How to sustain cultural development in communities: opportunities, resources, and challenges

How will the cultural objects be “divided” after the districts are redrawn? What are the current opportunities for cultural development? How do the communities in Ukraine preserve their cultural heritage objects? How can an outstanding cultural event help the community to improve its infrastructure, for example, result in road repairs?      

These are some of the topics highlighted during a public discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center, attended by representatives of the central government, international technical assistance projects, local self-government, and experts.

The event was moderated by Leonid Marushchak, historian, head of the project “Under construction: Museum open” at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.


“In Ukraine culture and history is the foundation that provides richness and depth to the national experience. Culture is just as important as good governance, or a strong economy, or social justice. Today we’re talking about the importance of maintaining and developing culture and cultural services in the context of decentralization. We consider the changes that this reform has brought, both nationally and locally. Decentralization is one of the country’s most important and critical reform initiatives, and a success for Ukraine,” James Hope, Mission Director for USAID Ukraine and Belarus said.

How is the cultural sector funded?

The 2020 budget for the cultural sector and information policy exceeds last year’s, said Oleksandr Tkachenko, Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. An extra UAH one billion (approx. USD 35.2 million) was disbursed to the Ministry to offset the losses that cultural and creative industries incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister added.

To achieve efficient cultural development in the context of decentralization, actions at central and regional level need to be coordinated, the Minister said. He elaborated on several programs that the Ministry started to accelerate cultural development locally.


“There’s an ongoing institutional support program run by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation. During the current third phase, the Foundation can disburse UAH 295 million (approx. USD 10.4 million) to support local cultural institutions. The Ministry developed regional tourism strategies and identified ‘regional magnets of attraction’ for the tourism industry. We’re in the second phase of the learning program ‘Academy of the Cultural Leader’ that brings together cultural workers of the consolidated communities, (currently 45 consolidated communities or CCs). We’ve developed a joint program with regional state administrations to unlock potential of the regions. Meanwhile, development of the cultural services centers is on top of the list, we hope to launch them as pilot projects in several regions. Respective funding is available. Sixteen thousand libraries, 16 thousand community centers and clubs are to be converted into up-to-date centers providing cultural services, they are expected to become a new quality attraction, for example, digital libraries, film meetups etc. We realize that we need the consolidated communities to actively engage, we can do nothing on our own. If the communities come up with initiatives, we gladly support them. There is a funding model, when transformation of such cultural centers is partly funded by the consolidated communities and regional government, while the rest is funded by the State Regional Development Fund.”

Minister Tkachenko added that the Fund’s spending on culture will be analyzed. The Ministry has asked to raise it by 50 per cent.

What powers do redrawn districts get to sustain cultural infrastructure? 

Consolidated communities stay central to cultural development. District administrations are part of the executive branch, they have powers to exercise control over the cultural heritage objects and oversee implementation of the national cultural policy locally. Regional administrations preserve their competences to operate cultural venues at regional level including theatres, large museums, national and local nature reserves, Deputy Minister for Communities and Territory Development of Ukraine Viacheslav Nehoda explained.

Nehoda also said that considerable part of the cultural infrastructure is currently owned by consolidated communities while being operated by district councils. After the local self-government system is fully formed, a majority of the objects will be transferred to community ownership.


“Authorities cannot do better in cultural development than the communities. That’s why the emphasis, both in terms of powers and resources, will be on supporting the communities, so that they become cultural centers that nurture traditions, form culture and key infrastructure ready to provide services streamed through these cultural centers.”     In the next two months, the laws regulating the transfer of objects to community ownership are to be amended. As a first step, the registry of objects to be transferred to community ownership will be drawn. There will also be some objects that concern more than one community and have ties to broader territories. This is the case when the communities will be given priority to decide how to use these objects, the deputy minister said. Thus, according to the legislation on cooperation, communities can decide to jointly fund and operate some objects. Co-funding is given a particular emphasis.

What are the opportunities for cultural development in the communities?

The Ukrainian Cultural Foundation (UCF) is a state institution that offers grants for the development of cultural and creative industries. Over the three years of its existence, the UCF has announced three calls for grant funding; it has received around 5,000 applications and supported over 1,000 projects. In the first year, about 70 per cent of the applications came from Kyiv and the region, 30 per cent were sent from elsewhere. In 2019 the situation improved – half of the applications received came from beyond the capital. The UCF does not fund construction projects, the proposals are for “soft projects”.  

* The scope of the soft projects usually concerns learning, consultancy, and training. Support to the infrastructure development projects is not provided. 

According to Yulia Fediv, executive director of the Ukrainian State Foundation, polls demonstrate that the most daunting needs that communities have in the cultural sector concern infrastructure. Improving cooperation with the State Regional Development Fund that funds construction would help produce a comprehensive result, when objects will be fully renovated both in terms of renovation works and the concept.  

“Ideally, applicants would need to combine a funding application for project and budget development, and preparations to the construction, then the UCF will fund the concept development, the ‘soul’ of the venue. A full-fledged product will come out of it – centers providing cultural services, regional or local museums, or local festivals. There needs to be a comprehensive effort to rethink the role of culture locally.”


Ukraine starts the “Big Restoration” program, communities are invited to participate, said the Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko. Hundreds of architectural heritage sites are to be restored across Ukraine. A group of experts to form the selection committee is now being created.   

According to the Minister, the program was not just designed for the objects registered after the Ministry, priority will be given to the objects within the registries of regional councils or local communities. The program’s ultimate goal is to restore the key objects and open them up for tourists.

Sites will be selected based on three main criteria: formal status of the site (preference will be given to the sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List or candidate sites), condition of the site (critical or vulnerable), and its attractiveness for tourists.

Communities can also submit applications through the call for regional development projects funded by the EU. This year, the application deadline is October 20. The focus of the initiative is not on construction, but on sustainable development of the community, and on regional development projects centered around cultural heritage or tourism. Last year, over 70 projects were selected, they are now being implemented, Viacheslav Nehoda said.

There are also learning programs for the communities. Particularly, the Swiss-Ukrainian project “Decentralization Support in Ukraine” (DESPRO) offers two learning opportunities – local self-governance school and a learning platform.

“In the communities, culture represents the code of the nation that later contributes to the national cultural code. When the project started, we used to work with other subjects. Later, we realized that our key task was to form critical mass within the communities ready to engage in prospective tasks. One of the tasks is to form the identity of the community,” said Oksana Harnets, manager of the Swiss-Ukrainian project “Decentralization Support in Ukraine” (DESPRO). “Social unity as well as understanding of common tasks is formed around culture. That’s why our training programs aim to form the community’s identity using cultural tools”, Harnets proceeds.


How an outstanding cultural event can help the community?

Cultural development of the communities needs to be approached strategically, so that the focus shifts from infrastructure to the content, said Natalia Kliuchnyk, executive director at the Association of village councils and consolidated communities of Ukraine, USAID DOBRE Program service consultant.

The expert said that when working with the communities another problem came through – the existing infrastructure does not meet the needs of the communities. After years in service, it is run-down and needs comprehensive renovation. Staff shortages and lack of resources also contribute to the problem. It highlights the importance of the strategic approach and systematic work. Responding to the challenges, the USAID DOBRE Program issued universal methodological guidelines to help improve the services. The guidelines draw on experience of the communities that have already drafted their strategic plan. 

“This tool has become paramount to us as we’ve also introduced it in other communities. I would like to thank the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation for supporting the scale-up of the initiative. We were thus able to try out this tool not only within our partner communities, but also in other regions.”


Eighteen out of the 30 selected communities drafted their plans to improve the services. Each community presented a project that has a potential to become an important site or a magnet of attraction in the area. The expert said they have discovered their identity, and many of the projects are now implemented.

An example that Natalia Kliuchnyk quotes is the festival in Ivano-Frankivsk region. Local entrepreneurs discovered the community and committed to funding road repairs. 

“Last year, we implemented the project ‘Small towns generate big impressions’ in Starunia village, in Ivano-Frankivsk region, engaging over 50 local entrepreneurs. When we first met them, they were skeptical. They were saying that a large festival in the field will fail, and no one will come. But when 17 thousand visitors came to the village of 3.5 thousand people, the result was obvious. The entrepreneurs came back and said: ‘we are ready to give UAH 10 million (approx. USD 353.4 thousand) to fund the construction of a proper road.’ That is an example of active engagement of cultural workers, activists, and the executive committee of the village council. That is also an example of a public event becoming outstanding and popular. At this point, resources are invested. That is why efforts need to be scaled up and united.”

Cultural reboot: the case of Zavodska consolidated community in Ternopil region

One of the challenges that the Zavodska CC faced upon becoming a consolidated community concerned the cultural sector. The venue they had could not provide adequate working conditions. Head of the community Liudmyla Pavlinska said that the community set themselves the goal to renovate the cultural infrastructure and give it a new sense. Thus, they merged the arts school with the house of culture to create the aesthetic education center. In early stages of cooperation with the USAID DOBRE Program, the community chose the cultural sector as a priority area to improve services in. The aesthetic education center was renovated and equipped by joint effort. The premises that were last renovated 30 years before, were fully renovated, the heating system was installed and the roof was repaired. The USAID DOBRE Program provided technical assistance worth of UAH 941,000 (approx. USD 33,250), while the contribution from the local budget granted to the community for the project amounted to UAH 1,295,000 (approx. USD 45,706).

The community’s expenditure on culture equals 22 per cent of the own-source revenue. That’s quite a sum for the community that has other expenditure streams. Still, the community prioritizes the cultural sector, Liudmyla Pavlinska said. To be able to develop it, they are looking for additional sources of revenue. Thus, they apply for grants. A project proposal by a local NGO “From Idea to Success” (Vid idei do uspikhu) was selected, so the organization got UAH 189,000 (approx. USD 6,678) to create a platform that would encourage communication between teenage girls.     

The community also implemented a project supported by the House of Europe prompted by the pandemic. They received UAH 78,000 (approx. USD 2,755) to purchase a projector and media tools for online schooling.  

“We are a community that is looking for opportunities and funding for our projects. And we do succeed. Before the renovation, activities for children were held in very poor conditions. So we made culture a priority. Thanks to the DOBRE Program we got UAH 941,000 (approx. USD 33,250) to implement the project, and UAH 1,295,000 (approx. USD 45,706) was disbursed from our local budget. But not the renovation itself is at the core. We most value our extremely talented children who win competitions internationally and nationally. I am convinced that culture is at the basis. Culture fills people with joy and inspires them, when people are happy, our country will also be happy and will progress.”  

Four more towns will join the Zavodska community shortly. Children from these towns have said they would like to attend the aesthetic education center, Liudmyla Pavlinska said. Meanwhile, the community keeps looking for opportunities to enhance the cultural services.

To remind, a round table discussion on culture under decentralization was held on June 4, 2019.

Ahead of the discussion, within the USAID DOBRE Program, Ukraine Crisis Media Center surveyed cultural infrastructure in 75 communities in Ukraine’s seven regions. According to the monitoring, the 75 communities number 488 houses of culture, 271 libraries, 19 museums and no cinemas. Moreover, a majority of the communities have no specialized department that would exclusively deal with culture, instead, culture is often one of the competences that fall into the scope of responsibility alongside tourism, education, youth policy, and sports.  

The survey also revealed that village and town communities have less cultural workers than city communities, even though they are more densely populated.

Representatives of nearly all communities confirmed that they need training, and said that drafting of project proposals and learning international best practices are priority themes. Ukraine Crisis Media Center holds discussions that are topical for the communities. Follow the updates on our web site UCMC DOBRE and on our Facebook page. We encourage our readers to submit their questions, we would later pass them on to the experts participating in the discussions, so that they answer them on livestream.


Decentralization Offering Better Results and Efficiency (DOBRE) Program is USAID’s five-year program, implemented by international organization Global Communities, and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Program is working to enhance good local governance and create improved conditions for the development of consolidated communities (CCs), increase citizen engagement in decision-making, and ensure accountability and transparency in public administration. The DOBRE Program implementing Consortium, led by Global Communities, includes: Ukrainian Crisis Media Center (UCMC); SocialBoost; Foundation in Support of Local Democracy (FSLD/FRDL), Malopolska School of Public Administration at the Krakow University of Economics (MSAP/UEK), Poland; National Democratic Institute (NDI).

The USAID DOBRE Program operates in 7 target Oblasts: Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kirovohrad, Mykolayiv, and Ternopil. Since June 2020, DOBRE Program started operating in three more Oblasts: Zaporizhzhia, Chernivtsi and Chernihiv.