Members Breakfast: How are civil society organisations doing in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries?

On November 23, 2022, we invited our members to our bi-annual Members Breakfast – an informal networking event, which this time revolved around the question how civil society organisations are doing in Ukraine’s neighboring countries. During our panel round, we learned a lot about crisis management and the biggest struggles local organizations are facing – but also about the support they felt coming from civil society itself.

We started off with a panel, consisting of five individuals from civil society organisations: Alketa Lasku (Terre des hommes, Hungary), Edward Lucaci (Caritas, Moldova), Elena Ajder (Casa Providenței, Moldova), Michaela Pobudová (Mareena, Slovakia) and Anikó Bakonyi (Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary). All of them have been working relentlessly to help Ukrainians since the first hours after the Russian invasion and gave us first hand insights into their work in the past nine months. Here we want to share those points that we deem most relevant for our community:

  • With the crisis came the same question for each organization: to scale or not to scale? The need was there due to the highly intensified workload, but not every organization chose to scale anyways. Those who could highlighted the importance of establishing basic structures to onboard and train new employees, in order to maintain a high quality of their offered services.

  • A second major topic was HR. Finding qualified staff in the first place, training them accordingly and keeping new and old staff despite the physical and psychological burdens that come with working under high pressure – those were all challenges our member organisations faced and are still facing.

  • The next learning is one of our most important ones: the entrance of big international organizations in times of crises can be very damaging to the local organisations for several factors. First, they usually have access to more resources, can offer higher salaries and therefore take away employees from local organisations. Further, due to their size they usually have advantages in applying for and receiving classical funding, which then in turn again is missing for local organisations. Aside from that, they often lack a crucial understanding of the local countries economic situation, its culture and people which is of especial relevance in countries with high social tensions, such as Moldova.

  • In terms of funding, all mentioned that classical funding opportunities are unsuitable for immediate crises. Following protocol and exact planning, which are usually required in order to being granted funding, are hard to achieve in times of stress and uncertainty. More flexibility is necessary to have funding be more readily available for local organisations.

  • Generally, our panelists stressed the need to coordinate with other organisations and the importance of choosing the right strategic partners.

We want to thank all of our panelists for sharing their learnings and struggles with us and all attendees for joining us for this semester’s Members Breakfast! We hope everyone found it as insightful as we did.