An important challenge faced by the civil society sector in Bulgaria over the last couple of years has been low recognition among the public of its achievements, role and importance for the development of democracy.. At the same time negative media coverage targeted at CSOs has been on the rise. This situation not only robs CSOs of their energy, supporters and resources but also makes it possible to spread easily stereotypes and fake news about what the organizations do, who pays and what for. The project aims at involving young educated people who are at the beginning of their professional career to “develop a passion for” for civil society causes, disseminate information about them and have the forum for that. Two Civil Hubs will be set up in St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia and in Paisiy Hilendarski University of Plovdiv. Students and faculty members, prominent public figures and activists will develop jointly with CSOs more than 40 joint projects and initiatives supporting the activities of CSOs. In addition, youth energy will be mobilized through 105 public events and meetings for students and CSOs (more than 450 participants) and through Our Voice platform (with more than 30 proposals) to solve important issues facing the third sector. Two media companies will be key partners: OFFNews, with a monthly column dedicated to CSOs (with over 24 publications) and Capital Group media which will present a series of publications (over 10) clarifying important issues and providing informative answers to counteract the campaigns smearing the work of CSOs. The project will help: а) bring in fresh and motivated energy in the civil society sector, b) civil society topics and stories to be told by other agents of change, c) thus reaching new and broader audience and d) boost awareness and understanding of democracy and the key role of CSOs for democracy.
Summary of project results
In the implementation of the project we involved 165 students and 61 civic organizations in direct interaction between them – in a total of over 50 online and live meetings, by developing common activities and engaging students in the work of the organizations. The youth generated over 80 concrete proposals for improvement in 7 main civic spheres – promoting volunteering, protecting the environment, improving civic participation, civic education, sustainability of funding for civil society organizations, effectiveness of protest actions and activism, human rights respect in digital democracy. In addition to this direct youthful audience, we have reached out to a larger audience with materials about who the civic organizations are and what they are doing for our society – thanks to our work with the project partners: Off Media and Sega.bg and the social media. With a total of 34 media publications the journalists presented the work of over 30 civil organizations in various public spheres and thus the civic themes reached over 178 700 people. Short videos presenting 21 civil organizations, incl. the project’s results, reached to 357 942 people through the social networks. More than 800 thousand people were reached in total through the communication initiatives of the project.
Prospects beyond the funding period:
As a result of the project, most of the students strengthen their position as active subjects in the civil society, better their skills to initiate and advocate for changes improving our communities. We will continue this interaction between people and the civic sector – for the youth to learn more from the civil society organizations, and for the organizations to be inspired by the ideas and enthusiasm of the young and to share with new audiences their causes.
The Civil Hitchhiker''s Club is the discussion space that will continue to exist – online and live with the participation of civic activists and young people. The online space of the NGO House, which hosts the meetings of the Club, will continue to be a meeting space for other civic organizations that need logistical and technical support to develop their activities.