Fellow’s Story: The John Smith Trust In The Digitalised World
In August 2015, citizens of Ukraine received access to the Civil Society app which was defined by the ISOC as one of the best initiatives in the world for community development via the Internet. This powerful tool for co-governance by citizens, based on decision-making, social investment and entrepreneurship (a brief description in English is available here https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3zxCQTXB5WAQXk2WFpEc3hRMnM) was created by JST Fellow, Vadim Georgienko, along with a team of developers, and was influcenced by Vadim’s John Smith Trust (JST) Fellowship of 2006. Here is his story of how the Civil Society app was achieved.
Vadim’s JST Fellowship – 2006
In 2006, during his JST Fellowship, Vadim met with Lord McCluskey, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, and “shadowed” MPs in the UK parliament during the discussion of Charities Act 2006. In 2007, he received a Council of Europe award for the realisation of his JST Action Plan which saw the implementation of a municipal youth policy model involving thousands of young people.
In the long term. the Fellowship gave Vadim the skills he needed to define the main framework for his future project, the Civil Society app which is based on citizens’ participation in decision-making, social investment and social entrepreneurship with the help of ICT. The app offers a complete solution to developing civil society online rather than being fragmented across various platforms such as e-democracy and crowd-funding.
Developing the “Dobrochyn”
The app began development in 2009 under the brand name “Dobrochyn” (To Do Good Deeds) and was initially divided into five separate parts. In 2011, Dobrochyn 2.0, the “National Philanthropy Marketplace”, was launched via CMS Joomla and was later developed to include a pilot scheme (Dobrochyn 2.5) that in 2012 helped with the realisation of over 40 youth projects across Ukraine. At the same time, Vadim participated in the first TechCamp in Ukraine where he initiated a project to help people understand where to invest resources or funds for social needs using a simple online interface based on Dobrochyn 2.5.
Vadim latterly began working with Trevor Knoblich, former Project Director at Frontline SMS and currently Digital Director at the Online News Association, and “Moloda Gromada” (Young Community Foundation) to create an “SMS-like” widget that could be used primarily for SMS-voting in online projects. This was subsequently piloted by the Ukrainian NGO “Youth Corporation” during the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014, reaching approximately 5 million people.
In 2014, during the Ukrainian revolution, Vadim met IT-specialist and civil activist, Andrii Pertsiukh. This partnership helped accelerate the project, bringing together the 5 parts into one single solution to create the re-branded Civil Society app.
Launching the Civil Society app
In cooperation with “Moloda Gromada”, the web-based version of the Civil Society app became available for public use in August 2015 and can now be accessed at https://gurtom.mobi (“gurtom” means “together” in Ukrainian).
A number of respected institutions were immediately interested, holding dedicated conference sessions and discussions to exhibit the app. For example:
- The Council of Europe Youth Partnership organised a special lab on the Civil Society app for participants of the International Symposium on Youth Participation in a Digitalised World (September 2015, Budapest);
- During the first Congress of Patriots of the South of Ukraine (October 2015, Odessa) over 20 of the biggest local NGOs met to talk about the app and discussed the possibility of its use in strengthening civil society in the region;
- The US Embassy in Ukraine provided a special session on the app and its application during its TechForum (November 2015, Kiev);
- The universities’ community in Germany organised a special group discussion during a conference (December 2015, Berlin);
- In December 2015, over 40 representatives from Ukrainian NGOs and partners of the British Council’s “Active Citizen” programme took part in the first CivilSocietyLab, which was designed on the basis of the TechCamp technology. The basic idea being to support active citizens in addressing their needs and solving their concrete tasks with the help of ICT, in particular, the Civil Society app. The Lab helped participants to create 13 projects for their own communities, video is available here:
The app is currently being piloted in schools, univeristies and local councils. Already in 2016 the Civil Society app Team plans to promote the “basics and practical tools of e-democracy and active citizenship for local self-governance” at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on State Construction, Regional Policy and Local Self-Government.
More than 20 million people have access to the Internet in Ukraine, this fact inspires Vadim, his team and partners to provide such systemic changes based on public participation.