A fresh look at the European philanthropy ecosystem: is there a place for Ukrainian practices?


Oleksandra Lytvynenko


Becoming a part of the European philanthropic community for Ukrainian entity was not easy: almost half a year had passed from the time when we filled out the application form to the day when) Zagoriy Foundation becomes a member of the European Foundation Centre (EFC). As the 31st annual EFC conference became the first for me, I didn’t know what to expect. Striving for European best philanthropic practices, it was a huge surprise, that philanthropy in Ukraine and the rest of Europe has a lot in common and some Ukrainian practices are even more progressive.

This year’s conference was entitled ‘From Crisis to Opportunity: How Can Philanthropy Accelerate Sustainable Change?’. To answer this question, the agenda was designed in a specific way. The topics of the panel discussions were divided into four tracks: charity, democracy, society, climate. The sessions took place in parallel, and everyone could choose a preferred topic or speakers.

I attended the Philanthropy track that was brilliantly designed by Lucy Bernholz. Indeed, some things discussed among the panellists, still don’t exist in the Ukrainian charitable discourse. And this is something that should be pushed forward. But in the same time it was the other way round. In many ways, charitable practices in Ukraine are much more innovative and progressive than those of our respective Western counterparts.

And here’s what I have noticed: in four days I haven’t seen any representatives from Eastern European foundations among the speakers or panellists. I had thought about why his happened and here are my thoughts:

First, for the European community, Ukrainian philanthropy and the processes taking place in the sector are not the focus or area of much interest. Ukraine, as a country with longstanding traditions of charity and philanthropy, as a country where a charity has become innovative and trendy – is not known. All prominent Ukrainian philanthropists, who conducted systemic positive changes back in the 17, 18, 19 centuries like Tereschenko, Khanenko, Kharytonenko, etc. were forgotten due to 80 years of the Soviet propaganda. Inherent charitable traditions and practices were neglected. And still for the international community such Ukraine remains unknown. This Ukraine remains in the shadow of war in the east of Ukraine, the occupation of Crimea, the low level of vaccination.

Secondly, most philanthropic institutions in Europe have a centuries-old tradition and are often not ready to change. Implementing even small changes is very difficult for them. Moreover, it is hard to accept the fact that in a relatively young country that is at war and has political instability, successful philanthropic practices and innovations can be born.

Indeed, we, as representatives of Ukrainian philanthropy, need to bring the best international practices back home. However, we must also understand that we have something to share with international community. I really want other countries to be proud of adapting Ukrainian charitable practices to their national context.

Oleksandra Lytvynenko is head of Development and Partnerships at Zagoriy Foundation

The author is writing in a personal capacity and the views in this article do not reflect the opinions of any affiliated organisations

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