Call for ideas 2021

All important information for the call can be found on this page or you can download the call for ideas 2021 as PDF document here.

We are happy to announce 18 winning ideas from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe that strengthen civic engagement as well as social and political participation to tackle societal challenges at the local level. Have a look on all submitted ideas and the winners of the Idea Challenge 2021 in the idea space.
From May 10 until May 31, the Community Award took place. This year's Community Award winner is the project "Good winds from land". Read more about the Community Award here.

Please continue reading if you like to be informed about the complete application process of the Idea Challenge 2021:

Why to apply

We give the winning ideas a funding opportunity and comprehensive non-monetary support from the end of 2021 until the end of 2022:

  • The Civic Europe Idea Challenge supports up to 20 ideas with grants of up to €35,000 each.
  • Moreover, and more importantly, following the idea of systems thinking, the CE Idea Challenge doesn’t merely support its winning ideas through funding. It leverages their potential impact through a combination of interconnected interventions in three different areas: community, capacity development and visibility, which we identified as relevant for sustainable change. We call this support system Circles of Change. For more information on the Circles of Change, the networking events and learning labs that are part of our support system read more here.

Who can apply

1. Project ideas should fulfil our selection criteria:

Project ideas should strengthen civic engagement and social and political participation on the local level, ideally by means of civic education.

Project ideas should foster collective action to address local issues and improve the quality of life of the community. They should help community members to be heard and become actively involved in the decision-making and implementation process of communal projects or local policies that affect them. Community members should be empowered to engage within their communities but also with political authorities and institutions. Project proposals should help citizens develop the knowledge, skills, values and motivation to participate actively in community, social and civic life.

Active citizenship can have various forms and shapes: voluntary activities and social projects, community engagement, active involvement in initiatives or organizations, electoral participation, awareness-raising activities (educational, communication or advocacy campaigns and work), direct participation in policy-making processes, etc.

Read through the 2020 winning projects in the idea space to find examples for thematically suitable project ideas.

We are looking for ideas that engage the community in dialogue around a locally relevant topic. The aim should be to bring people together who are usually not in contact and who bring differing or conflicting perspectives on a topic to the table. Ideally, our funded initiatives (try to) engage community members with profound disagreements in dialogue, such as

  • those who are convinced and those who are doubtful of the value of civic actions;
  • those who trust in democratic institutions and those who are dissatisfied with them;
  • those who still strongly believe in democracy, those who question it, those who don’t (yet) have an opinion as well as those who retreat from politics

Project ideas should also strive for a multi-stakeholder dialogue and, in addition to community members and civil society actors, include local municipalities and administrations, politicians, governing parties, schools, local businesses or other interest groups affected by the issue.

Only by bringing different perspectives, opinions and experiences to one table and starting a dialogue among peers we can fight segregation and polarization and promote inclusion and civic cohesion.

We aim to support initiatives active in communities and regions that are lacking civic cohesion. Low civic cohesion is often a phenomenon observed outside of large urban centers, in smaller cities and rural areas and characterized by:

  • few to no possibilities for social and political engagement,
  • few to no possibilities for civic education and lack of knowledge on civil rights, duties and political participation
  • lack of trust, acceptance, solidarity and connectedness among groups and individuals in the community
  • little civic infrastructure, like community centers, libraries, museums, public spaces to meet, civil society organizations, access to policy-making processes

We are looking for project ideas that aim to impact the development of the community positively for the long-term. We are looking for people and projects that really want to understand the target group, the societal local challenge, the stakeholders involved in it and want to approach its solution in its entirety in order to see underlying patterns and ways to leverage the system. We think a systemic approach can bring impacts that are more than islands of success. Thus, project ideas should create a basis for sustainable change to foster civic cohesion, for example by engaging in a multi-stakeholder dialogue, by building bridges between conflicting groups in the community or by empowering members of the community to speak aloud, advocate for their interests and actively participate in policy-making processes on local, national or even European level.

2. Applicants should fulfil the eligibility criteria:

Applicants must be a non-profit organization, which, as a corporate body (“registered organization”), fulfils all the requirements of German law on non-profit organizations. According to German law an organization is only non-profit if it exclusively and directly pursues charitable purposes. Possible organizational forms, depending on national legal regulations concerning charitable/non-profit legal status, include NGOs, cooperatives, collectives, associations, clubs, a non-profit private limited company, non-profit public limited company, non-for-profit corporations, etc.

More specific information on the legal and documentation requirements can be found here.

We fund non-profit organizations from: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

3. We do not fund:

  • Technical, digital, artistic or other end products (e.g., films, teaching materials, apps, artworks) without co-creative processes and community building aspects
  • Events with a pure event or festival character, sports and entertainment events as well as one-time connecting events that do not have a measurable direct impact on the local community and lack sustainability characteristics
  • Pure research
  • Construction
  • Commercially oriented project ideas / products that are intended for later commercial use
  • Individuals or groups of individuals

How to apply

The Civic Europe Idea Challenge takes place online: By submitting an idea, a short version of it will be automatically published on our online platform, the so-called idea space. The idea space is accessible to the public and can be read by every visitor of the website. Please read our introduction to the idea space below to understand the concept, benefits and functionality of an online idea challenge.

To submit your project idea, please register on the platform. Once you are a registered user, you will find the button “create your idea” in the idea space. Please be aware that while uploading your idea there is no option to save drafts. Your entries will only be saved after you have hit the submit button at the end of the application form. To avoid data loss, please save an offline version of your answers. All questions from the application form can be found here as well. The second round of the Idea Challenge is closed. You can no longer edit your idea.

Community managers

Further, during the open call we engage community managers, who read and comment on ideas in the idea space on a regular basis. Community managers are experienced civil society actors with expertise in active citizenship and funding applications. They fill the function of a reviewer by providing hints, tips or questions on how to improve your application – if necessary. That means your application will only receive comments if the community managers have valuable advice for you. The community manager is not only a reviewer, but also a bridge builder looking for synergies between ideas – so they might also comment if they find ideas that connect well. Please be aware that our community managers by far do not have the capacities to read all incoming applications.

Idea space platform

The idea space we use for the Idea Challenge is an open-source platform developed and maintained by Liquid Democracy. By using an online platform like this, the selection process becomes more transparent; we foster participation and co-creation within the online community and create possibilities for networking. This is a radical innovation that is quite unlike conventional idea competitions. The strength and innovative power of an online idea competition lies not in the mere rivalry between each of the projects, but in enabling them to cooperate. Each project thus contributes its stake to an active civil society and more solidarity in Europe.

Opportunities offered by the idea space:

Ideas are shuffled randomly on a daily basis to ensure the visibility of each and every idea. You can sort them further alphabetically, or according to the most commented ideas, the most supported or the most recent. You can also filter them by different criteria – the year of application, the status in the selection process, the field of action, the country where the idea originates.

By registering in the idea space, you become part of the Idea Challenge community and get the opportunity to exchange with and learn from the submitted ideas by using the comment function.

Registered users can post a comment under each idea to express their support, offer feedback, ask questions or simply connect with the team behind the idea. The idea space should be a diverse, tolerant, respectful and supportive environment for civil society actors who want to exchange and learn from each other. That is why it is very important to respect and follow our Netiquette while commenting in the idea space.

Registered users can submit an idea. Submitted applications can be edited during the entire duration of the open call period. Parts of the application are visible to all visitors of the idea space.

In the Community Award framework, applicants and their co-workers are able to support ideas they like and help them win the Community Award.

Selection of ideas

The selection process


The selection process for the Idea Challenge winners is a multi-step approach. After the call ends, the applications are reviewed by the Civic Europe team to check if they all pass the eligibility criteria of the call. All applications that are in alignment with the eligibility criteria will then be read and rated by a reading team, composed of carefully selected civil society experts with local knowledge of the regions we are active in. In this phase every application is read and rated twice, by two different readers. The rating during the reading period is based on the selection criteria for the call and also considers the feasibility and sustainability of the idea. If the ratings of two readers diverge too much from each other the idea will be read a third time by a third independent reader.

The best rated ideas by the reading team as well as the winner of the Community Award will become part of a shortlist. Shortlisted ideas will be asked to hand in a detailed financial plan in addition to their proposed idea and will be interviewed by the Civic Europe team. The interview will last for approximately one hour and aims at getting to know the teams better and asking critical questions regarding the application. The impressions from the interviews will have a significant effect on the final decision. In parallel, shortlisted ideas are read and rated by a jury of experts with a long-standing expertise in local civic initiatives, on the geographical focus of the program or on democracy in Europe in general. In their rating process, the jury will be guided by the selection criteria and try to choose ideas that bring about transformative, systemic and sustainable social and political change for their local communities and thereby foster resilient democratic developments in Europe.

The jury members will finally select the winning ideas in an online or in-person meeting. The decision is based on the jury members’ ratings, the interviews, an in-depth discussion and consensus voting (in single critical cases consent voting is also possible). In addition to the ideas selected for funding there will be a waiting list. All ideas selected by the jury must undergo a legal check by the Civic Europe team in order to verify their non-profit legal status before the official announcement of the winners. If this legal check is not successful, the next best idea from the waiting list will move forward.

In a nutshell, we will conduct five actions before we announce the winners:

  1. the Community award and the selection of the Community Award winner, who then become part of the shortlisted candidates;
  2. reading phase, reduction of the applications to a shortlist;
  3. interviews with all shortlisted candidates in preparation for the jury meeting;
  4. an inclusive and intensive jury process that is concluded by a jury meeting where the winning projects will be selected;
  5. legal check to verify the non-profit status of selected ideas.

The jury members 2021

We appointed an experienced, competent and diverse eight-member-jury. The jurors are experts and practitioners on the topic of democracy and active citizenship or a specific aspect of it. Each of them brings strong expertise in local civic initiatives, on the geographical focus of the program or on democracy in Europe in general. The three official partners of Civic Europe are represented in the jury.

Our jury members are: Jana Lassen, Annegret Wulff, Louisa Slavkova​, Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, Jochen Butt-Posnik​, Željka Markulin, Markus Lux and Steffen Jost. If you want to read more information about our jury please click here.


The timeline for 2021 is the following:

Submitting the project proposal: March 15 - April 26, 2021, 12:00 noon (CET)
Community Award vote: May 10 - May 31, 2021
Announcing the Community Award winner: Beginning of June 2021
Shortlist publication: Beginning of July 2021
Submitting the detailed financial plans for shortlisted ideas: Beginning of July 2021
Shortlist (online) interviews: July 12 - August 6, 2021
Jury (online) meeting: Beginning of September 2021
Announcing the winners: End of September 2021
Kick-off (online) meeting: October 2021
Project implementation: October 2021 - November 2022
Reporting: November 30, 2022

Please note: We reserve the right to make adjustments if necessary.