Episode 16

Darina Privalko: Cancer Survivor, Self-Made Entrepreneur on Data Science and Crowdfunding

In this episode of Global Edge Talk we are joined by an amazing guest, Darina Privalko.

Darina’s personal statements:

In a nutshell, I’m “Black Swan Breeder”, a “multivalent” pro with highly practical cross-sectoral competencies and connections, able to join literally any team and complete a missing piece, either by myself or since “I know someone who knows someone” – and then the magic happens !

In greater detail: 

I’ve spent years trying to find a common denominator to zillion activities I’ve been running or at least decide which of my multiple endeavors is a real calling that I should pursue, and let the rest go, lest I was perceived a superficial no-one. Indeed – who can be a true “expert” in everything. I was really happy when I discovered an Agile Manifesto with its “responding to change over following a plan” and particularly the scrum approach of doing just enough to get the thing work. 

Since “learning by doing” is the best way to describe my education, I decided to list all my professional competences, how they gradually developed and what prompted me to acquire new skills and become an “advanced user” in the new fields.

It’s all started when I was 16. That’s when I earned my first real $ as an interpreter and translator. Still remember my first $20 I brought home after one day of work. It was a hungry 1992 and my mom’s salary as a qualified engineer was about $5 a month. Yet it wasn’t just about the money. To be an interpreter in those days meant to take part in changing and challenging reality. I received those $20 from an official rep of Ranbaxy pharmaceutical, a leading Indian company that sought to enter the Ukrainian market. And it did, and I was there at the inception. Just as later I translated for George Soros during one of his first visits that eventually gave birth to the Renaissance foundation, worked a lot with first USAID program, was a “random teen who speaks English” during multiple presentations to first donor missions and philanthropists to Ukraine who arrived to restore here Jewish community life and more. I saw that every time I translate I connect people, ideas and resources – and the magic happens:) in the early 1990s I and my friends were among the founding members of the Jewish youth movement of the Jewish Agency and then launched Hillel. Both are still active and relevant and indeed keep making a difference – both for the members and the community around. In today’s world, no youth movement can exist unless it’s relevant for its members. There were a lot of Black Swans in Ukraine those days

My next professional skill, ironically, became fundraising, grant-writing, and case-statement. Then I worked as a Regional Development Director for Hillel in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan. When you are driven by inspiration and vision, your organization grows and so does the need for resources. Now I realize it’s a real job and occupation, then I simply wanted to do the stuff we all wanted – more seminars, more camps, more educational tools, more programs. I knew there were people who are ready to give – then I discovered there are foundations of such kind, and was astounded when my first application was granted. I literally felt galvanized when putting my fingers on the keyboard, since I realized – so far there’s nothing, yet it’s in my power to materialize the letters into tangible things, while helping the foundations advance their mission. Since intuitively I felt, we can’t succeed in doing our thing, unless we help others to do theirs. It was then when I realized that money is not THE problem, yet the absence of the BIG IDEA able to provide a common ground for multiple players with different (sometimes conflicting) interests – IS. 

My hands-on experience in fundraising prompted me to become a trainer – first for directors of our 12 Hillel centers to teach them to raise funds and cultivate win-win partnerships, then started coaching Jewish nonprofits via partnership organizations and naturally was among the first volunteers who launched Limmud in the former Soviet Union: a unique cross-communal Jewish learning platform, where every participant may become a presenter and then come and learn from his or her peer. It was (and still is) a true embodiment of the Jewish wisdom: “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone”. A Jewish community world is diverse, yet Limmud became a Black Swan that put around the same table heads of all organizations, religious and secular, culture and welfare, as well as the most influential people who supported the revival of Jewish life – yet not always shared the same views. They put off their dissensions for the sake of the BIG IDEA, which was more than their personal views. One of them spotted me and before long I became the Vice-President on Fundraising of one of the largest Jewish Charitable Foundations in Russia. 

That was tough. My next professional challenge was a crash course on business management and delegation of authorities. I felt with my own skin the difference between building communities and building hierarchies. I failed the test and got burnt big time. Ended up at the hospital with self-induced cancer yet that Black Swan turned out to be Phoenix. I arose from ashes in the new country with a new status of self-employed and exciting self-made profession of the Educational tours around Jewish Ukraine. 

This is one of many following examples when all previous competences – English, fundraising, Jewish education, connections with communities and organizations – merged to create a unique blend of one of a kind multivalent pro, able to create content, run logistics and build interactive communications among multiple players. Among the most successful and long-lasting educational projects is my international J-Sport Camp that – hopefully – will celebrate this year its 10th anniversary. 

Over than 8 years in the industry of tourism prompted me to acquire a lot of skills, each one could become a profession by itself – such as building websites, creation of digital graphics, copywriting, social media promo and even deep analytical experience when due to my familiarity with the field I was commissioned to perform a fundamental 60-pages survey on development trends of Jewish community life in Ukraine, that was eventually published by a respectable London Research institution. Interestingly enough, this by-product of my main occupation several years after paved my transition from the Jewish non-profit/freelance world to the realm of strategic analysis and business solutions. It was the only hook to prove my competence beyond very peculiar “Jewish street”, yet skills remain and it’s all about the ability to reframe and reinvent yourself, rather than put a “tag” – I am such and such and that’s what I am and nothing else.

Organized international FLY Conference – a platform connecting European & Israeli innovators, funders & experts;

Today I work for the Genesis Prize Foundation, I’d say a true reservoir of Black Swans, as the core idea of the Genesis Prize is to honor an exceptional inspirational individual for his or her professional achievements and contribution to the Jewish People and/or State of Israel and award with $1M prize that the Laureate can “re-gift”, i.e. donate to the philanthropic field of his/her choice – and support initiatives able to turntable on contemporary challenges. Themes may vary, yet all are urgent. This year the Laureate decided to direct his $1M award to combat coronavirus. I’m happy to be able to practice here all my professional competences I’ve earned so far and enrich them with PR skills. One BIG IDEA gives births to other BIG IDEAS.

And now I finally realized how to connect the dots, and where’s the common ground to everything I do, and what I’m good at. I’m a naturally-born crowd-funder and crowd-sourcer, able to create self-sustainable projects and unlock potential of all participants. Win-win for everyone. 

Interestingly enough, in 2015 I was hired to save an agonizing idea of a platform for Israel and European entrepreneurs that had a large vision and meager budget. Then I had that brilliant concept “Power of the Crowd” aiming to connect tech startups, social entrepreneurs, VCs and international leadership networks. Then succeeded to engage every name in the crowdfunding I could get a hold of (including Ourcrowd, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, etc.), and those names brought their followers. But the names came in the first place because they recognized a BIG crowdfunidng IDEA. 

Crowdfunding will be my next Black Swan. Can’t wait to see where it brings me and the world.

I’m a naturally born “ground-breaker”, “door-opener” and “gap-bridger”, able to work under high pressure, meet tight deadlines and deliver the anticipated results

  • Over 23 years of hands-on experience in creation and running of highly diverse projects, ranging from large-scale international high-profile events to in-depth analytical researches 
  • Wide international network in public, business, governmental circles
  • Skilled to launch projects from the scratch and efficiently coordinate moving parts in the rapidly changing environments, when possible weaknesses are used as opportunities for the strategic partnership building
  • Proven ability to build consensus, create and foster partnerships, navigate amongst individuals, organizations and communities, oversee and coordinate actions of multiple players and ensure the seamless flow of information, oversight, support and strategic direction between the project center and the field
  • Organized, supervised and personally lead and facilitated a wide range of high-profile public and professional events, missions, camps, overseas trips, seminars, group discussions, panels, public speaking engagements 
  • Huge fan of infographics able to find and wrap complex concepts, data and insights into an easy-to-grasp format to facilitate informed decisions and prompt relevant actions.
  • Particular Strengths:
  • – Strategic Planning & Project Development
  • – Full-scale Data Analysis, Mapping & Research
  • – Cultivation of Donor Relations; Fundraising; Crowdfunding
  • – Development, Oversight, and Implementation of Marketing, PR & Communication Strategies

The edgy fact about me is that I’m edgy, what at times makes others edgy !

1) I love to analyze trends and question existing patterns and business procedures if I see more efficient way to do something. Not everyone likes changes. I learned a hard way how to suggest the transformation in an elegant way) by citing Darwin’s “It is not the most intellectual or the strongest of species that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

2) Due to my vast professional experience and “been there, done that” factor, I quickly see what and how should be done to make “the thing” work and can easily convince and inspire with facts’n’figures that my plan or idea is viable and efficient, yet have a hard time following the stuff through, and at times the whole thing could collapse or stagnate when I felt I’ve done my share and moved on. Again, I learned it hard way that by default people think that whoever suggested the idea should be the one who implements it. The best metaphor I found to ease my remorse with some projects that felt abandoned when I moved on, was a bee, that can spread the pollen and give a tree a chance for fruition, but by no means sits on the flower to make sure it transforms into an apple that would be picked and consumed and the baby becomes healthier….

The flip-side of my initiative is when I get too engaged with a project and preoccupied with its success – yet as Sun Tzu said – you can win a battle, but lose the war. 

With some such wars lost, I zoomed out, learned from my experience and now treat all my past shortcomings as a vaccine from future mistakes of this kind. I wish to be “edgy” also in mistakes and try not to step on the same rakes !

Links & Info

Darina’ Social Media Profiles:

Alex Romanovich’s Social Media Profiles:

GlobalEdgeTalk Social Media Profiles:

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