiative;

    The engines need to include the following elements:
    community web-site;
    educational platform;
    site for civil campaigns and urgent actions;
    site for informational agency – news site;
    Site for texts – publishing.

    The universal content management systems need to be quite simple in creation and operation of web-site to make it available for non-professionals to create simply and fast the quite complicated web-site with proper variant of design.

    What country will this operate in?: Ukraine

    Who are you?:

    I represent the International Youth Center “Human Rights and Civic actions”, based in Ukraine for support of yoiuth initiatives in Post-soviet countries.
    We provide support to activists, NGOs and non-formal groups working on:
    – defense of human rights;
    – advocacy;
    – anti-racism;
    – ecological activists, etc.

    We provide training, consultations, web-supports, solidarity actions, public campaigning and building networks.
    We work in close cooperation with International Youth Human Rights Movement – the largest youth network working with human rights and civil issues in Europe and all over the world.