Just everybody is looking forward to the year of 2020 to end. The Office for European Expertise and Communications is set to share its most exciting and crucial developments: events, programmes, texts, workshops and even an NGO Guidance to serve as an inspiration for you.
Despite the crisis, desperation or anguish, we have pulled through it alright by doing all the possible and impossible, and now we all deserve to pride ourselves on the work accomplished. We have a great future looming ahead! It is high time to recall all the things coming about within these challenging 366 days.
Zrabili (They’ve Done It!) Prize
The year of 2020 had quite a fair beginning and started with acknowledgements. Jointly with the Human Library Centre, Dziedzič and the CityDog.by, Vitebsk4.me and The Rehijanaĺnaja Hazieta weekly Publishing Houses we awarded prizes to the initiatives targeting useful and holistic goals.
For more information on the prize award outcomes, please, refer to our materials entitled: The looks of those making Minsk and Belarus better in 2019.
Breakfast to Commemorate the World NGO Day
«The non-governmental organisations are providing direct services and protecting the social groups’ interests; but they are so infrequently thanked!» – says Śviatlana Zinkievič, Director of the Office for European Expertise and Communications.
This is exactly why the Office arranged a festive breakfast to commemorate the World NGO Day. Breakfasts of the kind provide an occasion for activists, female and male ones alike, to spend some time together, exchange news and support each other. We do hope next year will bring about more grounds and occasions for the meetings.
The pandemic has drawn us way apart. To avoid losing each other, and to spend some time together, and just to exchange news, all through 2020 we have had two more breakfasts. It might seem like a cup of coffee with a croissant is not a big deal, but it is exactly the kind of support we sometimes miss very much, really.
21 Activism Days
This is the challenge we have invented especially for those who had dreamt since long ago to try doing activism things, but lacked resolution or had no idea what to start with.
Things look quite simple: one subscribes for a mailing and receives every day a minor assignment to complete, like, e.g., buying a takeaway coffee in one’s own cup rather than in a disposable one. Or, if one is not accustomed to using grammatical feminitives, trying to learn more about the structures.
As early as in March we staged the Makaton, a two-day-long brainstorm intended for young girls and boys. All the things combined together in one place for the youths to be able to invent the initiatives they find significant and opportune.
The two days proved to be very valuable ones, since they came out with numerous ideas ranging from an anti-loneliness platform to environmental comics. Something else that matters is that those were the very last offline days. The next day, the Office team decided on remote work.
Was It a Possibility?
The pandemic has modified our plans in earnest, but pushed us to a new «Was It a Possibility?» headline, where we began sharing our emotions, challenges or life hacks related to home office work.
The whole thing started with the team stories; yet, transformed further into a reflection provided by people representing various initiatives. Their stories were told to us by Nataĺlia Sacunkievič, a human rights activists with the Viasna (Spring) centre; Nik Ancipaŭ, a co-founder of the MAKEOUT; Junelia Saĺnikava, a Pact employee; Taćciana Śnitko, a BELMED Project initiative coordinator, and many others.
Following the headline introduction, we took to keeping the initiative on and arranged a number of online support groups and technical advice sessions intended for NGOs. It was our ambition to support others during these difficult Covid times.
In case you have missed it, please, refer to the text Life Online: How to manage an iphone remotely and keep general documentation by our technical expert Sacharok, which text is still relevant, and to a material by the Office’s project manager Valieryja Vaŭkahonava, entitled: Three NGO behaviour strategies in a crisis.
Back in May, having had a strenuous but rewarding remote work time, we developed a new Office for European Expertise and Communications website.
It does really matter to us to stay accessible, available and intelligible for our audiences. Besides, we seek accumulating on the website the most utilitarian and relevant content. Now we have an Opportunities section: funding, events and vacancies, all in one place.
Besides, we have headlines, like People Who Inspire, where we tell female and male activist stories, or Expert opinion, which contains a collection of the most exciting expertise on fundraising, human rights, gender equality, inclusion, environmental friendliness, and so on and so forth.
If you feel like sharing your expertise, please, send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, by specifying Expertise in the topic line. Afterwards, we shall interview you or prepare an analytical text.
By the way, December saw the publication of a material prepared by Aliaksandra Savinič, our PR specialist, entitled: Aged 13 I learned my mum had HIV. Why do teenagers openly tell their life stories taking the 3rd place in the Journalists for Tolerance media contest.
We have used this anything but simple year to send 29 «Have You Heard the News?» mailings, where we used to collect for you the most breath-taking activism news, useful practices, vacancies or programmes. If you are still not subscribed to our mailings, the time is just right to do so.
Sometimes women lack self-confidence and sometimes the society does not trust women – all these are stereotypes. Our Office believes in woman power, solidarity and competences, which is why we have created a learning facility exclusively for women, i.e. Woman Playlists.
The course provided quite a few novelty insights, like its remote format, gamification and playlists. The latter is a learning format that is alike musical playlists, but includes workshops, trainings, texts or videos, rather than songs.
More details on the topic were provided by Julija Stankievič and Maryna Korž: «No one can force or send you down.» And also more information on the professions a university fails to train in.
To what extent did the course help the women? The course attendants covered it in their interview: «There is always someone who is better than I am!» Why does the Office help women to be more visible and performing? Please, read, if you have missed it.
And then November saw a new playlist appearing: «I take care of myself and of others». It is a supportive format helping women in times of a crisis to develop their leadership traits and sustainability. It is here that you can find answers to the centremost relevant issues, like looking for a job, financial literacy, psychological support, media literacy, in-conflict behaviours, meditation, body practices and support group creation.
Hanna Ahiejeva, a project manager, told more on the importance of keeping in mind to take care of oneself in a crisis.
How to Live and Work Online
Between March and November we had collected a multitude of useful life hacks on online work: e.g., best social media and platforms for team communication, most convenient computer programmes for trainings and workshops, and many more.
Thus, for example, we have developed jointly with the UNDP an NGO Guidance on how to live and work online. The Guidance was authored by Maryna Korž, Dyjana Liaškievič, Julija Stankievič and Aliesia Baĺčunas.
Leadership in Civil Society Organisations Online Course
This year we have rolled out a Leadership in Civil Society Organisations online course. The course has been completed by 58 female and male civil society leaders from the Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
During the course time, the attendants analysed their leadership styles, learned how to negotiate, learned to settle conflict situations and learned more about team motivation and women’s leadership. The training was provided bilingually in English and Russian.
We pride ourselves very much on the outcomes achieved and on the opportunity provided to share our knowledge and experiences with the Eastern Partnership countries’ participants.
Media Literacy Guidebook
With due regard to the current enormous information influx, we have even arranged a media literacy training session, where we taught how to differentiate between a fake and the truth and how to avoid a news line addiction.
If you have failed to attend our training, please, refer to our big «Media literacy guide: learning how to read and verify the news».
Emergency support and Joint NGO Initiatives
The Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be an extremely harsh time for the vulnerable populations, where an uninterrupted social service provision is a key. We have responded to their needs and launched some joint initiatives with the entities helping persons with disabilities, children and senior citizens.
Cross-Cutting NGO Values (a Playlist)
In December we have rolled out a course for all those working or volunteering for not-for-profit organisations How to interpret and apply cross-cutting values, so as to assist entities or initiatives in finding out what the cross-cutting values are all about and how to integrate them in an organisation’s operations.
The human rights-based approach, inclusion, hate speech counteraction, gender equality or environmental friendliness – these and other topics were brought together in one within our course. By the way, the course has been delivered in a playlist format, when one was free to select independently themes or tracks of interest. The enrolment is still open: all you need to do is to fill out a brief questionnaire.
Every year brings along both joyfulness and disillusionments. May the new year of 2021 turn out to be even more interesting and productive! As for us, the Office for European Expertise and Communications, we are grateful to the civil society organisations and to all our female and male partners for their wonderful achievements and contributing to a better future!