NORC was tasked with assessing USAID/Ukraine's current Civil Society Enabling Environment and Civil Society Capacity-Building activities implemented by the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) and the Initiative for Social Action and Renewal in Eurasia (ISAR)-Ednannia with the goal of identifying the needs of, gaps in, and opportunities for civil society development in Ukraine. The assessment identifies continuing needs across dimensions of civil society development, including those covered and not covered by USAID or other international donors, and discusses approaches and actions that could reinforce the effectiveness and sustainability of donor-funded activities to strengthen civil society. Results from the assessment will be used by the Mission to determine its approach to civil society development going forward.
Since the Euromaidan protests of 2013-2014, Ukrainian civil society has faced significant positive and negative changes in its operating environment. Among the positive developments is an increase of active citizenship and entry of many new actors into civil society. The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine was a strong impetus for many Ukrainians to volunteer, donate to charity, and support the army and conflict-affected population. The state, with the entry of many new members of parliament and government officials, has reached out to civil society for assistance in reforms. At the same time, increasing political competition and the entry of some civil society leaders into politics created more tension between civil society and the state.
The assessment began with a desk review of USAID-provided materials and background reading about civil society developments in Ukraine. Subsequent fieldwork for the project included 73 key informant interviews (KIIs), including 40 representing Ukrainian civil society organizations (CSOs). The team aimed to reflect regional dynamics of civil society and conducted trips to the East, South, and West. The assessment team invited 1,471 CSOs to participate in an online survey with key questions related to civil society development in Ukraine; 328 CSOs submitted their responses. In addition, two focus groups were conducted with civil society representatives and activists in Kyiv and in Uzhgorod.
NORC found that post-Euromaidan civil society strengthened thanks to the inflow of new CSOs, active citizens and volunteers. The sector has acquired greater legitimacy in Ukraine and a high level of citizens' trust. The culture of organizational development and self-awareness about the impact is improving. The main challenges related to civil society are weak financial diversification and citizen engagement. Additionally, Ukraine has uneven development of civil society across regions, with striking disparities in capacity between Kyiv-based and regional CSOs. More local sources of funding and new tools of local democracy building would make citizen participation more accessible.