The Civic Europe Idea Challenge supports civil society organizations to strengthen active citizenship at the local level. We provide not only a funding opportunity, but more importantly the collaborative environment in which civil society actors can develop their idea into a sustainable solution to tackle local societal challenges and achieve long-term change.
Learn more about the Idea Challenge and its winning projects here:
We believe that citizens' participation, starting at the local level, is a precondition for inclusive, open and functioning civic spaces. By participating and becoming active together in local communities, people advocate for solutions to their societal challenges and make their voices heard by decision-makers in order to change their lives for the better. This is where the Civic Europe Idea Challenge starts:
We aim at supporting project ideas especially in places characterized by the lack of or malfunctioning community spaces, little or no civil society infrastructure – places where people lack the understanding that they can be active members of their communities, as well as the needed competences to participate in social and civic life.
There were two open Idea Challenge calls in the last three years. You can read more about 2021 winners here and 2020 winners here. Further, all former applicants of both rounds can be found in our Idea Space. The Civic Europe program will end by April 2023, please read more about our impact story here.
Moreover, we focus on project ideas that support community members to become actively involved through non-political and political actions within their communities, but also towards public authorities and institutions. We believe that this can only be enabled through knowledge and the willingness of individuals to cooperate with each other, which we refer to as civic cohesion.
The project ideas should also create spaces where people can engage in dialogue with each other and with various stakeholders, debate social and political issues, organize and take part in different activities. Furthermore, the actors should help citizens develop the knowledge, skills, motivation, solidarity and trust that are needed to participate actively in the social and civic life of their community – to contribute ideally to enhanced civic education.
The Civic Europe Idea Challenge funds up to 20 ideas from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe with up to €35,000 each and offers support to enhance capacities and to network. We designed the program as a form of comprehensive support system going far beyond mere funding. It leverages their potential impact through a combination of interconnected interventions in three different areas, which we identified as relevant for sustainable change. We call these areas Circles of Change and see them as a system:
Our work together can be regarded as “a living practice of democracy” and relies on a combination of practice-based and theory-based learning. We focus on approaches such as co-creation and peer-to-peer learning.
In the frame of our capacity development activities the Civic Europe Idea Challenge is offering its winners a 6-month-long Toolbox learning lab, introducing the Civil Society Toolbox – Tools for Citizens, which enables actors to develop their organizations, to work together in their team, and with their community.
Our Toolbox trainers are mentoring and supporting winning ideas, their teams and organizations to tackle their needs using the tools and workshops provided by the Toolbox, while fostering a step by step tailored made peer-learning process. The purpose of the Toolbox learning lab is to strengthen the capacities of the participating teams in organizational development but also enabling them to facilitate workshops with the Toolbox themselves for the future development of their organizations. Our trainers are:
We are working with scouting partners in each of the twelve eligible countries. Scouting partners are local active members of civil society from the Civic Europe impact region that are the local contact point for the Civic Europe team and support to spread the call for the Idea Challenge and answering questions of applicants in their countries. Scouting partners reach out through their local, regional and national networks and directly address relevant local actors on the ground, whose work and motivation fit the profile of the Civic Europe Idea Challenge.
The Civic Europe Idea Challenge wants to reach beyond the “usual suspects” of its networks, deep into the work of small-scale local organizations in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. Civic Europe especially targets initiatives and organizations active in and around places with little or no opportunities for civic engagement and participation and a deficient civic infrastructure (few or no civil society organizations, no access to decision and policy making, community centers, libraries, museums, etc.).
To reach out to these local initiatives and organizations, we decided to cooperate with local actors from civil society who are deeply connected to their national, regional and local networks of activists, CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) and local initiatives, who understand the specificities of the civic landscape of their country, region and context.
In 2020, we tried out this concept for the first time and were thrilled how well this method worked and have continued with this concept for this year's Idea Challenge. Our scouting partners are:
Sofia Platform Foundation
Association for Civil Society Development SMART
Közösségfejlesztők Egyesülete (Hungarian Association for Community Development)
ALDA (European Association for Local Democracy)
Jolanta Steciuk, NGO expert
Centrum komunitného organizovania (Center for Community Organizing)
CNVOS - Slovenian NGO network
VIC Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas