Civic Europe is an incubator for locally rooted civic initiatives, organizations and individuals in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe realized by MitOst and Sofia Platform, funded by Stiftung Mercator.
In times of polarization, deep political divisions and declining trust in democracy, civic cohesion is at stake. To tackle these societal challenges, we believe that Europe needs active citizens from different backgrounds engaged in open civic spaces to build the stronghold of our democracies. Only a vibrant and diverse civil society lives up to the potential that the core idea of democracy holds: co-creating our own future and having agency to influence our collective lives.
Europe needs active citizens. (Photo by Panos Georgiou)
Civic Europe supports individuals, initiatives and civil society organizations in the regions of Central, Southern and Eastern Europe challenged by low civic literacy and a lack of civic infrastructure and aim to strengthen civic cohesion and active citizenship in their communities. We offer them mentoring and funding to implement their project ideas and to foster and promote their civic activities in the region. Civic Europe is a multi-level enabling framework that supports locally rooted organizations and projects.
The Idea Challenge funds and mentors up to 15 lighthouse ideas per year with grants of up to €50,000 each. Eligible countries are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Winning projects of the idea challenge build bridges and function as bright horizons and inspiration for bringing people together in times of segregation and animosity.
The Capacity Building program fosters the capacity and the ecosystems of locally rooted organizations and individuals active in the fields of civic education and civic engagement. It helps them establish themselves as actors in their communities by providing learning spaces and seed project funding in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. It is co-created and implemented with local partners.
Most regions outside capitals and large urban centers are characterized by low civic cohesion. In our understanding, civic cohesion is comprised of civic infrastructure and civic literacy. Civic infrastructure concerns civic spaces; those places where people meet, exchange and act on their local concerns. Civic infrastructure also has to do with civil society – in these places, civil society is usually weak; organizations are small in number and size, with limited funding and organizational skills. Many citizens there have low civic literacy – they lack the knowledge, skills and competences to be active in the local community.
It is at this level and in these places that we believe change happens first. On the local level people carry the greatest potential to identify challenges; they also have almost everything needed to tackle them. We believe that with the support of local partners we can help these pockets in Europe to increase the civic capacities of the citizens and the communities. This is why the focus of the program is locally rooted individuals, organizations and projects invested in supporting democracy from within.