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Gov Tech Companies Come Together to Help War-Torn Ukraine

Civic engagement consultant Irina Fursman, who lived in Ukraine, has raised more than $20,000 from U.S. gov tech companies to help people there meet their basic needs amid the Russian invasion.

Uzhhorod,,Ukraine,-,February,26,,2022:,Ukrainian,Border,Guard,Helps
Shutterstock/Yanosh Nemesh
Government technology companies are getting involved in the effort to send aid to Ukraine via a fresh effort organized by a civic engagement consultant who moved out of the country in 2002.

Born in the Soviet Union and having lived in both Russia and Ukraine, Irina Fursman is the founder of Global Synergy Group (GSG) — a Minnesota-based consulting firm that works to build up the local and regional civic space in her native country.

Now she has brought together gov tech firms such as Envisio, FlashVote, HdL Companies, Balancing Act, Government Leadership Solutions, HueLife and Citibot for the donation push titled “Stand with Ukraine” on the GSG website.

Fursman says her goal is to raise $100,000 from the gov tech community. As of late Thursday, $22,000 had been raised toward that goal. Overall, GSG has raised $43,000 since Feb. 27, she said. Eventually, funding could go toward helping refugees in Poland.

The war has already forced local and state governments to at least consider the possibility of new cyber attacks from Russia, and how to combat misinformation coming out of the conflict.

But Fursman is addressing more immediate and basic needs.

She told Government Technology that the idea is to send money to people in Ukraine who can then use the funds for humanitarian aid. That includes such items as food, clothing and fuel as Russia continues to press its invasion.

She noted reports that the Russian military has kidnapped or otherwise harmed mayors and town officials during the war, adding a further sense of urgency to her mission. After all, her work with GSG has involved nonprofit, pro bono training of people in local government, schools and police agencies.

“Now we have a network of those individuals in Ukraine, a new generation that has stepped into formal leadership roles,” said Fursman, who also owns the HueLife consulting firm.

It’s those “real people on the ground” who are sending assistance requests to Fursman, she said.

She then determines where to send donated money based on two main factors about the person requesting help: The ability to do the work and — as is the cold reality in a war zone — whether that person remains in contact. She said she sends “small amounts” of money for each request, up to $2,500.

Fursman and her husband Richard have built a positive reputation among leaders of gov tech firms, executives said. That is helping her with the donation push, which she expects to last at least two more weeks, perhaps attracting more companies willing to put in their own money.

“Irina Fursman and her for-profit company, HueLife, have been a long-term partner and friend of Envisio,” Elizabeth Steward, vice president of marketing for planning software provider Envisio, told Gov Tech via an email interview. “A lot of people on our team know Irina personally and have a deep respect for her commitment to civic engagement, her passion for community building and her ability to make things happen.”

Executives of companies working with Fursman said they are helping because it can be hard to just sit by and watch images of war on TV — not a wish to gain positive PR or because of future plans to expand in Ukraine.

“We would like to be a part of a collaborative effort with our gov tech companies to help these people in Ukraine be the heroes that they are and to survive,” wrote Bratton Riley, co-founder and CEO of engagement tech provider Citibot, in an email. “I feel like many of us feel so horrified by what is happening, and we want to do something to help these courageous people on their ground.”

That’s not to say gov tech executives haven’t considering the longer-term implications of these donations and of helping out, at least according to Chris Adams, president of Balancing Act, which sells budget simulation tools for public officials.

In fact, the way he described his outlook would seem to bolster the more general and pre-war aims of GSG.

“In the most immediate term we hope money raised by the gov tech community will help alleviate human suffering,” Adams wrote in an email. “In the longer term, when Ukrainian people start to rebuild, the gov tech community will support their efforts toward good governance focused on more mundane tasks, like making a budget."

As for Fursman, who sends money every day to recipients in Ukraine, she said no donation is too small, especially given that basic daily needs have become difficult to obtain for many of that country’s citizens.

“Twenty dollars can be enough for one day of food,” she said.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in New Orleans.