Youth and e-democracy tools

 The Bershad Community’s Youth Council in the Vinnytsia Oblast was founded about a year ago. Thanks to the enthusiasm of local youth, it brought together more than 30 participants who became game changers in their community.

 Of course, things are not the same now after the big war began — some people had left Ukraine, while a few had lost their motivation. The youth team continued to operate notwithstanding, holding charity fairs in support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, becoming the first to test the e-democracy tools, and inviting schoolchildren to join the Youth Council.

 ‘We would gradually accustom young people to the idea that their participation, opinion and voice really matter. They are part of the community, which gets involved its future right now,’ says Yaroslav, a member of the Bershad Community’s Youth Council and our protagonist.

 Yaroslav Verkholiuk worked in the youth team ever since it was founded. Before that, he participated actively in student life and made a habit of looking for opportunities everywhere. The youth council was no exception — Yaroslav quickly found like-minded people who were willing to implement the boldest ideas.

 One of them was about connecting an eDEM platform-based electronic survey tool.

‘The Bershad Youth Council being one of the most active in the oblast, we were offered to conduct a test survey. As Mykola Kobysia (adviser to the Head of the Vinnytsia OSA) said then, “Be the pioneers!” We agreed, despite having no idea of what exactly had to be done and what would come of it,’ remembers Yaroslav.

 The young people contacted the Information Department of the Vinnytsia City Council and started choosing the topic of an online survey, which would be relevant for the community and would concern everyone. Eventually, they focused on general questions of whether residents were aware of the Youth Council’s activities, its membership, and the number of its participants.

As it turned out, expectations and reality are entirely different things: ‘The first time we tried to conduct this survey, nothing came out of it. The main reasons for it were the lack of communication, information support, along with problems associated with the registration of participants.’

 Nevertheless, Yaroslav’s team decided not to give up. Upon taking inventory of all the weaknesses in their survey, the young people once again turned to Mykola Kobysia for help.

 Technical problems would be eventually ironed out, and people who were previously unable to register, could finally do it. ‘We observed certain activity, but not as much as we would like to have,’ says Yaroslav.

The team held a Zoom conference again and started thinking about how to encourage young people to vote. One of the participants suggested holding a raffle among the survey participants with pizza as a prize. A relevant post was made in social networks; the winner was to be determined through a random number generator.

 ‘The advantage of the idea was that it required little money. Since we didn’t have any budget, we chipped in from our personal accounts and bought the prize. The activity increased, and we were glad that the people had become interested. Still, I would like them to have joined the survey without a pizza,’ jokes Yaroslav.

 The Bershad Community’s youth team is currently the leader in digitalization among youth councils. Its participants attend e-democracy events where they are happy to share their experience woven from determination and creative solutions.

The team does not intend to stop there — it is currently conducting a new survey on setting up a youth studio on the eDEM platform and is developing projects together with experts from the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program

 Ending the conversation, Yaroslav sums up: ‘Those will reach the top who understand that Ukraine now has all the opportunities to create the future!’

The eDEM platform was created within the framework of the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Program, implemented by East Europe Foundation with the support of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.