Community Safari launches experiments to bring change

March 23, 2020

Photo credit: Andriy Krepkikh / UNDP Ukraine

"To me, the funniest thing was five teams of strangers running around Podil and asking frightened passers-by: Are you from Kyiv, from Podil, do you have any problems ...? It looked like a plot for some Ukrainian comedy about superheroes," says Bogdan Makarenko on his impressions of last November’s Community Safari, organized by UNDP Accelerator Lab in Ukraine.

So what were these five teams looking for? Well, just as they said – problems in the community. On 15-16 November 2019, UNDP together with the Agents of Change and Green Wave NGOs, organized a Community Safari – a hunt to identify problems and explore nature-based solutions in cities! The five teams were running about Kyiv to track down problems in this amazing city. Then they had to come up with various nature-based solutions that could help tackle them. 

Podil, one of the oldest districts of Kyiv, was the primary focus for our teams. Although it is an incredibly attractive area, many problems have built up there over the years.

“One of the most exciting things about the Community Safari was the city tour. After a two-hour walk, all of the participants discovered another side to the old town,” said project participant Anastasia Sakva. “We found so many unused, problematic and neglected areas that we wanted to change everything. Personally, what struck me the most was a huge landfill with household waste on a slope near a building."

The Community Safari was a unique project, as instead of coming up with grand design decisions, the teams had to think of a series of experiments to test the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of solutions to the identified urban problems. If proved effective, these solutions could then be used not only for the benefit of the city, but for the whole of Ukraine!

“The safari was extraordinary,” says safari participant Kateryna Mikhailenko. “On the first day we formed a team from a group of strangers, and then we spent the whole day together, brainstorming and discussing how to prepare an experiment! It was a real challenge!”

For the UNDP Accelerator Lab team, the main experiment was to test whether an active community could influence the planning and mapping of their city. Does a bottom-up approach really work? Intrigued? Read on!

Photo credit: Andriy Krepkikh / UNDP Ukraine

Drainage system in Podil

Team 1: Oksana Kovalchuk, Anastasiia Skok, Marina Lysetska, Liliya Didyk, Natalia Ushkevych, Valentyna Popravka, Olena Vakhnina

While hunting for the nature-based solutions, this team decided to conduct a socio-environmental experiment. The idea was to create a drainage system for the trees that could ensure the effective use of rainwater. The building on 37/48 Shchekavitska Street highlighted this problem, because water there not only drains into road, but is also ruining the facade of the house. The team wants to test if their drainage system can save the building and at the same time, benefit the plants around.

The social aspect of the experiment is that proper communication with the residents of the building would allow the team to expand the experiment to the whole area, and the city.

Photo courtesy of Team 1

The team is now awaiting a response from the residents of the building on Shchekavitska Street to the proposed experiment with the drainage system.

Photo courtesy of Team 2

Green fortress to protect playground

Team 2: Kateryna Mikhailenko, Andriy Kulibaba, Yana Nikolashyna, Artem Perkevich, Hanna Halagan

During the Safari, the team identified several problems, but decided to concentrate on the gymnasium (school) No. 19, says Kateryna Mikhailenko.

Their experiment is called "Green Fortress", as its purpose is to set up a “green fence” of pollution- and noise-absorbing vegetation around the gymnasium at 16 Mezhyhirskaya Street. It is a place where children spend most of their time, but it has no proper fence. The problem is that thousands of cars pass along the road nearby every day, raising dust, creating exhaust fumes, and causing noise. The team want to raise awareness about these issues by talking about the problem and calling on the school’s administration and parents’ committee to take action.

“The purpose of the experiment is to prove that by the raising awareness of the beneficiaries of the playground, they can be rallied around a socially useful goal and minimize the amount of dust and noise on the playground.”

Photo courtesy of Team 2

Currently, the team members are preparing a presentation of the project for the parents’ committee and school administration. They hope the initiative will be supported and together they will create a Green Fortress to protect the children’s health.

Zhytniy composting 

Team 3: Evgeniya Sukretna, Kateryna Vereta, Kateryna Borsuk, Yana Bobrova, Diana Shcherbina and Bogdan Makarenko

The goal of the team is an ambitious one: to install a composter for organic waste in one of the largest markets in Kyiv – Zhytniy! Every year the market accumulates a huge amount of organic debris, which is left to rot in landfills and release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The experiment involves communication between youth activists and the market administration for the protection of environment.

Photo credit: Andriy Krepkikh / UNDP Ukraine

"The absence of composters drew our attention to the problem, as a large amount of resources are being thrown away instead of being used more rationally," says team member Bohdan Makarenko.

The team has held several meetings with the market’s administration, which is actively supporting the initiative.

Photo courtesy of Team 3

“I like that people are not indifferent, everyone wants to improve the environment and has an understanding of the problem,” says Makarenko. “Everyone is aware of the benefits of organic composting, but a lot still has to be done to turn this into a real project.”

At the moment, the team is focused on selecting the right composter – a very important stage of the experiment. But if the experiment at Zhytniy is a success, the idea could be used at markets across the country! 

Comfort zone on the riverbank 

Team 4: Anastasiia Sakva, Diana Ratsun, Roman Lozynsky, Axina Kurina

This team found another problem along the Dnipro embankment. As the traffic on Naberezhno-Khreshchatytska Street is quite busy, the ambience on the nearby riverbank is hardly relaxing!

“The highway, noise and air pollution, the lack of green space, the asphalt greyness – everything is wrong,” says Anastasiia Sakva, a member of the team. “But the waterfront could actually be a much more attractive place. That is why we decided to try to change this situation.”

To solve the problem, they suggested a solution: installing a "MossModule" – a wall with moss, along the Dnipro embankment. The purpose of the experiment is to test how such a module would contribute making a public space more comfortable.

A moss module planted on a vertical panel with a semi-automatic irrigation system is an ideal option for a waterfront, as it creates a welcoming atmosphere in a public space, can improve air quality ,and does not interfere with the pedestrian area, Anastasiia says. In addition, the module does not require special care, which is a huge advantage of this type of greening practice.

The installation of the module requires some permits, so the team is currently working on this. Once they have the necessary permissions, they will be able to start creating a MossModule to make our favourite waterfront even more appealing!

It is a well-known fact that green space and MossModules not only increase the attractiveness of public spaces, but also reduce the amount of noise and dust there. Will it work on the waterfront? That's what the team wants to test. 

A natural wall in Podil

Team 5: Vladyslav Degtyarenko, Anastasiia Samoilenko, Anastasiia Astakhova, Dariya Krasovska

This team was also thinking green, suggesting that a "green wall" would protect the boulevard running through the centre of Podil from noise, dust and polluted air. This wall of vegetation should turn the boulevard into a cosy and comfortable place for leisure.

The team says the area attracted their attention – for being unattractive. And after conducting a survey, they found that locals are also unhappy that there is so little space for walking in the area. The nearest "green" space is too far away, they said.

"It's loud, grey, and quite uncomfortable when you walk along the boulevard. So you don’t even have to look for inspiration – the problems are staring you in the face,” says team member Vladyslav.

Photo courtesy of Team 5

The most important part of this experiment is establishing cooperation with the city government bodies, namely with Podil Regional State Administration and the district committee on the maintenance of green areas in Podil district. So perhaps the biggest experiment for the team is to test whether public activists can slash through enough red tape make their green project a reality.

Photo courtesy of Team 5

“Our goal is to prove that each and every one of us, even ordinary citizens like us, has the ability to put forward truly worthwhile ideas,” says Vladyslav, a master's student at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, which has its main campus in Podil.

“This experiment is an example of possible cooperation between the authorities and the citizens, for those who want to make their street, district, city a better place!”

We hope that these experiments will find support among the authorities and population not only of Podil, but also the whole of Kyiv, and will be successfully implemented. They have the potential to make Kyiv a better city to live in for all of us!

Have you got any ideas like these, or have you been working on similar projects? Get in touch with us at!