Mihaychuk Postdoctoral Research Fellow,
Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University
After the dissolution of the USSR, Western donors have dominated Eastern Europe’s civil society developments, attempting to replicate their own institutional models. These efforts resulted in limited success, frustrating the donor community and puzzling scholars. Civil society in the post-Soviet region has long been labeled weak based on a general lack of citizen participation in formal civil society organizations – the key criterion for assessing civic engagement in comparative studies. Using Ukraine as a case-in-point, Krasynska argues that such assessments of civil society fail to recognize the role of below-the-radar civic engagement in contexts where informal practices permeate economic, political, and social spheres. She is completing a research monograph based on this research while in residence at HURI this fall.
Drawing on diverse bodies of literature and in-depth interviews with civil society actors from across Ukraine, Krasynska’s book addresses fundamental questions about the nature, drivers, and impact of the informal side of civil society. She finds that informality constitutes an essential component of the voluntary sector in post-Soviet contexts like Ukraine. Furthermore, a complex set of factors predispose individuals to associate informally rather than through formal means, including structural factors, such as the legislative frameworks and social norms, and individual factors driven by cost-benefit calculations of formalization. Krasynska’s research suggests that an inclusive research and more effective financial support of the sector necessitate a nuanced understanding of informal practices, networks, and institutions. Additionally, addressing informality will require more than policy change, but also enforcement mechanisms and long-term strategies fostering normative change. Focusing on Ukraine, her book has broader implications for understanding of civil society, informality, and democratization.
Smith, D.H., Moldavanova, A.V. & Krasynska, S. [Eds.] (2018). The Nonprofit Sector in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia: Civil Society Advances and Challenges. Leiden, Netherlands, and Boston, MA: Brill Publishers.
Krasynska, S. & Martin, E. (2017). “The Formality of Informal Civil Society: Ukraine’s EuroMaidan.” VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 28(1), 420-449.
Krasynska, S. (2015). “Contra Spem Spero: The Third Sector’s Resilience in the Face of Political Turbulence and Legislative Change in Ukraine.” Nonprofit Policy Forum 6(2), 167-186.