History and mission
The Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DIF) is an analytical and enlightening organization which aims at building Ukrainian state, democracy, and market economy and enhancing full integration of Ukraine into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Nowadays, DIF belongs to leading Ukrainian think tanks and focuses its activities on developing reasonable recommendations in the sphere of democratic transformations and Ukraine’s European integration for decision makers and civil society representatives.
DIF was created in 1992 and was named after its founder and first director Ilko Kucheriv (1955-2010) who made an impressive contribution to democratic progress of Ukraine, as well as development of Ukrainian sociology and civil society.
DIF mission consists in supporting Ukraine in its transformation into fully functioning democracy with good governing practices, market economy, and developed civil society.
The Democratic Initiatives Foundation is engaged in such main activities:
- Research and analysis of public and expert opinion
- Monitoring of electoral processes and conduction of exit polls
- Writing analytical papers with recommendations regarding acute issues of Ukraine’s democratic development
- Dissemination of information on political process in Ukraine and its foreign policy on the basis of public opinion polls among Ukrainian citizens
- Conduction of researches and informational campaigns and developing recommendations on issues of Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration
- Dissemination of opinion polls results and analytical materials among politicians, public officials, civil society activists, journalists, and scholars
- Increasing professionalism and awareness of political leaders, journalists, and political scientists
- Building and improving cooperation between Ukrainian and foreign think tanks, including experience exchange and implementing common projects
DIF was the first NGO which started to act as a mediator between researchers of public opinion and the public itself by analyzing public opinion of Ukrainian citizens on most acute societal issues and disseminating results of such analysis among population. Later, DIF introduced public opinion polls into political discourse and was among the first to use public opinion as an argument in political discussions.
One of the DIF main activities is conduction of independent exit polls. In fact, DIF started the very tradition of exit poll in Ukraine by conducting it for the first time during 1998 parliamentary election. From that time, the team of sociologists and analysts whom DIF united into “National exit poll” consortium became a frontrunner in this sphere. Having developed standards aimed at promoting democratic values, DIF created a precedent of independent NGO which could transform society.
In 2004, DIF directly influenced political change in Ukraine by conducting independent exit poll during that year’s presidential election. The exit poll demonstrated falsification of the official voting results and became one the main arguments for conduction of the third round of election, results of which were eventually declared final. From that time, exit polls have become inalienable democratic element of political process in Ukraine which serves as an instrument of independent control over free and fair nature of elections. DIF also assisted Georgian sociologists in conducting exit poll during the 2008 presidential election.
In the framework of its cooperation with foreign partners, DIF conducts two main activities: researches and applies experience of international NGOs to Ukrainian realities and promotes needs of Ukrainian NGOs abroad. In particular, DIF prepares materials about Ukraine which are interesting and useful for international community, namely a weekly bilingual “Focus on Ukraine” informational-analytical bulletin, which provides regular analysis of recent political developments in Ukraine in six main spheres – political institutions, democratic processes, legislative process, human rights, media freedom, and international relations in their European and Euro-Atlantic dimensions –and assessment thereof according to democratic principles.
One of the foremost examples of DIF political influence is its activities in the sphere of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine. DIF provides government and members of civic sector with crucial information on the issue, such as results of public opinion polls, analytical materials and policy recommendations. Having started as a civic organization advocating Ukraine’s accession to NATO 14 years ago, nowadays DIF gained reputation of authoritative analytic center and influential player in developing and implementing NATO informational campaign.
DIF regularly organizes public events (press conferences, round tables, video conferences, forums) dedicated to the key issues of development of the Ukrainian state, Ukraine’s national interests, democratic development, market economy, and country’s integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Among permanent visitors of such events are public officials, experts, civic activists, representatives of foreign governments and diplomatic corps and international NGOs, journalists, which creates analytical environment centered around issues of national state-building, democratic development, and international cooperation. Today, DIF acts as an influential think tank which produces original researches and training programs, exerts influence on politicians and public opinion considering wide range of issues of democratic development, human rights, and international relations. DIF also aims at developing civic diplomacy in Ukraine, regular informing citizens about their rights and freedoms and goals of nation-building and transformation of civil society.
According to the data of Google, DIF is one the most cited think tanks in Ukraine. In 2000, DIF initiated analytical-research movement in Ukraine by organizing press conference “Think tanks and government”, creating http://intellect.org.ua website and enhancing dialogue between analytical centers and government. In 2010, DIF became a member of respected think tank network, PASOS, which enhanced its capacity as an analytical center. DIF is also a member of Civic consultative council at the Ministry for foreign affairs, parliamentary committee for European integration, and civic expert council at the Ukrainian part of EU-Ukraine cooperation committee.
DIF permanently cooperates with leading Ukrainian economists, sociologists, political analysts, and journalists who are well known abroad and regularly publish their works in scientific monographs and foreign mass media. Variety of DIF associate experts allows it to analyze transformational processes in Ukraine from different points of view and using different paradigms.
DIF publishes its materials in its own online “Focus on Ukraine” bulletin, “Ukraine’s political portrait” and “Public opinion” bulletins, as well as in number of books and manuals. Also, DIF has two web-sites: http://dif.org.ua and http://dif-exitpoll.org.ua.