PACT Foundation – Partnership for Community Action and Transformation has been accelerating the process of change in the south of Romania for 14 years now due to our belief that Romanian society will evolve in a healthy manner only if it grows from the bottom up through leaders and ideas from within local communities. Our vision is that every community in Romania has the courage, confidence, and capacity to take an active role in its own future.
We support the sustainable development of rural and small urban communities by encouraging, growing, and promoting local and regional initiatives, partnerships, and social responsibility at the individual, business, government, and industrial levels.
Over the years, our teams have worked in 165 communities across 3 southern regions, provided 550,000 USD funding in small grants for 159 community projects, and invested over 700,000 USD to build local capacity and empower community members by offering community facilitation, training, consulting, and grants. We have built the capacity of over 60 active community groups or local associations to develop and implement successful community projects. PACT successfully initiated a network (RuralNet) in 2002 that brings together the active community development organizations in rural areas. We are also a part of European networks such as EUCDN (European Community Development Network) and Aflatoun.
Photo by PACT Foundation
In Romania, rural areas represent 87.1% of the entire area and 45% of the population (approximately 9,600,000 Romanians). 8.8% of people are at risk of extreme poverty in rural areas in comparison to 2.2% risk of extreme poverty in urban areas.
Three of the areas with the highest rates of population at risk of poverty and social exclusion are in the south of Romania: South-West Oltenia, South-East, South Muntenia. The majority of people in the countryside have no jobs and grow their own food. Access to services, information, and new opportunities is reduced, which is why young people decide to migrate towards urban areas or even abroad. Despite all this, there are still more children born in the countryside than in big cities. The south has also been under threat of desertification for decades while the national policymakers encourage big farms, making it difficult for small landowners to associate and create wealth in their communities.
Photo by PACT Foundation
People are the most important resource in the south. Even if the south is neither a very touristic area, nor very popular for investors, from our experience people here are open and determined to improve their lives. If they are encouraged to do so, they have initiative and they act voluntarily. The challenge is to reach them, gain their trust, and give them the support they need to become active citizens and local changemakers.
PACT Foundation helps people form community-based organizations (CBOs) to identify local resources, act together at the local level for the benefit of their community with a special focus on the most vulnerable. Our challenge is to help create community organizations that are recognized by all the local actors as proactive and equal partners in developing the locality. It's also always a challenge to keep up the support for these CBOs and to provide capacity building so that they become sustainable and resilient. Last but not least, it’s not always easy to promote the success stories of active communities in other rural localities that may benefit from their positive models.
The process each community involved in PACT’s projects follows relies on the support of community facilitators. Together with the facilitator, and with the benefit of knowledge and skills acquired during training sessions, people identify what their common needs are, the methods to solve them, and how they can get involved. Then PACT Foundation provides them small grants for the local projects that emerged.
For the communities where PACT Foundation works, this process often means a chance to build a new fountain, renovate a playground, establish a community center, launch a social business, develop greater financial resources in the community, increase local welfare, re-establish trust between people in their locality, or even co-create a local development strategy together with all the actors.
To tackle some of the challenges mentioned above, a unique approach to capacity building that PACT has created during the Civic Europe Program will enable local leaders to become mentors for 6 new initiative groups in small neighboring communities. At the same time this program gives us the opportunity to offer grants to active CBOs from the south of Romania that will help them grow the impact they have on their communities.
The Capacity Building program in Romania consists of 5 learning events – 1 training workshop for mentors, 2 trainings for individual leaders in specific localities, and 2 for experienced community-based organizations in the respective local language – and provides grants for funding of up to 12 locally-rooted initiatives (1st round for 6 initiatives from new community groups, 2nd round for 6 initiatives from experienced CBOs). The learning events are held partly in person and partly as online or hybrid events.
During the whole process, the participants are guided by mentors who are experienced alumni and know the learning approach from their own personal and professional development.
The learning events focus on the following topics:
Role of mentors
The mentors play a very specific role: They are the ones that identify leaders in the communities that can bring about change. Our 6 local leaders, representing 6 community-based organization (CBOs), will mentor and support 6 new community groups in small neighboring villages (Baneasa, Giurgiu county; Ologeni & Tatarai, Prahova county; Malu Vanat, Arges county; Orsova, Mehedinti County; Straosti, Prahova county; ”Colonie” Vulcan, Hunedoara county).
The mentors come from a pool of CBO leaders with the ability to transfer their experience, motivation, and good practices to others.
Urlați Community Initiative Group
Nicolae Constantin, mentor
Through our actions in past years, we have become a link between the community, the local authorities, and other local institutions and entities. Our mission in the area is to identify problems and needs of the entire community and to find resources and solutions for the members who get involved in solving them.
Eșelnița Cazanele Dunării Community Association
Elisabeta Păcuraru, mentor
Our association was born out of a community facilitation process and is tasked with mobilizing all human and material resources for the development of our community and the Danube Clisura area. Our activities are focused on topics such as education, environment, youth, civic participation. We set up an educational center in the community for the underprivileged students, promote and award volunteering, organize campaigns to inform and promote civic education and environmental protection in the community.
Ciocanești Association for Community Development
Magda Diaconu, mentor
The aim of our association is to support the development of the community of Ciocanesti to achieve a civil living environment that thrives materially and culturally, and to improve sustainable development for members in all the villages of the community. In Vizurești, we operate as an initiative group under the umbrella of ADCD, the Vizurești Open Hearts Group.
Traditions, Education, Culture Association of Gaujani
Cornelia Enache, mentor
Our organization's mission is to increase the quality of life of community members, especially children. Our project’s aim is the support of community members, especially the most vulnerable. Our main areas of work have been the prevention of school drop-outs, vocational training, civic education programs, economic activities, the promotion of material and intangible heritage, and the improvement of general health.
Cristi Dumitrașcu, mentor
We work in support of those people in the community who have problems in the areas of housing, education, health. These can be vulnerable people and those who ask for our support – mainly children and young people benefit from this.
Partner for You Association
Sorina Bunescu, mentor
Our organization’s mission is to support communities, especially rural ones, for cultural, social, economic, educational, civic, and entrepreneurial development. In fact, our organization offers support for those who lack voice and power, we are an ally to those who want change and progress, a partner for citizens and institutions in solving the needs of the community.