The Sofia Platform Foundation has a double role in the program. It is one of the two main partners in Civic Europe as well as the organization heading the Capacity Building program in Bulgaria. To find out more about Sofia Platform, check out our Partners page and the Sofia Platform website.
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 was introduced as a separate subject in the 11th grade in Bulgarian high schools. Meanwhile, Civic Europe has taken on the task to support the civil society sector in the country through informal civic education.
The 2019 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index indicates that the CSO sustainability has deteriorated during the year amid officials’ attacks on the sector that harm organizations’ legal freedoms, access to funding, as well as public image. The sector’s organizational capacity also declined in 2019, again largely due to anti-CSO campaigns and polarization in society.
The unfavorable conditions in which civil society operates make capacity building work even more urgent. That is especially true on the local level, where civic literacy and infrastructure are usually rather low, hence citizens rarely see themselves as active members of their communities who can make a positive change.
For this reason, the Capacity Building program in Bulgaria is working with active citizens on the local level throughout the country to both enhance their civic competencies and to support them in making the change they strive for.
Two cohorts of around 20 participants each from various backgrounds took part in training programs in Bulgaria in 2020 - 2021. The participants in each cohort were selected based on a motivation letter and application they submitted. The groups were selected so that participants from predominantly small towns all around the country took part. They participated in 5 learning modules that built on each other. Some modules were held in person and some were held as online or hybrid events due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The learning modules focus on two sets of civic competencies:
After the training, the participants received a small grant from the Sofia Platform Foundation in order to realize their local civic projects. Some participants teamed up and combined their efforts into a joint local project. Each participant receives the support of a mentor who is guiding them throughout the implementation of their project. All projects will be completed by the end of 2021.
However, the program does not end there. After completing their learning modules, the participants become a part of an Alumni group and continue to meet for all sorts of activities: topical workshops, knowledge and experience sharing and exchange, as well as informal social gatherings. A number of them take on other Civic Europe activities in the future and apply to the Civic Europe Idea Challenge and other programs, or take part in further capacity building training.