Name of project: “Making a strategic policy agenda for decision makers in the process of decentralization (The case of Kirovohradska oblast)”

Activity# KIE28807

Reporting period: From 6 April 2016 to 1 November 2017

All-Ukrainian NGO” Democracy Development Center”

Date of report: 1 November 2017

Duration of project:  From 6 April 2016 to 1 November 2017

The report was prepared by Ella Lamakh, Head of the organization and project manager.

 

FINAL REPORT

1. Context of activities / program on the initial stage

General goals; target audience

intermediary and final goals identified on the initial stage:

During implementation of the project, the goals and objectives persisted and were complied with.

The project Goal was:

Increased capacity and competencies of public servants in Kirovohradska oblast concerning decentralization, by means of structural dialogue, capacity building and an evidence based policy agenda.

Project objectives were:

  • Comprehensive structured mapping of governance structures in Kirovohradska oblast. This includes analysis of the institutional structure and organizations operating in the public sector at the oblast and community level, with a description of their formal roles and interconnections at oblast and local community levels
  • Analysis of management and policy practice in Kirovohradska oblast including: 1.) Organizational structure and processes in key government bodies; 2.) degree of decentralization from central government level, policy dialogue and interaction between central, oblast, and local levels.
  • Identifying reform readiness in Kirovohradska oblast:

Assessment of commitment and ability to change towards modern democratic processes at political and administrative level (staff morale)

Identification of key stakeholder expectations for reform.

  • Analysis of skills and competencies for public servants, oblast, local councilors and NGO leaders in Kirovohradska oblast for jointly resolving community’s issues in the context of decentralization.
  • Developing a set of preliminary scenario’s and identifying policy priorities for problem resolving of different at-risk populations.
  • Providing a set of recommendations towards structural dialogues between public administration oblast and local government organizations, local communities, public servants and local councilors.
  • Identifying main training topics and selecting two priority topics. Developing and implementing two case-based courses.
  • Organizing and implementing a working visit to The Netherlands for 8 national trainers.

The total number of participants of training and informational events was 233 persons in Kirovohradska oblast (the planned number was 122 persons):

Of them, 45 are heads of village councils,

28 vice-heads of rayons,

46 members of village and rayon councils,

28 NGO leaders,

Also, other officials of governmental bodies and bodies of local self-government, teachers, social workers.

In addition, the oblast residents learned about the projects thanks to media coverage.

Cooperation with mass media:

Within the framework of the project, 5 TV and 3 radio programs were produced.

Two TV programs were dedicated to the experience of the Netherlands in decentralization processes, they were attended by experts from the Netherlands (Angela Kwok, Teresa Cardoso Ribeiro, Marc van den Muijzenberg). One program was dedicated to the travel of Kirovohrad delegation to the Kingdom of Netherlands, and two programs were dedicated to describing the project and the issues it addressed.

From the Ukrainian team, the people who participated in programs in mass media were Ella Lamakh, Vita Atamanchuk, Lilia Honyukova.

The partners of the project were:

  • Kirovohradska oblast administration,
  • oblast mass media,
  • Center for advance training of governmental officials of Kirovohradska oblast.

 2.  All planned events were implemented (list of events is in Appendix No. 1):

  • assessment of the situation in the oblast
  • Working visit to the Netherlands
  • 2 coordination meetings
  • Meetings of the project’s supervisory board (once every two months)
  • 8 trainings (2 TOTs and 4 trainings)
  • 3 round tables.

 The plans were revised after completion of the project's first stage, namely – after conducting the assessment:

  • the assessment under the project to identify the needs of the oblast, was conducted by Angela Kwok and Marc Vandenberg, PBLQ representatives, in cooperation with the Ukrainian team - Ella Lamakh (project manager) and Lilia Honyukova (NAPA representative).

The assessment indicated that the oblast is not prepared for democratization and decentralization processes at the fast rate we would have wanted. Governmental officials and representatives of the bodies of local self-government predominantly lack skills of public dialogue and communication. They are not trained in planning, analyzing, identifying problems, monitoring and evaluation. The participants did not have any idea about the decentralization mechanisms, and, unfortunately, at the beginning of our project the oblast did not have any new donors stepping up with broad-scale projects for decentralization of the entire oblast. The interventions are still occasional and this does not allow the oblast to make some progressive changes in decentralization processes and in attracting investments.

For this reason, we together with our partners from PBLQ ROI decided to make changes in the stages of project implementation. The first core change in the implementation of the project was to shift the visit to the Netherlands by eight participants selected during the first visit, to the beginning. This team became the local voices for understanding the processes of decentralization, and a guide for the further events.

  • Governmental structures do not have any institutional memory. The new administration was against implementation of the project, because the project was prepared and supported by the previous administration of the oblast. Due to this, we had to establish all stages of cooperation from the very beginning. The new administration of the oblast viewed the project as one of events developed by someone else, not as a contribution to the oblast. They did not believe that there can be a travel to the Netherlands planned for oblast representatives - they were sure that only someone from Kyiv has a chance to be taken there.
  • The research conducted on the level of oblast by the administration and sociologists does not have information necessary to prepare the portrait of the oblast, or to analyze the needs for the start of decentralization process.
  • The administration of the oblast and of the Retraining Center did not see a need of training people from rayons on the topics that would enhance their competences that are needed in the decentralization processes.

After the negotiations with the partners from the Netherlands and the conducted research, the project implementation plan was changed:

It was decided, that at first we will have:

1.  Training trip to the Kingdom of Netherlands of the group from Kirovohradska oblast, so that delegation participants could become agents of influence later, for a successful implementation of the project. It really worked. The team was selected based on the conducted research, getting to know the survey participants and advice of the oblast administration.  A team of 8 people was selected - one person that was representing NAPA from Kyiv (they are the partners of the project), and 7 people from Kirovohradska oblast: advisor of the oblast head, professors from local universities, NGO leaders, head of rayon and vice-head of rayon.  The short report on the trip is given in Appendix 2.

2.  The second event was also corrected (event program is in Appendix 3). It was planned to select one group of 20 people for the project to undergo two trainings for trainers on the topics that are important for decentralization processes. These trained trainers later would conduct further trainings. After the research, it became clear that 20 people is not enough for the oblast where no one had anything done before, no training on enhancing competences was provided, and no training on processes of decentralization for the oblast. In addition, the research indicated that the decentralization process has already started, the communities are being formed, there is a plan for merger of communities, the government demands projects to be filed from new communities, and the local people do not know anything about project management and how to select, study and analyze problems. To help the oblast in this process, it was decided to conduct TOT for 40 people, to make each TOT a 5-day event with dates of arrival and departure, and to train the people using the 4 working days on the topics: teamwork, leader competencies in project management. It was planned that the Team that visited the Netherlands will be helping in conducting the trainings. But it turned out that they were not skilled in project management or in competencies of leaders, too. So during the trainings they were listening and helping to conduct the presentations. Also, assessment of the legislation has shown that there are mechanisms for receiving support for the local communities/newly formed communities by the governmental structures, but the representatives of the communities are not skilled in writing projects and do not have any project management skills. 

For this reason, we decided to change the implementation plan by inviting for the training for trainers not 20, but 50 people, which will enable the oblast to have more local leaders who have relevant knowledge. Number of training participants increased (each training was planned for 20 participants, but the need is greater than this (one training had 24 participants. After the first training, they told other heads of village councils about the interesting training, and, as a result, we had 30 people at the next training). So, we foresee the same situation being the case also in the next trainings ordered by the Center for training and retraining of public servants in Kirovohradska oblast. The first training was conducted for 26 people (and planned only for 20 people), and for the second TOT, we had to increase the number of participants to 33 people. For the second TOT, more people came as the word spread informally that the training is topical and needed for the future aggregated communities.

Quotes of three heads of village councils after the training:

  • "All the oblast is talking that here the Dutchmen teach project management for successful decentralization, I heard it was very interesting, so I came here, and I am amazed".  
  • "I thought at first that these are usual training from Kyiv, some lectures, so I signed up my deputy, and then I heard it is really very useful, so now both of us are trained here".
  • "You explain every detail so well, you bring across all the info. I wish we had training like this 10 years ago, our style of work would have changed long ago".

The number of events themselves is also increased (instead of two planned trainings, we will conduct 5 trainings). Further events under the project were already conducted in cooperation with the trainers who were prepared during ТОТ, and by Ella Lamakh, the project manager.  The bases for the events plans were from ТОТ.

 Within the framework of the project, trainings were conducted in the city of Kropyvnytskyi (3 trainings) and in the oblast's rayons (3 trainings):

  • in Dobrovelychkivskyi rayon, on request of the head of the rayon. This rayon has the lowest rating in all spheres (no investments, the smallest number of NGOs, business owners).
  • Haivoronovskyi rayon, the furthest rayon of the oblast (it is called "the most backward" rayon) and Malovyskivskyi which has a new community level.

Each event had more participants than originally planned at the start. This is caused by the demand of the oblast's residents. The planned events conducted are presented in the table. All feedback questionnaires of participants assess the events as successful and necessary. 

3.  One more event added for implementation under the project is conducting a research. The research was initiated by the training participants and those who visited the Netherlands. The training showed that participants from the regions are not skilled in collecting materials, do not understand what research is for, and are not skilled in processing and using them. For this reason, in cooperation with the Retraining Center, we decided to conduct one more research that would be different from the one conducted in 2016 (before the start of the project), and would be based on the experience received during the study trip to the Netherlands and on training.

During the work, it turned out that the group did not understand why sex disaggregated data is needed, how to formulate questions, and that a research needs to have conclusions and recommendations section.

For example, after the demand to divide the respondents by sex, it turned out that mainly the people against decentralization are women, who are now heads of village councils.  After the demand to write conclusions and recommendations, the group that was processing the research found that many questions in the questionnaire were formulated in an incorrect way and are not important, not allowing to draw conclusions from the answers. The conducted research is attached as Appendix 4.

Our evaluation of program/events.

The intermediate and final outcomes were achieved.

The only outcome that was not achieved is filing analysis and proposals on implementation of pilot project in the oblast to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. It is due to the fact that the administration of the oblast changed. The project was being prepared with one administration, and implemented with a different one. The administration of the oblast tried to show how successful they are in implementing reforms, and was doctoring the indicators for the Cabinet of Ministers. For this reason, they were not interested in showing that there are proposals for the oblast or that it is necessary to implement pilot projects. Based on the Cabinet of Ministers reports, the oblast was a leading one in the reforms. In reality, the situation there is one of the worst in Ukraine. This situation was reported in mass media.

Were the goals achieved? Yes.  According to the reports of the project participants, the oblast did not have any projects of this scale covering such a number of people for training. In the oblast, after the project is over, more than 40 people stay who can be trainers, they received knowledge on project management, they understand what for to conduct analysis and to research the problem before starting to work. The retraining center for officials uses all trainers of the project for further training on decentralization in the oblast rayons. It prepares, in cooperation with them, a new research for polling the population of local communities specifically.

As one of vice-head of rayon said, "I never imagined that I do not know a problem in my rayon. But after a day at the training working on causes of the problem and outcomes of the problem, I understood I was digging in the wrong place".

Was the target audience covered? Yes.

In Ukraine, as the war started, new target groups emerged, which, unfortunately, are not covered in the projects of other donors. All donor organizations try to work with IDPs, even though they are already covered in all projects. But the new groups, unfortunately, are not being engaged. These are - ATO veterans who become community leaders, NGO leaders, without having the relevant knowledge or training. Kirovohradska oblast is the second one in Ukraine by the number of residing veterans.  Also, widows and female veterans who want to help, but do not know how to apply their energy. These are the deputies of village councils who think they know everything and do not heed to the opinions of others. Also, the teachers who will keep teaching the youth, or who become unemployed after the schools are closed.  First of all, we were engaging these groups mentioned above for implementation of the project. They make up about 50 per cent from the target group of the project. A special attention of the project was on working with journalists. They were invited for all project events, and one of the journalists who went through training for trainers, wrote in her questionnaire: «I now know what topics to cover on decentralization, and what questions to ask».

One of the expressions of a round table participant: «I saw the event under your project, understood it will be interesting, and came to you.»,

The project attempted to engage participants into other projects that are being implemented by partners or under decentralization projects. Our partners from the Netherlands were sending to us notifications about new projects and events. Under other decentralization projects, we were sharing information about the activities of our project.

For example, project participants started cooperating under the projects UN Women, Ukrainian Women's Fund. They also visited events under other projects.

Conclusions on skills of the implementing organization. Owing to cooperation with PBLQ ROI, Dutch Institute for Public Administration, or organizations learned to discuss and review all facets of before making the plans. the negotiation stages were long and we could not get used to it, we thought «Again we waste so much time for things that are obvious». But later we felt the need to discuss all little details. For us it became unthinkable to organize anything without discussing all details. The next important training point is planning ahead and following those plans - for us it was an unusual thing to have a plan for a year ahead, which is even dated. Before we were not doing things in our projects. We started to feel more confident and assured. And the main thing, we demand similar approach from others. If we receive an invitation in a day or two before the event, we respond that this is too of an early notice. If they write us that the event was already planned, we ask to show all stages of preparation and the goal, topicality and results. The same thing was with Kropyvnytskyi - they were scared when we asked them to plan dates of events for a year or for half a year ahead.

An important thing during the project was that our partners were not pressuring us, they were providing to us knowledge and waiting for us to respond on how we want to proceed. This was the feeling of all the team in Kropyvnytskyi and in Kyiv. Before, we had this course of actions learned where we wait for instructions and act only then, and we did not need to think. But gradually, owing to our common work, we got used to speaking out our thoughts, preferences, and giving proposals.

We learned to work with the banking system not only for receiving funds in Ukraine, but also with sending them out of Ukraine, and we saw that the system remains unchanged since the times of President Kuchma. Even though we strive to be EU members now, we have not even adjusted our legislation for transferring money abroad.  Our partners from the Netherlands taught us that all planning and start of events is possible only after all financial obligations are complied with.

One more thing we learned is valuing our work and our safety. It turned out that the vans taking us from Kyiv to Kropyvnytskyi do not have safety belts. The Ukrainian team did not pay attention to this fact, we were ready to go. But owing to our partners we revised our attitudes to safety and to respecting our own needs.

Proposals for the future / lessons learned:

  • It is advisable to implement all projects in cooperation with the colleagues from the Netherlands. Then, you can get to know people from the EU better. You can see them not only during sessions and events. You will learn about management in preparation, in details. Learn to view your work from different angles. Learn about your colleagues not only in worktime, but also in everyday life, get to know their families for further projects.
  • Travels abroad should be an obligatory thing for people from small cities and villages. For many it was the first flight in their lives. After travels to the Netherlands, we need to motivate people to work in projects or teach. Under the project, the participants of delegation to the Netherlands organized a round table where they told about their experience, presented their experience in mass media, and were implementing a project as our new partners.
  • One of the lessons learned was something that raised interest of all the oblast. Liliya Synchuk, vice-head of rayon, who visited Holland, made a presentation about how they treat displaced residents in the Kingdom of the Netherlands - that they all need to work, learn the language, obey the rules, and this is called a democratic approach.  This example was very important for her, and she shared it with everyone. After this, the oblast administration invited her for all events on decentralization or IDP problems to speak on "Lessons of Holland for Ukraine".

The project is over already, but we continue to work with the majority of our participants from the oblast, and invite them for further events under other projects. For example, Roman Zasiadvovk, head of village council, a veteran, became a gender equality trainer. He wrote in his survey the following, «I did not even know that gender topic is the main thing, something to start decentralization with».

  • One of the lessons we learned is that we do not need to conduct round tables, conferences, if people lack knowledge, and, most importantly, leadership. First round tables have shown that in Kirovohradska oblast the methods of work at events are still Soviet-style. They added speakers to the program, those speakers just read some text, asked if anyone has any questions, and that was it. People are afraid to speak, to discuss, and they do not believe that changes are possible.

Kirovohradska oblast is not like other oblasts of Ukraine that had many donors, and many NGOs with experience in international projects. In this oblast, even most NGOs were created based on an instruction from the top, or people affiliated with governmental administration were assigned as NGO leaders. At the same time, today at the field we have many young veterans who want to work but lack knowledge, there are also widows and young people who do not want to emigrate and try to be proactive, desire to learn. Owing to the project, we found such young people in villages and in rayons.

Proposals:

  • To train representatives of local communities to conduct analysis and to plan development strategies for rayon or village. They are not aware of the fact that since 2018 the government will be allocating funds for the communities that have development strategies - but no one even has this kind of knowledge. There are many cases already when they hire experts from the regions, who do take the payment, but do not really contribute a quality input.
  • It is necessary to train to achieve improvement of skills by competencies - how to work with teams and in teams, to provide knowledge on leadership. The majority of administrators and officials of local self-government bodies suffer from burnout, they lack leadership, and without it, decentralization processes will hardly be implemented. At the training, the tone of most administrators and officials was like this: «If you yell and swear at people, they might listen, but if you speak calmly, no one even cares, everyone spits on you». 

Appendix 1

Project events

Date

Name of Activity

Activity

Total participants

 

5 June 2016

Round Table

 Decentralization in Kirovograd oblast

 

23

6 – 7 June  2016

Training

Decentralization in The Netherlands in a glimpse

15

8 – 9 June 2016

Meetings

Public servants, Financial Administration

 

10

23 – 29 October 2016

Working visit to the Netherlands

Working visit to the Netherlands

8

3 – 4 December 2016

Training

Preparing and designing projects for governmental officials, NGO leaders and community leaders

31

16 December  2016

Round Table

"Development of social services in the conditions of decentralization, taking into account international experience"

38

21 -24 March 2017

Training

Administrating decentralization processes. Project management

26

27 – 30  March 2017

Training

Managing decentralization processes

33

23 -24 May 2017

Training

Forms and methods for cooperation between civil society institutions and the bodies of the executive power

32

25-26 May 2017

Training

Forms and methods of cooperation between civil society institutions and the bodies of the executive power

22

27- 28 May 2017

Training

Forms and methods of cooperation between civil society institutions and the bodies of the executive power

23

17 - 18 June 2017

Training

Forms and methods of cooperation between civil society institutions and the bodies of the executive power

27

27 September 2017

Round Table

1/Presentation of the Assessment “Decentralization proses on a local levels in Kirovohradska oblast: Public opinion” and 2/Topical problems of integration of territorial communities in Kirovohradska oblast

52

 

Appendix 2

Description of travel to the Netherlands: The visit greatly contributed to explaining to the participants the sense of the decentralization processes, for building trust and confidence, and for further establishment of close contacts, which is the main thing for the oblast, which has little experience of international projects, and still has some fears to overcome. The visit was dedicated to studying the experience of decentralization, which has long time been established in the kingdom. Europeans are actually interested in development of Ukraine. Today they gladly support social projects aimed to increase the living standards in our country.

Closer familiarity with operation of their social sector makes it clear − the entire public administration system is focused on care about an individual. We were particularly impressed by the phrase spoken by a public employee:

"Sometimes people are unaware that they need help. Therefore, the state itself should take care of it!”

Another surprising thing was the fact that the major problem of retirees in the Netherlands is mobility. That is, not how to survive for retired pay, to pay utility bills, to buy medicines, and still have something remaining for bread, but merely the possibility or impossibility to quickly get to one’s destination. Any reforms in the state begin with a question – “How else can we improve the life of every citizen?” Yet today we have a focus concentrated not only on an individual person, but also on their family. Objective of the state is to improve living conditions, to do everything in order to provide maximum services to satisfy all key needs. Because only such  family will have the most positive climate, and only such family will bring up successful and happy citizens.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that people, who have created the conditions for a high quality of life in their country, are eager to share their experience and help others. Dutch implement similar programs not only in Ukraine. They also work with other Eastern European countries.

Basic training location for the guests from Kropyvnytskyi has become the Dutch Institute for Public Administration (PBLQ) in Hague. Trainers of the project Marc van den Muijzenberg and Teresa Cardoso Ribeiro familiarized the delegates with the features of social, fiscal and educational sectors within the framework of decentralization.

Europeans' experience is really enlightening.

Back in the 1970s of the last century, the country has started decentralization. Currently, it consists of 12 provinces where 390 municipalities operate (compared to 460 previously). Decentralization initially had met great resistance in society, because changes were taking place too quickly. Isn’t this the same as Ukraine is currently going through?

Municipalities operate independently of the central government, however, if during two years they have budget shortfall, then they become a subject of attention and scrutinized inspection of special authorities.

Education is completely funded by the state. Schools are mostly public, but if parents have the possibility, then they may create a private school by means of their own funds.

The reverse experience is interesting as well – when once decentralized fields return to central management.  For example, now the police is subordinated only to the center. Many years of experience have shown that decentralization in this area only dilutes, while such a specific sector requires the consistence in decisions and actions. And Dutch are not afraid to speak even about this experience; on contrary – they warn about possible errors.

Another problem similar to ours is optimization of the schools. They still have schools that are being closed or are expected to be closed. The whole system works so that a school is built with consideration, that, in case of its future closing, building could be used for other purposes.

In Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching (ICLON), Kropyvnytskyi delegates have gained managerial experience of adaptation of the refugees, which will be especially relevant in work with the internal displaced persons.

Each refugee in the Netherlands has many benefits. They receive social welfare payments; an adaptation program is developed for them. For each person, the mentor is assigned, helping them to adjust themselves. An adaptation program envisages language learning, finding home and work. People under 30 years old are also guided in obtaining an education. All refugees have the advantage over local residents in receiving a home. In densely populated cities where there are problems with free living quarters, the houses were dedicatedly built for them. An adaptation program is commonly designed for 24 weeks. During this time a refugee must find the work. The question – what if they pass the program but will not want to work? – has shocked the Dutch; they absolutely do not understand how this could be. Such precedents are not recorded.

In association of social support Veteraneninstituut (Institute of Veterans), Kropyvnytskyi representatives have had a look at the details of state’s work with the veterans who took part in peacekeeping missions.

The Veteraneninstituut has representatives in each municipality. Their work is aimed at providing maximum help for the veterans.

First of all, constant activities are carried out on promotion and informing the public about essentiality and nobility of their mission. For example, there is a social program called "Veteran in the classroom" where students are engaged in regular meetings with soldiers. Every veteran has a social card providing discounts on certain services and products. Incidentally, store owners often address to the organization and suggest including their store to a social program; namely, society itself is ready to offer discounts to such people. This is despite the fact that the country is not fighting and there are no wars on its territory.

And, of course, veterans can always receive qualified psychological and medical assistance. According to the survey, only 5% of veterans are dissatisfied with the way they are treated in their country, while 95% feel totally secure.

In Quality Assurance Institute of Municipalities, the guests have learned about the taxation system in Holland. 70% of tax is paid in the country from each single Euro. And the most interesting thing is − all government policy is intended to convince people to do it with joy. But how can they be convinced? Naturally, only practically, by demonstrating where this money is spent – for instance, on ideal roads, on clean streets, on various social and educational programs.

Vasyl Smaglyuk, member of delegation, chairman of Dobrovelychkivska OSA

“Personally I have been most of all impressed by three things in the Netherlands: 1. Political culture. It is crucial for the authorities to receive common social approval before taking major decisions. For example, to build houses for refugees, the municipality asked permission of the community.  2. Culture of management. In the government of the Netherlands, management responsibilities mostly lie in delegating the authority to the level where the problem has occurred, and where it is supposed to be resolved in the best way. Preference is given to the horizontal mechanism of interaction between participants of managing process. 3. Decentralization. In financial terms, local governance is truly independent”.

Vita Atamanchukmember of delegation, Adviser of the Head of the Kirovohradska OSA:

“This was an opportunity to see the result of decentralization in action. Whatever Dutch do – they primarily think about how this initiative will help each individual. It was economic crisis of the 1980s that urged them to start active implementation of decentralization. And as a result − today this is the country having one of the best levels of citizens’ social security. They consider cooperation between the government and civil society one of the components of decentralization success”.

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