Civic Europe is an incubator for locally rooted civic initiatives, organizations and individuals in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe realized by MitOst and Sofia Platform Foundation, funded by Stiftung Mercator.
Polarization, deep political divisions and declining trust in democracy are key threats to civic cohesion. To tackle those societal challenges, we believe that Europe needs active citizens from different backgrounds engaged in open civic spaces to build the stronghold of our democracies.
Civic Europe supports individuals and civil society organizations in the regions of Central, Southern and Eastern Europe, which are challenged by low civic literacy and lack of civic infrastructure. It is a multi-level enabling framework that supports locally rooted organizations and projects in two ways:
The Idea Challenge funds and mentors up to 19 lighthouse ideas per year with grants of up to €50,000 each. Eligible countries are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. Winning projects of the idea challenge build bridges and function as bright horizons and inspiration on how to bring people together in times of segregation and hate. More details about the Idea Challenge are available at the website of the program. The first call for ideas opens on April 15, 2020.
Capacity Building Program
The program fosters the capacities and the ecosystems of locally rooted organizations and individuals active in the fields of civic education and civic engagement. It helps them establish themselves as actors in their communities by providing learning spaces and project funding in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. It is co-created and implemented with local partners. The partner in Bulgaria is the Sofia Platform Foundation.
Capacity Building Program
At times of growing uncertainties and constant change, complexity is the new normal. To deal with it, we believe that civic agents need skills for collaboration, co-creation and horizontal learning to help them unlock the collective wisdom in their communities. Hence, the capacity-building program’s approach is two-fold:
- to enhance the civic knowledge, skills and competences of individuals, teams and organizations to achieve change in their communities and
- to support them in making the change themselves.
Hungary, Poland, Romania
The program is implemented in regions that are defined either by a lack of civic infrastructure or by high levels of polarization. It is co-created and implemented with local partners:
– In Hungary the local partners are Alternative Communities Association (Debrecen) and Dialogue for Communities Public Benefit Association (Miskolc).
– In Poland the local partner is Non-Governmental Organizations Support Center (Bialystok).
– In Romania the local partner is Partnership for Community Action and Transformation Foundation (Bucharest).
Activities: Together we develop a tailor-made capacity building program in each of the 3 languages for approximately 5 locally rooted organizations or informal groups, who are mission-driven and work with means of civic education. In addition, the 5 local actors receive small grants to do projects in their communities that aim to strengthen the civic cohesion, to foster civic knowledge and competences, and to support values such as tolerance, mutual respect, openness and inclusion.
Outcomes: The three local partners have increased their capacities in co-designing and implementing a capacity building program. They have started an international network of social change actors. Approx. 5 locally rooted organizations and informal groups per country have strengthened their capacities in civic education and engagement and in organizational development. With their community projects they have contributed to a better civic infrastructure, more civic cohesion and an increased civic literacy. At the end of the process the local organizations and actors are able to initiate dialogue in polarized environments and use the local capacities to bridge societal divides.
Lastly, citizens on the local level in each of the 15 communities have an increased civic knowledge and responsibility and willingness to participate in various civic forms.
Timeline and Activities
Mapping the local context in Hungary, Poland and Romania
first half of 2020
Using the power of our networks and through mapping and research, we identify the regions in the countries that mostly need such support. We compare, categorize and structure the needs of the civil society sector in each country. We focus on the regions defined by little civic infrastructure and by low levels of civic engagement. Based on the findings, we plan assessment meetings (online and offline) with potential partners and, eventually, local organizations, who could participate in the capacity building program.
Co-creating the capacity building program
second half of 2020
Together with each of the selected partners we develop the 3 capacity-building programs for up to 20 participants and/ or for about 5 teams of locally rooted groups or organizations per country. The participants should be mission-driven and work with means of civic education and civic engagement.
Implementation of the capacity building learning events
end of 2020/ first half of 2021
The programs are organized in 4 to 6 learning events. The modules strive to enable the groups and organizations to implement a project that enhances democratic participation/engagement in their communities. The events rely on the following principles:
- _Combining theoretical knowledge and practical learning with a holistic approach.
- _E_m_p_o_w_e_r_i_n_g_ _t_h_e_ _i_n_d_i_v_i_d_u_a_l_._ _
- _Balancing formal and non-formal methods and approaches.
- _Developing the culture, structure and processes of working in a team and as organization, using Tools for Citizens.
- _Tapping into the topics of community and eco-systemic work.
As of 20.10.2020
Small grants for each team or organization, participating in the capacity building programs
beginning of 2021/ second half of 2021 and beyond
The community projects, funded with small grants, are in the core of the program, understood as means for learning by doing. The local projects should aid community building, nurture civic competences and engagement, and speak to values such as tolerance, mutual respect, openness, and inclusion.
Sustainability and scaling
The participants in the Capacity Building program will become part of the pan-European network of Civic Europe. They can also apply for the Idea Challenge, where initiatives of local NGOs are supported with more funds and are introduced to an ecosystem of like-minded organizations.
Duration and partnership
The program runs for 2 years, from January 2020 until February 2022. It is realized by MitOst and Sofia Platform Foundation, funded by Stiftung Mercator.
Within the cooperation, each partner brings their own knowledge, competences and expertise:
MitOst e.V., Berlin, responsible for co-shaping and strategic development of the capacity building programs in Poland, Romania and Hungary as well as for mapping and research in three countries.
Sofia Platform (Bulgaria), Sofia, responsible for designing, implementation and strategic development of the capacity building program in Bulgaria, is in the lead for mapping and research in the four countries and is invested in communicating/ advocating the outcomes of the program.
Alternative Community Association (Hungary), Debrecen and Dialogue for Communities Public Benefit Association (Hungary), Miskolc, responsible for co-designing and implementation of the country specific capacity building program in two counties as well as for strategic development and the re-granting to the local organizations.
Non-Governmental Organizations Support Center (Poland), Bialystok, responsible for co-designing and implementation of the country specific capacity building program in the region as well as for strategic development and re-granting to the local organizations.
Partnership for Community Action and Transformation Foundation (Romania), Bucharest, responsible for co-designing and implementation of the country specific capacity building region as well as for strategic development and re-granting to the local organizations.