Strengthening the capacity of civic sector leaders

Civic Leadership Academy


Building civil society as a driver of positive change

Only 10% of Ukrainians consider themselves to be socially active. On the other hand, some sociologists are convinced that the vast majority of Ukrainians want to get involved in government decision-making, community problem-solving, and volunteering. The need for strong public activism is especially acute in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, which have suffered most from Russian propaganda and the consequences of the "Russian world" campaign.


Create powerful assets in the East and South of Ukraine

To support leaders who can unite others around solving social problems, Internews Ukraine, together with the Eastern Europe Foundation, organized the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA). With its program of systematic training, networking, coaching, and mentoring, the Academy’s students mastered new tools of project management, learned to communicate effectively with their audience and cooperate with each other.

As communication is an important part of the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), when planning the curriculum, we paid special attention to this issue.

Training course on communication development

The aim of the course was to help NGO workers to effectively promote their initiatives, interact with various target audiences (TAs), and to be active in the media. Over 3 sessions of 24 webinars, students studied the following topics:

  • Communications and communications strategy.
  • Working with TAs and developing key messages.
  • Planning and managing communication processes.
  • Features of creating text content in different formats and for different TAs.
  • Visual communications.
  • The use of social networks in covering the activities of NGOs.
  • Storytelling in the activities of NGOs. Media planning and work with the media
  • Crisis communications.

The lecturers for the training sessions were Ukrainian communications experts in communications and strategic development, as well as trainers in storytelling and media cooperation.

Assessment of the communication capacity of NGOs

12 participating organizations in the CLA, which were selected competitively, passed our assessment of their communications capacity. We analyzed their activities, spoke with them, and saw that everyone's expectations and problems are similar. 90% of the selected NGOs did not have an organizational strategy or had a strategy that did not correspond to the real state of affairs. Without this, organizations can’t develop an effective communications strategy. Moreover, the organizations could not clearly answer the question of who their TA was, what they could offer to it, where they were moving, or what results they wanted to achieve in the coming years.

Guide to effective communications for NGOs

To help organizations to avoid these mistakes and to be effective, the Internews Ukraine team and the experts we collaborated with created a Guide to Effective Communication for NGOs. It contains advice on communications strategy, work with TAs, cooperation with the media, the use of social networks, and anti-crisis communications.

Hackathon of civic activity

As part of the Academy’s activities, we held a special hackathon for strengthening cooperation and networking of public activists in the East and South of Ukraine, as well as to promote the tools of public activism in these regions.

Over the two-day event, about 150 participants attended online lectures, training sessions, and workshops on leadership and effective interaction with donors and the public.

The final stage of the Hackathon was the pitching of project ideas among the CLA’s participants. The jury selected 12 winning coalitions, 5 of which received mentoring support and small grants of UAH 200,000 to carry out their projects.


As many as 270 public activists from the East and South of Ukraine submitted applications to participate in the Academy of Public Activism. 122 of them successfully completed the program.

According to a study by the Vox Populi Agency, 98% of APA participants would recommend the Program to their acquaintances. The training sessions on communication development turned out to be the most useful, with 48% of participants saying they offered the most practical value.

The majority of respondents reported improving their communication after participating in the Academy: 80% believed that their activities have become more visible, while 90% have begun to communicate better with community members, and 73% have done so with local authorities.

"Proper communication is the first thing I would like to learn, so that in the future there will be opportunities to implement projects, find common ground with other people, and make new connections to form coalitions. The information we used is a bit outdated, but the Academy's coaches have kept up with the times and told us about new features and channels that can be used in our work," — said Albina Tkachenko from Severodonetsk, Luhansk oblast.

5 winning coalitions from the grant competition successfully implemented their projects. For example, activists from Slovyansk and Mariupol purchased professional sports equipment for a children’s and youth sports school, organized an open training session with Olympic swimming champion Oleksandr Sydorenko, and organized self-defense sessions for girls. The Solianyi Bum Arts Festival was held in Sloviansk, and the #Kherson_ZeroWaste Ecofest was held in Kherson Oblast, where participants learned more about conscious consumption. And the Eco-theater — action for the future project, with the help of its participants’ acting skills, united local communities around the problem of environmental protection.

Civic Leadership Academy is a program implemented by the Eastern Europe Foundation and Internews Ukraine with the support of the USAID Democratic Governance in Eastern Ukraine project.