It’s often said that young people are the future. So how about Ukraine’s youth today? Bilendi & respondi followed the journeys of 24 young Ukrainians for 4 years for the UNITY programme and IREX.

Bilendi & respondi, is a specialist market research data collection agency. Working in partnership with communication agency Zinc Network, we ran a research project for IREX, a global development & education NGO, and UNITY, the USAID-funded Ukraine National Identity through Youth program. UNITY supports youth leadership towards a values-based Ukrainian identity, with an eye toward civic engagement in a healthy, pluralistic society.

Conducting the research

Every week since 2020, researchers have interacted with 24 participants to follow their journeys. We work with 2 groups with 12 participants each, one with a younger audience, 14-17yo, and one with 18-23yo. Participants share deeply personal insights around financial difficulties, insecurities and relationships (one boy in our group is very determined, but as yet unlucky, in finding a girlfriend!).

The research goals are to 1) understand and further define target audiences, 2) identify areas for activities and interventions and 3) test planned activities and communication to refine approaches before launch. However, it is important to ensure that research is not a burden, given the context in Ukraine.

The panel is run using Bilendi Discuss, an AI-powered qualitative research platform which allows researchers to engage with participants via mobile on the preferred messaging app of the participant. There is no requirement to download any software resulting in a frictionless recruitment process, vital considering the target group. Utilising a familiar interface to conduct the research leads to more honest and open responses and full and consistent participant engagement in the long run.

Bilendi’s Artificial Research Intelligence (BARI), the AI assistant built into Bilendi Discuss, could provide 24/7 moderation and instant human-level summary and analysis of verbatims, thereby drastically reducing the workload of the researchers. The project is currently in its 4th year, its longevity a testament to the utility of Bilendi Discuss.

Understanding audiences

A key focus of the study is to understand the social media behaviour of youth. Speaking directly to them weekly via their preferred messaging app allows us to capture a clear idea of their lives online and be very responsive to events on the ground.

After the invasion in 2022, they adapted their approach to include children who had left Ukraine as well as those who had stayed. They found that those outside of Ukraine were exposed to significantly more Russian propaganda than those who remained. This dispels the myth that all Ukrainians rejected Russian content and language after the invasion, and it reveals a vector of vulnerability among Ukrainian youth that we should be aware of and plan to mitigate.

Campaign development

A qualitative segmentation, derived from their attitudes towards civic participation, tolerance, education, interests and media consumption, formed the basis of UNITY’s content moving forward. In 2022, the #UkraineCantBeStopped campaign was launched to unify Ukrainians around a diverse understanding of national identity.

Based on the insights gained through the youth panel, the campaign showed a diverse set of Ukrainians (from Eastern Ukraine, disabled Ukrainians, LGBTQ+, Muslims, soldiers and youth volunteers) and their defiance despite the challenges posed by the war. The campaign achieved 2.5 million views across TikTok, YouTube and Instagram and received significant coverage in the Ukrainian National Television Marathon.

Testing content

The panel is also used to test content released on UNITY’s communication channels, understand reactions, and optimise future content strategy.

Some key findings include: 1) youth were most interested in posts promoting events done by UNITY or posts with practical information, 2) they like posts with interesting visuals and a combination of text and images, 3) but not posts that repost memes or try to be funny. IREX has refined their content strategy, achieving 40% growth on Instagram in 12 months.

It is hoped that by understanding the youth of Ukraine, they can be empowered to build a better society in the future. That starts with efficient data collection.

The research study has been selected by ESOMAR to be presented at the ESOMAR congress in Athens. To find out more about Bilendi Discuss and Bilendi’s Artificial Research Intelligence, and how they can be applied to your business, contact or visit our picnic table at the MAD//Fest Event.