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Trailblazers: Local LGBT+ Activists and Allies | Civic Europe
Community development

Trailblazers: Local LGBT+ Activists and Allies winner

Trailblazers project works with local LGBT+ activists and allies to develop skills, increase our visibility and presence, promote our rights, and meaningfully engage with our local communities.


Who is behind this?

Aleksandra Muzińska

For a Change Fund | Fundusz dla Odmiany


Who is joining forces?

Maja Branka Idea Zmiany (Idea of Change)


Fundacja RegenerAkcja (Foundation RegenerAction)


Idea Zmiany will deliver trainings to local activists on how to make change happen. Fundacja RegenerAkcja will ensure our local partners, activists and allies have sufficient self-care skills.


Idea pitch

Our vision is Poland where LGBT+ people can feel fully at home in every community. At last. Meanwhile, in the last months, 80 Polish local governments declared to be “LGBT free zones.” We are bringing change. We will research framing messages about LGBT+ people in conservative circles; we will empower a group of local activists to work in their communities to bring change, increase LGBT+ people’s visibility and presence, and foster dialogues; and then provide them with grants for their actions.

Where will your project idea take place?

South-eastern Poland: Hrubieszów, Tarnów, Rzeszów, Krosno

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

According to the recent ILGA’s Europe Ranking, Poland is most homophobic of all the EU countries. Polarizing anti-LGBT hate speech is increasingly normalized in public discourse, threatening diversity and social cohesion. LGBT people are routinely targeted as enemies of family values, cultural threat, promoters of child abuse, and were scapegoated in the 2019 elections campaign.
In 2019, over 80 local governments, most in south-eastern Poland, have declared to be “LGBT free zones”. This escalating hostility has severe effects: many Equality Marches in these areas were either banned by authorities, or violently attacked and their participants assaulted. This trend is a concern for all, but especially for LGBT people from towns and villages of south-eastern Poland.

Who are you doing it for?

Trailblazers Project will work with LGBT groups, activists, and allies to build their capacity to bring their ideas to action in their localities. We envision that some of their proposed projects’ audience will be their local residents who perhaps were exposed to hate speech, who may have concerns or misconceptions about our community – the “moveable middle”.
The people who ultimately benefit from these dialogues are not only these residents, but also the marginalized LGBT people who live in small towns and villages. We believe the lack of knowledge, visibility, and representation has devastating effects. South-eastern Poland is considered more conservative than other areas, and research shows that support for civil unions and same-sex marriages is the lowest in this region.

How do you plan to get there?

In 2021, we will announce a call for proposals in which activists from local communities in south-eastern Poland will be invited to apply for support. Using participatory methods, all applicants will select the successful grantees.
Through the Trailblazers Project we will support them by:
• Conducting research to identify best strategies, with attention to local contexts, to meaningfully engage with people who may have been exposed to anti LGBT hate speech and have misconceptions about our community.
• Developing and delivering training on message framing, bringing change, responding to misconceptions, meaningful engagement with the “moveable middle”.
• Developing and delivering training on tools and strategies for self care, preventing “activist burnout,” building support networks.

What are the expected results?

With support from Civic Europe, we envision the following results in south-eastern Poland:
• Minimum 16 group or individual participants will have gained hands-on knowledge on how to frame their messaging, organize effectively, identify and engage allies and “moveable middle”, develop outreach and campaign strategies.
• Minimum 16 group or individual participants will be equipped with hands-on self-care skills and knowledge, such as enhancing resilience, preventing and identifying symptoms of burnout, mitigating the effects of exclusion, building support networks.
• Minimum 10 group or individual grantees will be empowered to successfully and safely implemented the project they designed in their small towns and villages.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

The Trailblazers - grassroots activists - bring their expertise and nuanced understanding of local structures and community dynamics. Social contexts in their localities will vary, so they will decide themselves what projects are most suitable, feasible, and needed in their community to increase acceptance of LGBT people. We will support them with insights from research, skills to turn their ideas into action, plan campaigns, and lead dialogues. The Trailblazers’ civic engagement will result in promoting and enhancing diversity and tolerance on the local level, among their communities. All the Trailblazers participants will receive mini-grants and assistance for their projects.

Why is this idea important to you?

Being from Warsaw, we recognize our privilege of having access to resources, knowledge, and contacts. We function in a safer and less homophobic environment. Polish LGBT people from villages and small towns are often rejected and excluded from their families, harassed at schools or work places, or attacked for being out and holding their loved one’s hand. Young LGBT people lack role models who inspire and encourage them to make healthy life choices.
We want to use our privilege to strengthen those community members who face various forms of exclusion and discrimination. We believe that south-eastern Poland – a region with high levels of polarisation and homophobia – is a key region to engage with wider public. Without working directly in this area, we will not attain equality in Poland.

€ 47500,-

Total budget

€ 34000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Personnel cost (coordinator) 4,200 EUR
Research on message framing 8,000 EUR
External trainers (4 x 2-day workshops) 4,800 EUR
Travel and accommodation (participants) 8,000 EUR
Food and space rental (participants) 4,500 EUR
4 webinars (hosts) 1,100 EUR
Promotion 1,000 EUR
Evaluation 1,400 EUR
Office supplies 1,000 EUR

10 mini-grants 12,000 EUR
Assistance for grantees (trainers, mentors) 900 EUR
Community events (4 meetings) 600 EUR

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We would like to hear about others’ experiences with similar projects, and their reflections, good practices and lessons learned. Specifically we are interested in projects that involve community building and change making in small local communities – challenges, strategies, solutions, and fails.

Project Journey


And we took off!


In April, we announced recruitment for LGBT+ trailblazers. And now we must admit that we have achieved success. 39 people applied for the planned 16 places. A few words of explanation should be given to you here. From the beginning, we wanted to give 10 grants for LGBT+ activities in Southe-astern Poland. However, we assumed that the number of programme’s participants may lower due to various reasons (Zoom fatigue, discouragement, low interest). This is why we decided to invite more people to the project.

We used many different channels to promote information about the call. First of all, we tried to distribute information on local social networks – to be sure that it reached the largest possible number of people potentially interested in activism for LGBT+ people, and that it was also supported by people they knew.

In addition, we set up a paid social media campaign geotargeted to Facebook users potentially interested the participation of people being outside of the leadership and activist networks we knew.

We received almost 40 applications. We consider it as a great success, especially since most of these people live in small towns or in the countryside. This is a great achievement considering the fact that the program is to be dedicated to this part of Poland, which is famous for „LGBT + free zones” and very low social activity.

In parallel, we began our research on the narratives related to the LGBT + people allyship. We started with the semantic analysis stage. Part of our team collected all the posts in the online media about the LGBT+ allyship from different perspectives (community, allies, celebrities, LGBT+ organizations), and selected important sentences and statements from them, which were to be subjected to qualitative analysis in the next stage.

More about the programme announcement >

Join forces!

Who wants to be a trailblazer? Local meetings

After many weeks of preparation, discussing ideas, risk analysis and simple fear, we started the project! To begin with, we disseminated information about the project among local leaders in south-eastern Poland. We clearly stressed that we would be looking for people willing to work for LGBT+ people. We wrote e-mails, made lots of calls, asked for recommendations and advice. We made contact with local government officials, local activists and organizers of cultural activities. We have mapped leadership networks that could be used for recruitment and support. Ultimately, we organized three community meetings at Zoom: for Krosno, Tarnów and the cross-voivodeship network of leaders from south-eastern Poland (Podkarpacie, Lesser Poland and the Lublin region). These were phenomenal meetings. We talked about the obstacles and difficulties in raising LGBT + issues in the most conservative part of Poland, how to do it effectively and who can be a natural ally.

In parallel, we started working with our researcher on the concept of research on the narratives related to the LGBT + people allyship in small local communities. We spent many hours talking about why we wanted to do the research, how not to duplicate the work of other LGBT+ activists, how to explore a new, unexplored reality, and how to use the research results. Here is the result of this work:


For a Change Fund - Fundusz Dla Odmiany

Idea created on May 26, 2020
Last edit on Aug. 3, 2020

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