Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt
This week I was back in Odesa – twice, in fact – first with Senator John McCain, and again for the Odesa Financial Forum (if you haven’t seen my Forum remarks yet, you can read them here). But the highlight of my trip was my visit to the Odesa Impact Hub, where I met dozens of young people using an incredibly impressive innovation space to create tech startups and work on some of the most exciting social action projects underway in Ukraine today.
All too often, when people think of Ukraine, they focus on Russian aggression in the east, on economic difficulties, or on corruption. What is often overlooked is Ukraine’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit, and how young people and civil society are leveraging 21st Century technology to bring real, meaningful change to Ukraine. It’s something that sets the Ukrainian people apart, and reminds me of my home state. As a California native, I’m a big believer in the transformative power of technology. California has been hugely changed for the better through its adoption of technology that has brought people together in ways that would not have been possible even 10 years ago.
It was very exciting to visit a place in Odesa that is actively pursuing these goals, and that provides a work space for hundreds of young people working to make their city, and their country, better. Just a few examples of their accomplishments:
· The Hub’s Impact Academy, a business education program that focuses on social innovation and social change, led to the creation of a partnership with the International Renaissance Foundation to help IDPs forced to flee their homes in eastern Ukraine re-start their businesses in Odesa.
· One of the Hub’s resident NGO organizations, Vilna Osvita, is opening small educational hubs across the region, providing students with equal access to modern education methods and technology.
· The Hub’s Volunteer Service, which focuses on youth empowerment and social activism, has already united more than 650 young people, challenging them to get and stay active on projects that aim to better their community.
I was also glad to hear that impact hub – like so many other Ukrainian civil society groups – is doing its part to help people displaced by the war in Donetsk and Luhansk. These people didn’t ask to have their homes and communities invaded by Russia and it proxies, and until they can go home the generous welcome of cities like Odesa is an indispensable source of support.
All these projects are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States is a proud partner of the Impact Hub. We want to see more budding entrepreneurs, developers, and social activists meet up with those I visited with yesterday to make full use of its collaborative space. You can contribute to projects others have already undertaken, or even launch your own. As I said yesterday during my visit, I am inspired by all that you’re doing – and I know you will succeed. Keep up the good work!