Sofiivska Consolidated Community in Ukraine Implements Modern Website Tool to Boost Resident Participation

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Maksym Khoruzhevsky uses the new website.

Co-Authors: DOBRE partner, SocialBoost, and Maksym Khoruzhevsky, website moderator from Sofiivska CC

“The hromada (community association) has been in an information vacuum for a significant amount of time: we only had one rayon* level newspaper and it raised some interest, but only among senior community members. There were no media outlets to raise awareness among other residents such as students and entrepreneurs. That’s why we launched a social media application—and quickly enough, we received 1,000 subscribers to the Facebook page, which is impressive especially considering the fact that 10,000 residents live in the Sofiivska consolidated community,” shares Maksym Khoruzhevsky, moderator of the Sofiivska consolidated community (CC) website.

Shortly after this social media launch, representatives of the CC determined that it would not be possible to cover the need for quality communication with all CC members using just one tool. The most difficult issue was in complying with legislation regarding posting public information. In addition, the website originally provided by the Oblast Administration had not been updated in 15 years, and therefore had an outdated design and did not allow for data searching or publication of news.

In 2017, Sofiivska CC joined Cohort #2 of the CCs partnering with the USAID “Decentralization Offering Better Results and Efficiency” (DOBRE) Program, which is being implemented by Global Communities in Ukraine. Joining the cohort allowed Sofiivska CC to be introduced to USAID DOBRE partner, IT CSO SocialBoost, and DOSVIT, a platform that allows consolidated communities to develop their own websites following modern IT rules.

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Svitlana Shinkarenko gets acquainted with the new website.

In fact, Sofiivska CC became the first community to create a new website through the DOSVIT platform application. SocialBoost specialists tailored the platform and considered requests from the CCs offered during joint strategic sessions.

“At times, it was really hard for us: as the pilot CC, we had to prepare a lot of information to add to the website. The SocialBoost team set high requirements regarding content: standardized requirements for staff photos, writing stories using an innovative approach, selecting quality images,” reflects Maksym.

“Two things helped us: first – organization of the process by moderators from the community. Together with moderator Svitlana Shinkarenko, we worked through each part of the new website and established good communication with representatives of other departments who submitted updates for their pages. Second – support from SocialBoost. Besides training on how to operate the website, we also had workshops giving us an overview on how to create quality content, how to write eye-catching stories, and how to include principles of citizen engagement on the CC website. Our community actively coordinated the work during the time of transition, so the process of information collection took around three months,” explains Maksym.

Having undergone the process of website development, training, and now current daily implementation, Sofiivska representatives can now name a wide range of benefits of the new DOSVIT website application, including:

  • A comprehensive website interface;
  • site users can easily locate where to search for desired data;
  • the website is convenient to view not only on laptops but also on smartphones and tablets;
  • the website has a handy administration panel, which is a critical factor for platform moderators;
  • and most importantly, one does not need to be an IT specialist to quickly learn how to operate the admin panel.
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New user of Sofiivska CC website.

“Our residents are positive about the new website, because with the ease of one click, they can receive information and news about their home hromada and apply for e-services. With the old website, it was difficult to find important documents, especially ones regarding decisions affecting community members, or regulations needing to be reviewed by local governance deputies. This is not an issue any more, as the new website has a “Documents” section where one can search for, filter and select desired documents. Moreover, we launched online streaming of CC leadership sessions, which gives our residents an opportunity to watch the plenary sessions live, to ask questions and receive answers,” shares Maksym.

Having benefitted from consistent use of the modern website, Sofiivska CC managed to reach good results: a) the CC is the most active CC in applying the tools offered by the web developer; b) in July 2019, the CC joined a pilot project to build IT strategy for the community; c) the CC applies other tools such as Hromadsky Project and DOBRE.Pytannia in addition to DOSVIT, all developed by SocialBoost.

Once residents of Sofiivska CC get used to the new website, they become quite active users. A participatory budget was launched through the Hromadsky Project, which enables residents to submit various local project initiatives and vote on them. For example, last year over 3,000 residents took part in the project.

As of today, the following information has been published on the innovative CC website:

“Our community is constantly evolving in the IT sphere; we are participants of the project “E-Decisions for Hromada,” through which we will roll out the registers of the CC and geo-informative systems. The State Migration Service has selected us as one of the communities for piloting their electronic service called “E-Malyatko.” Also, we approved of the developed IT strategy for the CC for the next three years, so we are determined to move forward according to the plan outlined in it,” Maksym says about the plans for future.

*second level of administrative subdivision

Decentralization Offering Better Results and Efficiency (DOBRE) Program is USAID’s five-year program, implemented by Global Communities. The Program is working to support the supply of good local governance and create improved conditions for the development by consolidated communities (CCs), increase citizen engagement in decision-making, and ensure accountability and transparency in public administration. The DOBRE Consortium, led by Global Communities, includes: Ukrainian Crisis Media Center (UCMC), Social Boost, Foundation in Support of Local Democracy (FSLD/FRDL), Malopolska School of Public Administration at the Krakow University of Economics (MSAP/UEK), Poland, National Democratic Institute (NDI). The USAID DOBRE Program is implemented in seven target oblasts: Dnipropetrovska, Ivano-Frankivska, Kharkivska, Khersonska, Kirovohradska, Mykolayivska, and Ternopilska.