Grassroots Initiatives for Digital Rights: Case Study 7 – Ukraine

map highlighting UkraineAlthough Digital Security Lab had only been operating for two years when they received their funding from Internews, they had already managed several small projects.

During this period of rapid growth, the team had focused on delivering their projects, and needed support with organisational development.

As Vita explains, “We were clear on our values and our aims, but hadn’t articulated any strategies. We were working on several small projects, but we knew we needed to put these in context – to step back and see the bigger picture. We couldn’t do that on our own.”

The Internews team supported Vita and the team to carry out an organisational self-evaluation, and facilitated a twoday strategy workshop with a Ukrainian expert.

This enabled Digital Security Lab to prioritise its work, and to allocate resources more effectively. For example, the team realised that senior staff were spending excessive time on admin, and that they needed more legal experts on call.

Within a few months, the team had recruited HR and admin support staff, and expanded their team to ten people, plus regional representatives throughout Ukraine. Not everybody works full time, but the organisation now has the right mix of expertise to achieve its goals.

Over the six months of their involvement with Internews, Vita and the team focused on preventing censorship, and promoting rights-positive legislation.

Digital Security Lab worked with other civil society organisations to examine the legal initiatives presented to parliament. The team provided legal analysis, and prepared press releases and articles in language non-experts could understand, to be shared with media outlets and other organisations.

Simultaneously, the team worked with Members of Parliament and other government officials to increase their understanding of digital rights. In this way, they created allies, who they then supported to advocate against censorship in parliament.

This approach was effective, with two proposed Bills, which would have given the government powers to increase surveillance and censorship, being blocked.

Vita is convinced that the organisational development support from Internews, as well as the funding Digital Security Lab, contributed to this.

“At the beginning of the year, we were trying to do too many small things. Now we have a strategy, we are able to focus on the things that really matter.”

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(Banner photo: Librarian WikiDay in Ukraine. Credit: Nickispeaki/CC)