The Ukrainian road towards healthy democracy… Deligted to read this!

Our collague Tetyana Stepurko from Kiiv:…/519915_viyna_yak_diagnostika

Tetyana Stepurko, sociologist, lecturer at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, project manager of the Ukrainian-Swiss project “Development of Medical Education”

War as a diagnosis of partnership. The war was a test of authenticity

I used to talk about relationships using the word “partnership” automatically, without delving into its meaning. However, the events of recent weeks and months – Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, misunderstandings with one of the pilot medical institutions we work with in the Ukrainian-Swiss project “Development of Medical Education”, and a case in personal relations – made me think. How to recognize where a healthy partnership is and where a parasitic interaction is?

If you visualize a partnership, it seems to me a road that the parties are paving in one direction, investing as much of their own resources as they deem necessary.

And at the beginning of construction it is important to agree on what road we are building, in what direction, with what intensity and for whom. In business relations, it is worth agreeing on the scope of work of each party. That is, partners must have communication skills, understand that it is important to say everything that affects the joint work. Because if everyone silently moves in their direction, there will be no reliable way out of this. It turns out that communication is a basic prerequisite for a healthy partnership.

In a healthy partnership, communication must accompany the implementation of the project at every step, it is a must. Partners should share changes in plans, report force majeure, crises, broken deadlines, victories and failures. Talk about everything that helps or hinders the implementation of plans for joint activities in the future.

At the beginning of the second month of martial law, as the head of the office of an international project working in Ukraine to build a healthy community of medical educators, I came across an example of an unhealthy partnership, and the failure began with communications. One of our pilot medical institutions, Rivne Medical Academy, has hired an external director of the simulation center.

It is in this center, where future doctors are taught practical skills, that the project has invested the most. We are talking not only about direct investment in expensive equipment, but also about training for instructors of the center, special training for teachers and administration, including how to organize training through simulations remotely. And if the project and its beneficiary informed about this decision from the very beginning, introduced the new boss, introduced her, explained their decision, no one would have any questions. But this decision was made secretly, the fact of appointment of the head was kept silent. And not by chance: it turned out that the appointed leader has no relevant experience. The new manager has not participated in the relevant trainings for 3.5 years and does not show the necessary experience for such a position in her resume. Instead, educators who acquired new knowledge and skills to work in the center, including organizing work for its creation, are now not involved in organizing the work of the center. We, as a project, learn about this by chance and not from the administration of the institution.

When I asked why we were not told this news, the head of the institution with 20+ years of experience answered: “And I did not know that you need to report it.” Frankly, I was shocked that the head of the institution showed unconscious incompetence or even pretended not to understand what was going on.

And here we come to the next prerequisite for a healthy partnership – the values ​​that are articulated throughout the interaction. In this situation, we clearly see that transparency in decision-making (as a value) that resonates with appointments based on specialist competencies is not a value for higher education, while for a project it is a basic set of values ​​we are guided by. Personally, I am a supporter of open and honest communication and I try to provide a work environment in which it is safe to be honest. I am not lazy to remind my colleagues and those with whom I interact both in my professional and personal life.

And here it is not a question of an estimation of these or those values, I speak only that at partners they should coincide. If the value of transparency in decisions is not unifying for partners, it will not cause problems. That is, at the beginning of the partnership it is necessary not only to agree on communications and their style, but also on the value field in which there are partners.

Responsibility is another component of the partnership. Responsibility must be available for the processes and results, the quality of interaction, for reputation, purpose, for understanding the context, expectations. Instead, there can be no partnership between the educator and the children in the kindergarten, because the educator is responsible for herself and the children, and the children are not responsible for their behavior and especially for the educator (although sometimes children are not responsible by age). Infantilism has no place in a healthy partnership, infantilism on the one hand indicates the consumer nature of the interaction and the unreliability of the participant in the interaction. Both parties are responsible for their own actions and their consequences in a healthy partnership.

And if we do not look at partnership under a magnifying glass in everyday life, then war, like any crisis, shows who is in front of you: a reliable partner or a “parasite” who is guided by his goals.

We are all now watching how Ukraine’s partners behave differently. How and who supplies weapons, provides humanitarian aid, treats refugees. War, by analogy, is an MRI that illuminates and opens the eye to things that were not seen before. The war was a test of authenticity – sincere patriotism, genuine support, honest partnership. Poland, Lithuania, Great Britain, Estonia, and the United States have strengthened their status as Ukraine’s partners since February 24, but we have doubts about Germany and France due to the lack of or too slow contribution to the “common road.”

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Most of us had no experience of living in a full-scale war, so we did not know that in the war, the halftones disappear. What contained incomplete understanding, inconsistency of values, breaks down, collapses. And what seemed congruent, close and acceptable, is gaining more strength, energy and becomes a great resource for the parties to the war. There is such a thing as a “technical crisis” – a conflict that can take the partnership to the next level or prove the inability of the parties or one of them to build a partnership. The quality of communication in the process of interaction, understanding of common goals and values, the acceptability of approaches to achieving goals are especially highlighted in times of crisis.

In the case of the higher education institution, the “technical crisis”, which was due to the project taking some of the equipment from the above-mentioned simulation center, brought more clarity. There is no partnership in this interaction. However, the third party – the regional military administration – from the first dialogues showed initiative, responsibility, desire to develop medical workers in the region (as a value), and now we are building new potential partnerships for the development of medical workers.

A healthy partnership that has existed for some time gives a very important result – trust.

Trust is built by joint efforts: invested resources, compliance with agreements and timely communication that there are obstacles to compliance with the agreements. This is not a healthy partnership, when one party communicates openly and honestly for the common good, and the other continues to do things in an acceptable way, regardless of the “partners”. It’s more like parasitism. There will be no freedom, no responsibility, no trust in parasitism, although such a relationship will be called a “partnership.”