Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Talking Transparency With Visitors From Ukraine

by May 18th, 2011

“Connecting People, Creating Understanding” is the motto of the U.S.¬†Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, and it’s an apt one. I was asked to lead a discussion for the program with a delegation of political, media and business officials from Ukraine visiting Seattle yesterday, on the topics of government transparency and the evolving news and information ecosphere. We met at the World Affairs Council in Seattle. The visitors group represented different Ukraine organizations concerned, variously, with property rights, freedom of association and civil society, censorship, business climate and government corruption, and youth political engagement.

We talked about the Washington state-based government transparency project I founded called Public Data Ferret and its parent non-profit Public Eye Northwest; also about civic apps and Open 311 – including See Click Fix as used in New Haven, where it’s conveniently embedded in the go-to online newspaper. We also delved into best practices around open meetings of government bodies, and advance online disclosure of meeting business by local governments, a topic which seemed to interest the group a lot. We finished by watching a rap video on dueling economic theories: the Keynes-Hayek Throwdown, Round 2.

You can get a good glimpse of some of the current concerns in Ukraine from the work of the visitors as described in their bios, provided to me from the U.S. State Department.

  • Ganna Dorzhenko is Director of The Agency For Sustainable Development, Luhansk Region. It’s “an advocacy NGO that provides legal services and free legal aid to underprivileged groups” particularly around “land and real estate property rights protection; it provides legal consultations to local authorities on those issues as well. The Agency is also actively involved with USAID-funded initiatives, specifically ACTION, the Access To Justice and Legal Empowerment Project, and the Ukraine National Initiatives to Enhance Reforms (UNITER).”
  • Vasyl Gatsko “heads the All-Ukranian Youth Democratic Alliance, a rapidly developing youth NGO with wide national reach. He is responsible for overseeing all of the organization’s activities, coordinating regional networks and ensuring its continued growth.”
  • Anastasia Krasnosilska is the Project Coordinator of the Ukranian Center For Independent Political Research. She is “heavily involved in projects aimed at reforming legislation on freedom of association, and development of civil society organizations.”
  • Viacheslav Pavlov is Vice-President of the Ukranian Association of Furniture Manufacturers and “one of the leaders of an initiative group of SME (small and medium enterprises) association from various fields” focused on improving the business climate in Ukraine by “working on tax codes, constituency building and fighting government corruption.”
  • Natalia Sokolenko, a news reporter for STB Television company, “is the newly elected chairperson of the independent Ukranian national media trade union ‘Mediafront,’ which protects journalists’ rights. Ms. Sokolenko is also one of the leaders of the national Stop Censorship media movement, which fights against government and business censorship and interference with the media.”
  • A hat-tip to the two very capable translators, Matilda Kuklish and Svitlana Budzhak-Jones, and to Rachel Moshier of the World Affairs Council in Seattle for coordinating the event.

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