Assistance to youth social initiatives in Kharkiv

UPSHIFT Ukraine, a project of UNICEF’s global innovative program supported by the European Union started in Kharkiv in early August. According to the project’s local partner, Foundation for Professional Development of Kharkiv, this project is aimed at helping the youth not only prove themselves and change their social status but also solve a particular problem in their community. We discussed this project with Maryna Ladyzhenska, the head of project in Kharkiv.

Maryna, a lot of projects for children of vulnerable categories have for years been implemented in Ukraine in general and in Kharkiv in particular. How UPSHIFT Ukraine project differs from other, similar ones? What makes this project unique?

For Kharkiv, and for Ukraine in general, UPSHIFT program is a unique phenomenon, because this project aims at developing competences of the 21st century in young people, preparing them for adult, independent life and orienting toward professions that would be in demand in the future. At the same time, this project is not a professional orientation program as we know it. Its main purpose is to help young people identify what they really care about, provide them with knowledge and instruments of solving the problem, and change the situation with the help of a social project. In other words, the most important task is to form, via social entrepreneurship, a new generation who would become agents of positive changes in the Ukrainian society. And to make sure that the experience of running projects does not remain purely theoretical one, the participants will be offered an opportunity to receive financing to make their ideas come true with the support from the European Union.

Why the choice of the project’s implementation location fell on Kharkiv?

The choice of our city wasn’t accidental. Kharkiv is a young, rapidly growing city. It became the home for a large number of IDPs from the Donbas, it receives students from all regions of Ukraine, and it’s the place where innovations and youth initiatives are concentrated. At the same time, there is a substantial number of adolescents and youths left out of the diversity of projects, unable to participate in them. Sometimes, it happens simply because of the lack of information or bad surroundings.

Therefore, the piloting of UPSHIFT project in Ukraine starts in Kharkiv, a city of over a million population, to test it on various social groups and analyze results before launching it in other regions.

Who is going to help young people with developing a strategy and then an action plan to implement their projects?

Mentors, coaches. These are the people trained specifically for UPSHIFT Ukraine program, who will walk the entire path with their team from the idea to the project ready for implementation. We have selected 20 persons from more than 80 candidates, who underwent training by international experts and today, are ready to get to work. These are successful entrepreneurs, coaches with unconventional approaches to teaching, public activists, youth leaders. The average age of our mentors is 32 years, which allows to combine professional experience and youth vigor.

Are there any preferences as regards the topic of projects?

What makes UPSHIFT program unique is that there are no predetermined topics or preferred areas. The participants themselves decide what they care about: it could be solution for the problem of accessibility of a children’s playground by people with disability in some particular courtyard, or organization of leisure for vocational school students in one of Kharkiv’s districts. The point is to make sure that young people themselves initiate and do good deeds for young (and not only) people, not just perform tasks.

How the best projects are going to be selected? Who will decide on whether a particular project deserves to win?

Projects will be selected by an expert jury who will definitely include representatives of UNICEF Ukraine, Foundation for Professional Development of Kharkiv, local businesses and community. We plan to finance half of projects. It is possible that financing would go not to the most brilliant project but to the one whose developers achieve the biggest progress vis-à-vis themselves before participating in this program. Any project may receive additional support from businesses or private individuals; we plan to invite them as guests to the defense of projects, and organize two demonstration days.

How support will be provided to teams after the project ends?

All projects that received financing must be launched within three months. All that time, a coach and invited specialists (accountant, marketing specialist, SMM specialist, designer) will work with the team – all depends on specifics of particular projects. This way, the participants would work in almost real business conditions, and perhaps for someone, this first step would become a launching pad for professional success and own business.

Who may participate in this project and how?

Teams of 3 to 5 members aged between 14 and 21 years and currently residing in Kharkiv are eligible for participation in UPSHIFT Ukraine project. For that purpose, you have to complete a team application and describe in simple words the problem you want to solve, and then, attend a small interview. Six streams of 10 teams working simultaneously in each of them will be held from September 2018 to March 2019. The first stream will start on 14 September with a three-day learning module, and registration for this stream is already underway, ending on 2 September.

The article was originally published on Izvestia Kharkov