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Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv


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Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv

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The Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv was founded in 2018. Initially the main aim of all our activities was focused on the promotion of the human rights concept, all forms of equality and inclusion. We worked mostly through the organization of public lectures and artistic projects. One of the strongest characteristics of the ECHR-team belongs to the permanent analysis of the context, realistic evaluation of what was done and self reflection, so that is why during almost 4 years of organization's activity we provided many experiments to understand how to have better results in promotion of the idea of human rights, equality and inclusion. It is needed to be mentioned that pandemic COVID-19 and time of lock down helped us to understand the current direction of the organizational development. Before, we were oriented on organization of the educational events, and mentioned that most of them were attended by the same people. Of course, there were exceptions. For example, we performed the project Psychotherapy for the city. It was a series of public lectures about mental health issues. Lectures took place in Lesya Ukrainka Theater in Lviv, some lectures were attended by more than 500 people. We also provided high-quality streaming of the lectures, and more than 10 thousand YouTube users watched each of them. Which, we think, is quite a successful result, but Psychotherapy for the city was a combination of people's needs, charisma of lecturer and magic of place. When we organized events about human rights and equality, they were much less attended. The same people attended lectures, so we started to work for a small bubble, which respects human rights principles.


When the pandemic started, we weretraped at our homes and decided to experiment with digital formats. Our team is occured to be pretty good at content creation. We did lots of livecasts, developed an Instagram page and started to provide interactive trainings in stories (unique format, created by ECHR-team), started to create explanatory and edutainment videos. We appreciated all of the opportunities provided by the digital world, and understood that through the content creation we can reach much more people than through the organization of events. So, now, for more than a year Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv works mostly as content creators, and the events are provided for the community. We also continued to work in the format of artistic projects. In 2021 photo exhibition "8 billion reasons to be free" and performance "146 Stars Visible for the Nacked Eye" were done.
Pandemic influenced not only ECHR's formats of work, it is also influenced our priority areas of work. One more learned lesson during the pandemic is related to Ukrainian society and the raising of awareness about different socially important issues among Ukrainians. Ukraine is currently in the middle of the crisis with the growth of the anti-vax movement. When ECHR-team analyzes the thinking process and the behavior of Ukrainians, it is easy to find out that quite often (not always) the anti-vax views are combined with homophobic, racist, sexist and populistic ones. The root of the discriminatory attitude is in the lack of critical thinking, which is quite often linked to lack of the basic knowledge. As a result, it is a huge obstacle for the human rights defense campaigns, because it is needed to fix gaps in the basic knowledge first to start educational activities on human rights and minorities issues.
So, the ECHR-team started to work to fill these gaps. Priorities of the organization are: development of critical thinking, bringing the understanding of how society, state, law, human beings work, human rights and inclusion.

As we mentioned, the project Psychotherapy for the City was really successful. It engaged big and different audiences and provided lots of useful information. We received many messages that these lectures helped people to start to treat their mental health. We would also like to mention interactive trainings in Instagram stories. We provided two - about LGBTI and Roma people. It looks like a storytelling project with the use of interactive tools provided by Instagram. Training about LGBTI lasted 5 days, and we managed to engage more than 3 thousand people. Training about Roma people lasted 7 days, and in just 1 day we managed to engage 17 000 people.
The team of ECHR-Lviv is also worth mentioning. For 4 years of work, this organization was a place for many young people. Currently, our team consists of 6 people (age 21-32), but in different times we also organized activities for volunteers, who were mostly students. We are also always open for youngsters who want to get some experience, so we engage these people in our work.

The problem we are trying to solve:

Actually we have already mentioned the problem we address in the first question, it is related to the lack of critical thinking. It is really a huge problem for Ukrainian society. As we mentioned, the anti-vax movement is very strong in Ukraine, and the popularity of conspiracy theories are high. We also noticed that it is very often situation when anti-vax views are accompanied with homophobic, racist, sexist and populistic ones. We consider this tendency to be quite threatening, because lack of critical thinking affects all social spheres: from positions of minorities to results of elections.

"Such situation causes the risk when some of social groups can be isolated from the whole society or announced to be ""enemies"". We have an example of neighbor countries, which provide anti LGBTI and unrespectful to women policies. It is so easy to convince people that homosexuality is a threat for family values, when the society know nothing about sexuality and know lack about demographic situation. It is easy to use as an argument for abortion restriction information that heart beating of child starts from the 6-th week, because society at all does not have a habit to the facts or to believe in science. It is easy to provide ethnic profiling actions when society is full of stereotypes, and it is much easier to build inclusive streets when disability is perceived as a sin and a punishment. We think that lack of critical thinking, gaps in basic education and low level of information hygiene are largely the cause of widespread discriminatory sentiment among Ukrainians."

The solution we are proposing:

We realize that it is difficult for a small team to overcome such a monster as lack of critical thinking completely, so we want to plan realistic targets.

We believe that we can change the situation through the development of a culture of understanding before judgement and decision. Our approach of reaching out to his target is related to the creation of socially important content in the style of explanatory journalism.

"We believe it helps to form our community of people who also share the principle ""understanding first"", we call them agents of good sense. These people, in turn, spread the culture of understanding to other audiences, so the percentage of critical Ukrainians will continue to grow."

What success looks like for us:

"When we think about what can be accepted as successful results for us, we imagine several things:

1) our podcasts are in TOP-20 of the most popular podcasts in Ukraine

2) we started to work on the audio series: true crime about human trafficking and fictional about hate crimes (we dream that they will be popular and Netflix will be the plots to film movie or series🤗)

3) The community of good sense agents are growing all the time

4) We have secret chat with our funders from the community. 200 people are in this chat.

We suppose that our work can help young people to be more open about their feelings and more interested in sharing their thoughts. It will also help minorities to feel safer in Ukraine."

Where we are are based:

Lviv, Ukraine

Funding we are applying for:

$14,000 - $15,000 per year

How this funding will help us achieve our goals:

This funding will help us to create content systematically and non-stop. We will be able to talk about socially important issues in different formats — text materials, podcasts, social media tools. It is needed, first, to share the information with different audiences and, second, to maintain the constant link to our community, agents of the good sense.

How this funding will strengthen our group:

"Within this project we plan to do a lot for the development of our community, we believe we can receive strong support from the community, which may also support us financially in the future. So, this funding can bring us closer to reducing grant funding in the future and increasing community revenue.

As far as we propose to focus on creating podcasts and to support the technical set needed for podcasts, further we will be able to develop audio direction, to create narrative podcasts and audio series based on the social agenda."

How we gain by being a Spark Fund partner:

"We would like to join learning opportunities (any topics, we just like the process of getting to know something new). We will appreciate the networking activities to know about best practices of other NGOs and initiatives. By the way, we are also happy to welcome other partners in Lviv and share our own experience."

How we would like to spend a grant through the Spark Fund:

"We strongly feel the need to increase the team in order to implement all our ideas and work on organizational stability. So, if we receive a grant through the Spark Fund, we would like to invite three new employers to the team. Community manager will provide specific activities (events, campaigns, communication, unique content) for the ECHR's community. Researcher will provide the search for the information needed for text materials, podcasts, and newsletters. We want to employ a student as a researcher.

If we receive the funding, we will develop the podcasts, so the third new person in the team will be a sound engineer. This format is gaining popularity in Ukraine, but we know that our team can bring unique content which will be loved by many. We decided to focus on podcasts, as it is a very intimate way of communicating with target audiences. We suppose it will help not only to share information, but also to be closer to our community.

First, we want to produce two talk shows — about books and about legal issues; one storytelling podcast — about people and their great deeds. In the future, we want to develop the format of audio series. We tried to record podcasts in experiment mode, and it turns out to be very meaningful. All that keeps us from publishing is the lack of equipment for quality sound. This is very important because low quality can devalue both the meaning and the issues of podcasts in general."

Our Annual Income:

50 000 USD

Our Organization Structure:

Making decisions about organizational development in the Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv is preceded by a team discussion. Everyone is welcome to share his or her thoughts, everyone can disagree. The final decisions are made mostly by Daryna Zarzhytska, CEO of the organization, on the basis of the discussion results.

"Concrete areas of work are coordinated by team members, and the decisions in these areas are made by team members on their own. One of the key features of our work is trust in each other and specific division of responsibilities and areas of responsibility. There is also the Board of ECHR-Lviv. Board Members mostly provide mentoring and consulting support to the executive team."

ECHR-Lviv is a youth-led NGO. The average age of the team is 26,7 years. Daryna Zarzhytska, CEO of the organization, is 28 years old. Two of the three Board Members are also under 30. ECHR-Lviv also works for youth. The age categories of our target audiences are: 18-23, 24-35. To be a youth-led organization means several very important things for us: 1) to be open to experiments and modern trends to bring new practices to Ukrainian information field 2) to be a place (both digital and physical) where other young people can learn, receive the experience and have an opportunity to fulfill their own idea.

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