📱 Ukrainian Qela organizes democracy activists with an app

📱 Ukrainian Qela organizes democracy activists with an app

Running a startup is hard. Running a startup in Ukraine is brutal. But that's what Tamara Tachynska is doing. With the Qela App, democracy activists and other communities can organize themselves.

Mathias Sundin
Mathias Sundin

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I remember it clearly. She symbolized resistance. Ukraine's resistance.

It was only a few months after Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion. On stage at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit stood Tamara Tachynska, standing tall with a t-shirt that read: "Be brave - like Ukraine"

Tamara Tachynska, co-founder Qela App.

She was one of the 2022 Democracy Tech Fellows and pitched her startup, Qela App. I wrote about it then.

At this year's conference, she approached me while I was pouring a cup of coffee. She told me they had incorporated some of the 198 non-violent methods that I had suggested in a lecture for her and other Tech Fellows.

This, of course, made me happy, but I was even happier that both she and her startup were still alive. I know how difficult it is to run a startup. I can't even fathom what it's like to run a startup in Ukraine.

After the Summit, I conducted an interview with her.

Not just for democracy activists

Qela is a gamified platform and app for action-driven communities that want to become stronger, grow, and create a sense of belonging and ownership through campaigns and joint decision-making.

Perfect for organizing democracy activists, but it also works for other types of communities.

You pitched at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit two years ago. What has happened with Qela since?

"It had been three months since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine when I pitched Qela's prototype at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit. I was both shocked and excited. We were all running on adrenaline and rage: no compromises, only victory.

The feedback on Qela’s mission and methodology was overwhelmingly positive, and we received a grant from the Alliance of Democracies Foundation.

Returning to Ukraine with hope and validation, I convinced my co-founder and eventually our angel investors. We regrouped our team and transformed a stand-alone prototype for Ukraine into a SaaS platform for everyone worldwide. We succeeded. Now, Qela is a web platform for community managers and an app for supporters (both on Android and iOS), available in English and Ukrainian.

Our clients include students, political, and charity organizations that value a democratic approach to community building."

Running a startup is hard, running a startup in Ukraine is...?

"Surreal but lifesaving. I don’t have time to consume all the news;  I can’t stop and wait. I focus on safety and a bigger picture: this war and other conflicts are signs of the world order crisis, the world needs a strong educated civic society to overcome it, and our mission is to help with it. We as a team focus on being flexible, open-minded, kind to each other, and brave. We really don’t have other options."

You have incorporated some of Gene Sharp's methods in Qela, please tell us more about that.

"Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy is a guide to overthrow a dictatorship by nonviolent means and lists 198 specific methods. This list includes different types of actions both individual and collective.

We compared the list with our customer interview results and our own experience, saw commonalities, got inspiration, took activities that we can automate, grouped them into specific quest templates (we call each useful action a quest), and added them to our methodology.

Dr. Gene Sharp and his book.

Qela has become a mix of task management (non-violent actions to do), education (quizzes), feedback (surveys), co-decision making, and gamification (voting and reward for every finished activity) to create engaging community civic life with effective campaigns."

Who are the organizations that should check out Qela, who are your potential customers?

"Any organization that needs an action-focused community to achieve its goals should check out Qela. Many civic activists or charity leaders have supporters and volunteers, but their engagement is sporadic, spontaneous, and lacks motivation. If an organization, movement, or society is serious about sustainable results, we are here to help."

How can the Warp community help you? 

"We would appreciate feedback on our product from the Warp community. We are considering AI integration in our platform, and any professional discussion would be valuable. Additionally, we are open to educational collaborations on topics related to civic engagement and volunteering with tech tools."

You can find Qela here and in the App Store and on Google Play.

Contact me if you are interested in getting in touch with Tamara Tachynska.

Mathias Sundin
The Angry Optimist