How it works

We support local civil society actors

The Civic Europe Idea Challenge supports civil society actors by providing them with funding and mentoring to implement their project ideas. We fund up to 15 local projects per year with grants of up to €50,000 each. Non profit actors, local and regional NGOs or civil society initiatives from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain can apply with an idea to foster democracy and participation locally.

Selection criteria

Funding is available for initiatives and project ideas that:

We are looking for initiatives and project ideas that contribute to civic education in their local regions and encourage civic engagement. They should address locally rooted issues that matter to the community and at the same time promote a democratic culture of living in diversity, remaining open and tolerant towards different points of view, etc. This will often require going beyond 'easy answers' and making use of nuanced approaches. Thematically suitable examples for project ideas could be: establishing a new "welcome culture" for migrants, dealing with and accepting homosexuality in civic life, improving living conditions for people with disabilities, raising awareness of women’s rights and many more…

We will support initiatives and project ideas that invite a wide range of opinions and actors on the issue and include, in particular, residents, citizens, families, newcomers, municipal actors or groups who feel excluded and might find their answers in black-and-white political choices or populist politics. Ideally, our funded initiatives (try to) engage community actors with profound disagreements in dialogue, such as

  • those who believe in civic actions and those who are doubtful about;
  • those who trust in democracy and those who are dissatisfied with it;
  • those who are convinced of the 'European idea,' those who oppose it, those who don’t (yet) have an opinion as well as those who retreat from politics.

We want to reach initiatives and project ideas whose activities target towns, villages and cities situated outside large urban centers that are largely attuned to polarization or that have a low density of civic cohesion and few possibilities for civic and political learning and engagement (so-called civic deserts).

We are looking for initiatives and project ideas whose impact on re-establishing relationships across (divided) communal actors and (re-) activating the whole field of civic participation in the local context would be explicitly visible and measurable after the end of the funding period.

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

Organizations of a non-commercial legal form (“registered non-profit organization”). Possible organizational forms, depending on national legal regulations concerning charitable/non-profit character, could be: NGOs, cooperatives, collectives, associations, clubs, a non-profit private limited company, non-profit public limited company, non-for-profit corporations, etc.

The legal and documentation requirements concerning applying organizations are based on German law. An excerpt of the German charitable status and the documentation requirements for winning initiatives can be found here.

The application and selection process

Applicants submit their idea in the idea space. Submitted proposals can be edited during the entire duration of the open call period. After the call ends, the Civic Europe team, in cooperation with an external reading team, creates a shortlist of around 30 submitted projects. Shortlisted candidates will be asked to hand in a financial plan in addition to their proposed idea and they will have the opportunity to answer questions about their project idea during a short interview with the Civic Europe team. All shortlisted proposals will then be considered by a multidisciplinary jury. The jury will select the winning initiatives based on the above mentionend selection criteria for the idea challenge.

The Idea Challenge 2020 is closed. The next opportunity to submit an idea will be in 2021. You will find more information here soon. Get registered on our website to receive the newest updates.

Mentoring and network meetings

The selected civic initiatives receive administrative, strategic and methodological support from the Civic Europe team at all times online and on the phone throughout the program as well as in person during our network meetings.


Mentoring and network meetings. (Photo by Olga Zarko)

The network meetings are not only an opportunity for the winning initiatives to overcome blockades or get feedback on their projects, but also to meet the other selected CSOs and learn more about their projects, to extend their network throughout Europe and to get into peer-to-peer exchange and learning.