USRI aims to counter war-related disinformation and support affected communities through innovative and diverse interventions and by establishing international and agile response teams from various sectors. This initiative was first launched during the MEGAPHONE 2023 event, where participants engaged in an interactive design sprint session to brainstorm and develop impactful solutions, some of which were later awarded support and regranting by TechSoup Europe.

The USRI empowers communities with the tools and knowledge to counter disinformation and foster solidarity.

Two projects funded under this initiative, “FACTS – Fighting Against Disinformation about Ukraine in Romania and Moldova” and “Artists and Refugees”, have been instrumental in engaging local communities, refugees, and artists in efforts to counter false narratives and promote a deeper understanding of the Ukraine war's impact local communities and CSOs working in the Central and Eastern Europe and Western Balkans.

Summary of Project Activities:

"FACTS – Fighting Against Disinformation about Ukraine in Romania and Moldova"

Implemented by LOGS – Grup de Initiative Sociale (Romania) and Laolaltă (Moldova).

Launched in February 2024, this project aimed to empower Ukrainians and locals in Romania and Moldova to counteract war-related disinformation. Key activities included:

  • Workshops and Events: In Timisoara, Romania, and Chisinau, Moldova, workshops brought together Ukrainian refugees and locals to discuss and identify myths and fake news about the war in Ukraine and the refugee situation in the region. Participants identified 11 prevalent myths in both countries.

  • Extensive Desk Research: In April and May 2024, thorough research gathered accurate information to ensure well-founded responses to identified myths, reinforcing the credibility of the initiative’s interventions.

  • Social Media Campaigns: Comprehensive Facebook campaigns addressed identified disinformation, reaching over 582,242 users. These campaigns provided factual information about Ukrainian refugees and the origins of the war, directly challenging false narratives.

  • Documenting day-to-day life of refugees from Ukraine: Implementers of the Initiative also dedicate efforts to give a platform to those, who are most affected by the war in Romania. In Romania, to mark the date of 24th February - 2 years since the war in Ukraine started they’ve created, as proposed by the Ukrainian community, a short movie documentary with 3 Ukrainian refugees who are settled in Timisoara in which parts of their day-to-day life and how they’ve integrated with Timisoara and also why the refugees from Ukraine need to be supported by the locals.

  • Study Visits: Facilitated exchanges between partners from Moldova and Romania, sharing expertise and knowledge. This collaboration included organizations like Funky Citizens, and ZI de BINE, further strengthening solidarity across sectors.

"Artists and Refugees"

Implemented by Contemporary Art Center in Skopje (North Macedonia), Sbunker (Kosovo) and Women Integration Network (Romania).

Starting in early February 2024, this project leveraged the power of art to narrate the experiences of war and aggression in Ukraine. It aimed to counter disinformation by empowering refugees to share their stories through various artistic media. Key activities included:

  • Art Production and Exhibitions: Seven impactful artworks were produced and showcased in exhibitions in Skopje and Pristina. These exhibitions attracted over 4,000 visitors and reached more than 50,000 people through traditional media. For instance, Maja Taneva's spatial installation "My Home" poignantly depicted the uprootedness and destruction caused by war, resonating deeply with visitors.

  • Artistic Collaboration: The project featured diverse artworks, including sculptures, installations, and a live theatrical performance. One standout piece was Gjorgje Jovanovikj's mobile sculpture, symbolizing fragility, and perseverance, which moved many attendees.

  • Community Engagement: Engaged over 40 people directly, including artists from North Macedonia, Kosovo, Romania, and Ukraine, as well as refugees who participated in the artistic process. This collaboration amplified the refugees' voices and provided a platform for sharing their experiences.

  • Raising Awareness: Increased audience interest in the plight of artists and cultural producers in Ukraine during the war, emphasizing the importance of supporting artistic production in conflict-affected regions.

Impact and Future Directions

Through these initiatives, the USRI has made a profound difference in the lives of many, combatting disinformation and fostering solidarity among communities. By combining educational workshops, comprehensive research, social media campaigns, traditional media reports, and artistic expressions, the initiative has created a multi-faceted approach to addressing misinformation and supporting Ukrainian refugees.

Looking ahead, USRI aims to continue building on these successes, expanding its reach and impact. By engaging more communities, activists, and frontline workers, the initiative will further strengthen its efforts to counter disinformation and promote a more informed and supportive environment for those affected by the war in Ukraine. With each story shared and intervention implemented, the USRI moves closer to communities that are more resilient to disinformation and its negative effects.

ℹ️ The USRI is a part of the Digital Activism Program activity carried out by TechSoup Europe and its network of partners within the TechSoup Global Network. The Program’s mission is to collaboratively build a better future for a more resilient civil society.

The USRI activities were indirectly funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.