Interview by Svitlana Oslavska with Olga Diatel and Alona Karavai, translated by Liubov Hryb.
UkraineLab is an interdisciplinary platform for effective and sustainable networking, which creates space for dialogue between active representatives of different sectors of society in Ukraine.
In 2015 two forums were organised by UkraineLab. One in Kiev devoted to the best solutions for culture and civil society in post-crisis periods, the second one in Ivano-Frankivsk with focus on peace building strategies. This year the activities will be continued and new meetings will be arranged. In April UkraineLab will be held in Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. Alona Karavai and Olga Diatel, coordinators of the programme, explain specifics and characteristics of UkrianeLab, this year’s topics and expectations.
What is UkraineLab in brief?
Alona Karavai: UkraineLab is an interdisciplinary platform for smart networking and cross-sectorial cooperation of change makers as well as a think tank where visions and innovations for civil society and culture can be born. With UkraineLab we also create a safe space for people to share, to exchange about and to collect all kind of practices of local development and to test them where they may be the most necessary at the moment.
Olga Diatel: UkraineLab is a space where you can develop new professional relations and partnerships, which will make your work more effective in the future.
What impressions did you get after the first meetings in 2015 so far?
Olga Diatel: I was skeptical about the large number of people we planned with to take part. It is not easy to ensure an efficient process in such kind of situations. Yet at the first forum we managed to create an atmosphere of openness, personal responsibility and everyone was very cooperative. Our aim and the aim of UkraineLab is to build a network of people, and I think we manage to build it step by step.
Alona Karavai: The second forum was organised as a kind of a partnership fair. It emerged people have a great actual need of building deliberate partnerships. Usually people partnering up right before the start of a project and they do not discuss their aims and values beforehand. This causes often the opposite of a long term and trustful partnership which would have the potential to create some impact. The format of the partnership fair will be further developed, so in Kramatorsk and Slovyansk participants will have more opportunities to present themselves, get to know each other and exchange.
Why have you chosen the topic “The development of local communities” for the upcoming meeting?
Alona Karavai: We actually asked the participants during the second forum in Ivano-Frankivsk 2015 where we already started to plan the next steps for 2016.
Olga Diatel: A lot of them mentioned they would like be involved somehow in the everyday life of communities in the town where the forum takes place and they want to share something with the residents. So we decided to give it a try and to work with local communities. And we see it anyway as an emerging topic which is quite important for our work.
Which social challenges you have in mind thinking about UkrianeLab?
Alona Karavai: I think that UkraineLab is facing social challenges such as the lack of communication between people and poor quality of communication. Obviously people do not communicate with each other even in small communities you can observe this phenomenon parties from different sectors of society or different social layers are not coming together.
Olga Diatel: In my opinion every place has its own potential. And it depends on the people who live there to which extent this potential is used. I would like to work with tools and ideas from the field of local actions and with capabilities that can develop the potential of a city or a village. My personal experience: it doesn’t matter whether you live in a city or in a village, if you have a good idea, people from all over the world come visit and join you. Each town or village can be the center of the world if you live there and develop it.
Why have you chosen Kramatorsk and Slavyansk for the next meeting?
Olga Diatel: “We should do like ordinary people: organise meetings in Kiev and house all participants in one hotel” – we often joke about how and especially where we organise our events. To be serious, in Kramatorsk, in this region we are running the projects “Rural Initiatives Workshop” and “Сultivator”. So we know a lot of locals and we are in close contact with them.
Kramatorsk and Slavyansk are located on the so-called periphery. Due to this fact there are a lot of challenges. On the one hand a lot of people have emigrated. On the other hand, in Kramatorsk you can feel some kind of energy and something positive is up. In fact there are a lot of problems also a lot of ideas appear. And you may become part of it.
UkraineLab will take place in two cities in the region: In Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. People will stay in both cities as well as the activities of working groups. We decided so because we cannot stay with 120 people in one city , so we use the potential of both cities. This is certainly not the easiest nor the most practical solution to organise and also for the participants. Yet it provides the opportunity to learn more about the region.
How exactly will the participants work with the local communities?
Olga Diatel: We will work in thematic groups and we organise workshops, which we call “local actions”. The workshops will combine theory and practice. We expect participants working hand in hand with local initiatives and organisations to make these “local actions” most effective.
UkraineLab is a format and network, which is shaped by its participants. We already ask in the application to bring in own ideas for workshops. And these workshops can engage a lot of people. So we are looking for people who understand this approach, who are open-minded, curious and like to create something together.
And don’t be afraid to visit Kramatorsk.
In September will UkraineLab meet in Berlin. Can you already tell us about it?
Alona Karavai: For now the working title is “Ukraine – the EU: Lessons that have (not) been learned”. We want to look at things that have changed in the discourse “Ukraine – European idea – the EU”. We will include also the topic “Subjectivity and introspection of Ukraine” as we find the discussion about the perception of Ukriane as an subject important in European context. We want to consolidate most of the Ukrainian and Pro-Ukrainian figures in Berlin, in Germany, in order to create a significant event together. There are only few Ukrainian events in Berlin. And of course, we hope the Ukrainian organisations will be interested in exchanging experience, and willing to see how everything works in Berlin as well as to find partners. We would like to gain attention, we would like to be heard in Berlin.
You can find more information at www.dialogue-for-change.org/en and at Facebook UkraineLab. UkraineLab is part of the project “Dialogue for Change” which is designed to help overcome social cleavage by a strengthening of civil society and dialogue in Ukraine.