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New Platform Provides Grassroots Organizing Opportunities for Ukraine's Urbanites

View from roof into the yard of a highrise building in Kyiv, Ukraine. Image from torange.us, CC-By 4.0.

View from roof into the yard of a highrise building in Kyiv, Ukraine. Image from torange.us, CC-By 4.0.

In most urban high-rises with dozens of apartments, communication between neighbors usually amounts to “good morning” grunts in the elevator or occasional passive-aggressive notes about trash or parking taped to the entrance door. To improve this state of things, activists in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, have launched an online community platform to encourage residents of urban apartment buildings to self-organize. The platform, called “Zhyteli” (Dwellers), is aimed at arming urbanites with the tools to communicate with their neighbors more effectively to create a more comfortable living environment in the city.

Ми вважаємо, що деякі речі в житті повинні бути простими і доступними, і спілкування з сусідами – одне з них. З Жителями Ви завжди будете на відстані одного кліка від Ваших сусідів. Так що можете сміливо попрощатися з незручним мовчанням у ліфті і почати вітатися з сусідами вже сьогодні!

We think that some things in life should be simple and accessible, and communicating with your neighbors is one of them. With Zhyteli, you'll always be one click away from your neighbors. So you can say goodbye to tense silences in the elevator and start getting to know your neighbors today!

"The neighbors are right here. Let's make life around us better together." The front page of the website invites users to register using their residential address. Screenshot from zhyteli.com.

“The neighbors are right here. Let's make life around us better together.” The front page of the website invites users to register using their residential address. Screenshot from zhyteli.com.

The mechanism behind the platform is simple: once a user registers with their residential address, they see all the neighbors from their building who are already using the service. Once an online community emerges, residents can use the platform as a discussion space for various issues related to the building, from daily maintenance to utility prices to major renovations. The platform's creators promise that entering your data into the system is safe as they make efforts to keep it private, and say they check every new user's info against an existing municipal database (through they don't specify which one).

“A huge number of residential buildings in Kyiv are in a terrible state, and we want to help people to self-organize, to hold residents’ community meetings via the Internet and maybe, to find leaders in their buildings to work on improving them and creating residential unions to manage the buildings,” Serhiy Savchuk, one of the project's co-founders, said.

Though the “Zhyteli” platform has only recently launched, it already has a few dozen residential buildings registered in Kyiv (and some in other Ukrainian cities), and a few buildings’ residents are already holding lively discussions on the website. Organizers are adding new residential addresses daily and, once a new house is added, they also hang posters in the building to encourage its inhabitants to register and try out the service (a user can also automatically generate a poster for their neighbors on the website). The platform also has pages on Facebook and VKontakte to reach out to more potential users and to popularize the idea of a free-for-all space for community organizing.

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