Geographically the Capacity Building program is going locally in 4 countries and concentrating on regions in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. Within the countries, it focuses on regions with poor ”civic infrastructure”, where citizens’ participation is low. Poor civic infrastructure is characterized by the need of community spaces and by civil society actors lacking capacities to make the change they strive for. ”Civic literacy”, the understanding that citizens are active members of their communities and can contribute to positive change, is very low or missing in these regions. Usually such areas, so-called “civic deserts”, are outside of and far from capitals and urban centers and even the physical infrastructure there is poor.
The program is co-developed and implemented with one partner in each country region. The local partners were identified as part of a context mapping process.
In Bulgaria the Capacity Building Program was launched in July 2019. It is implemented by Sofia Platform Foundation. The focus is on developing the competences of those who care for their local communities and aim for a change, but need support in order to achieve that.
Capacity Building Modules
The Bulgarian Capacity building (CB) program is a pilot based on a preliminary mapping phase of the needs of the civic sector outside big cities. It was kicked off in a milestone year for Bulgarian education and civil society – in 2020 civic education is being introduced as a separate subject in Bulgarian high schools. The Bulgarian part of the CB program differs from the ones launched in Hungary, Poland and Romania – while they aim to develop the capacities of teams of local organizations, the Bulgarian one puts individuals under the spotlight.
Two cohorts of participants of various backgrounds will take part in the training program in Bulgaria held by Sofia Platform Foundation. After the training is completed, the participants are able to apply for a small grant from Sofia Platform Foundation in order to realize their local projects. Each participant receives the support of a mentor who is guiding them for 6 months throughout the carrying out of their project. The same process will be followed by the second cohort starting in October 2020. All projects will be completed by mid 2021.
To help participants, as well as all citizens involved in civic education, Sofia Platform Foundation is invested in building an online platform for civic education and civic engagement in Bulgarian. This online platform will respond to a demand by the formal educational sector, created by the first-time introduction of civic education as a school subject. This demand has different forms and shapes, ranging from needs for teacher trainings to students’ project work with non-formal means. The platform is expected to go online in 2021.
Civic Health Index
A civic health index will be developed and run as a one-off pilot in Bulgaria. Its aim is to measure the civic health of a community in order to identify the variety of measures that need to be taken to improve the civic cohesion. 2020 is a milestone for Bulgarian civil society, but in order for civic education to meet everyone’s high expectations, the whole of society and above all teachers should have confidence in its ability to change attitudes. The civic health index will thus study the correlation and possibly causality between different forms of civic education and civic engagement (political and civic participation and activity).
Using the power of our networks and through mapping and research, we identified the regions in the countries that mostly need support in fostering the capacities and ecosystems of locally rooted organizations. Based on the findings, we were able to identify local partners in each of the countries to lead the local capacity building programs, as well as local organizations, who could participate in the capacity building programs.
Local Partner Organizations
The local partner organizations share the values and approach of Civic Europe, have working experience in the field of civic education and civic engagement and have a track record of developing capacity building programs.
Capacity Building Program
Together with each local partner we will develop the 3 capacity building programs for up to 20 participants and/ or for about 5 teams of locally rooted groups or organizations per country. The participants should be mission-driven and work with means of civic education and civic engagement. Project work funded with small grants is in the core of the program, understood as means for learning by doing. The grants should be supporting local projects that aid community building, nurture civic competences and engagement, and speak to values such as tolerance, mutual respect, openness, and inclusion.
Alternatív Közösségek Egyesülete (AKE- Alternative Communities Association) is a 20-year-old organization based in Debrecen. Its target group has always been the youth and its main aim to transform the youth into a creative community that creates and shares values, culture and knowledge. However, AKE’s methods and structure have changed over this long period of time. Today the association works as an incubator for local civic organizations. The biggest project they are currently overseeing is a regranting project in the region supported by the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE), in which they supported 50 organizations and informal groups and set up a community space. The community space’s purpose is not just a knowledge and resource centre in the region, but a safe space for all organizations and citizens.
DIALÓG a Közösségekért Közhasznú Egyesület (Dialogue for Communities Public Benefit Association) was established in June 2002 and is based in Miskolc. The members are mostly humanities professionals, typically with a professional background in the fields of public education, social sciences and anthropology with community approach. DIALÓG design and implement community development programs for small towns in rural areas and micro-regions and empower volunteers for community work and civic action. They also develop training materials, organize, conduct and support trainings to help launch local action programs and organize a variety of events where they present the methods and possibilities of community development. The organization also supports local society with a community network that builds on partnerships with professional organizations, towns, municipal non-governmental organizations and foreign partners.
Non-Governmental Organizations Support Center (OWOP) is located in the eastern part of Poland, in Bialystok (Podlaskie Voivodeship). Their mission is to support the social activity of citizens and their organizations. For over 20 years OWOP have supported non-governmental organizations and informal groups through trainings, consultation and information sharing. Their aim is to strengthen the capacity of organizations, support leaders and local communities. OWOP also broaden the formation of local and regional networks, federations of NGOs and partnerships with different local actors.
Fundatia PACT - Parteneriat pentru Actiune Comunitara si Transformare (PACT Foundation - Partnership for Community Action and Transformation) has been accelerating the process of change in the South of Romania for 14 years now because they believe that the Romanian society will evolve in a healthy manner only if it grows from the bottom up through leaders and ideas from within local communities. Their vision is that every community in Romania has the courage, confidence, and capacity to take an active role in its own future. PACT’s mission is to support the sustainable development of communities by encouraging, growing and promoting local and regional initiatives, partnerships and social responsibility at the individual, corporate, government and industrial level.
The organization has 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 providing services such as training, consulting and facilitation. They have built the capacity of over 60 active community groups or 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. They are also a part of European networks such as EUCDN and Aflatoun.