How does Sunflower ensure relief, support and financial aid are fairly distributed, and not just channelled to relatives of those involved?
The core mission of Sunflower Relief is simple: Aid in: Info out.
Aid in: While aid has been able to reach the Western border of Ukraine, it is much more difficult to reach deeper into Central and Eastern Ukraine which has seen an influx of in-country displaced persons or has been under sustained attack. However, local NGOs and grassroots communities are still very active across Ukraine, in all its major cities and towns, and are already serving their local communities and distributing aid to the last mile. This is where Sunflower Relief comes in. We use technology alongside our deep local networks with grassroots organisations and local NGOs to deliver resources to the neediest, including elderly people, women and young children who may no longer have access to basic necessities.
Info out: As the daily situation changes in Ukraine, many places are too unsafe for journalists to travel to. In many cases, understanding what is happening on the ground is critical to determining how to support the evolving needs of local Ukrainian civilians. This is where Sunflowers’ deep network and connections to the communities on the ground are critical, enabling information to be sent out and shared with foreign reporters, further helping to inform and create awareness of the need in driving aid to the region, as well as making relief efforts more efficient and impactful.
How do we do it?
Sunflower Relief focuses on helping foreign aid by looking for a way to match with high integrity verified local receivers – helping, where necessary, in the logistics of collecting and transporting physical aid (food, clothes, medicine) into Ukraine, while partnering with local NGOs and local community efforts to ensure that relief reaches those who need it the most.
In order to ensure prioritised distribution Sunflower leverages community networks within Ukraine to gather information as to where needs are most urgent and will then utilise its extensive network of NGOs in Ukraine and neighbouring countries as well as its technology solutions to ensure shipments are prioritised based on those needs. This helps steer batches of goods to the places where the most urgent needs can be met as opposed to overflowing areas such as can be seen on the official Ukrainian government aid assessment website help.gov.ua Sunflower Relief focuses particularly on credible and reputable NGOs to disburse goods to the last mile to families, children and places that need it the most, such as hospitals, schools, orphanages, maternity units/birthing centres, impacted residential areas etc.
How does Sunflower ensure that the support being given could not lead to the purchase of arms or get into the wrong hands?
Sunflower only works with recognised NGOs and local reputable organisations that have been cross-checked and referenced and cross-referenced as credible recipients of aid. We diligently keep a track of each volunteer-made verification video/audio call with the members of the organisation as well as independent reference calls in the local area in order to verify the activity of the organisation.
How much funding is Sunflower receiving from its backers, and how is this money allocated?
While Sunflower Relief is still in its early days, it has raised sufficient funds to hire 4 full-time staff dedicated to logistics and managing aid support. We are scaling the operation to ensure we grow our impact 10x in the next quarter. This is the initial priority for the funds raised, because if everyone is a volunteer who can only give an hour a day, someone still needs dedicated time to manage each volunteer’s availability, coordinate shifts, assign and track individual cases and follow up actions, and ensure due dil, progress and reporting are executed to the standard set across the (full time and volunteer) team.
All contributions designated for relief on the ground in Ukraine are sent straight to vetted NGOs with which Sunflower partners These organisations are on the ground and fully focused on helping civilians who need it the most in Ukraine. Sunflower has delivered over 20 tons of aid in its first weeks while facilitating another 100+ tons since day 1 of the war.
Are any of Sunflower’s team members receiving a salary, and if so, how is the salary determined?
At present no, but this will change as the first hires are made. Until now, Sunflower has been led and staffed by volunteers across multiple industries and experts who have come together with a strong belief in its mission. We are currently recruiting several full-time Ukrainian and English-speaking team members who will be provided a salary to cover living expenses.
What is the nature of Sunflower’s relationship with Night for Ukraine? What proportion of proceeds from the event can it expect to receive?
There was no funding from Night for Ukraine that was directed to Sunflower Relief. All proceeds from that event went to the Disaster Emergency Committee by mutual agreement between Sunflower and Night for Ukraine - an event which Sunflower supported and helped publicise.
Fabien (Night for Ukraine organiser) and Irra (Sunflower CEO) are in talks about follow-up Sunflower-focused events but this is yet to be confirmed.
Is Sunflower a charity? And if so, what is its governance structured? How are its relief efforts being overseen, and what sort of reporting is carried out to assess the impact of Sunflowers’ efforts?
Sunflower is a not-for-profit social enterprise (CLG or Company Limited by Guarantee) and registration as a charity is currently being reviewed by its Directors. None of its current Directors draw a salary or profit from the organisation in any way. Decisions are made as a leadership team. If and when it becomes a charity, trustees will be nominated in alignment with its charity remit and governance structures.
Currently, all its relief efforts are being thoroughly documented, alongside the work it is doing with partners to ensure relief is reaching those who need it, fast. While it is still early days, an impact report will be drawn up in due course.
What sort of cyber security processes does Sunflower have in place to prevent its data/team member details from being exposed?
No single point of access to the entire database is ever provided to volunteers – a splintered data structure operates which enables users to add to and/or search the database without exposing it. Best practices such as password management software for double-blind password sharing and a 2FA database with time-forced password updates are utilised. There has been strict admin control from the outset and the professional experience in data privacy and security of one of the Directors has helped with data and identity access management. All hardware is password protected Pro bono training and a manual have been provided to the team by a leading CISO. End-to-end encryption is used for all operational comms channels.
How will Sunflower balance its twin goals of providing direct help to citizens of Ukraine and combatting disinformation?
Sunflower has function-specific dedicated teams working on its dual goals. Our team of case managers, case references, translators, and fundraiser focuses on ensuring logistics and goods reach civilians on the ground. The team of media editors and digital lead gen are focused on first-degree real-life accounts, and referencing them into a library optimised for journalist/reporter used.
How will you ensure Sunflower donations are not being used to buy arms?
As mentioned above, Sunflower only works with reputable or verified NGOs, both in neighboring countries to Ukraine and within Ukraine. These NGOs are well-established organisations with expertise in their area, and run their own extensive due dil processes to establish a network of verified donors and receivers. . Furthermore for every partner that receives aid brokered by Sunflower, Sunflower volunteers will do documented checks (via chats, calls, and video calls) of a maximum of 5 internal and a further 3 external parties (so not only people working in the organisation but also external contacts who have worked or been in contact with them e.g. other NGOs in the area) as well as 5 individuals who are final aid recipients. This is to ensure the aid is being used in line with its purpose and going to the people who need it.
Would it not be better for the Sunflower team to bring their expertise to an established NGO or organisation with past experience in humanitarian relief?
The problem is so complex that it will need several parties working in concert to solve it. Along with its technology, Sunflower partners with many NGOs and organisations that have experience in humanitarian relief to try and solve the needs in Ukraine. In this sense, Sunflower brings local languages and expertise coupled with a deep network within Ukraine and sits alongside established NGOs to maximise the impact and efficiency of humanitarian relief efforts.
Are you trying to get PR out of a crisis?
Sunflower Relief wants to leverage PR efforts to raise awareness of the reality on the ground in Ukraine and the need for continued aid. However, more importantly, Sunflower Relief targets PR to bring in more resources: 1) volunteers, 2) donors (of aid/funding), and 3) team members who match the current cohort’s network and language abilities, in order to help ensure on-the-ground last-mile support is being provided to the most vulnerable communities in harder-to-reach parts of Ukraine where displacement is high while shelter, food, and medicine are now very scarce.
Is Sunflower intended to be a short-term initiative? If not, will it become a registered charity?
Sunflower is a long-term initiative that is being built to last well into the future once the country is being rebuilt, as a non-profit social enterprise to support civilians in Ukraine who need aid but cannot access foreign resources in order to survive the war.