Following decades of transition the majority of Bulgarian citizens do not believe that Bulgaria has democratic governance. A vicious circle can be observed: the environment, regulatory and institutional, seemingly promotes good governance and participation but the practices disappoint, i.e. corruption, abuses, populist political rhetoric. The latter results in low motivation, lack of awareness and culture of participation and dramatic decline in trust in the institutions. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are the natural driver that has the expertise and energy to break this circle, how public trust in them, given that CSOs often fall prey to fake news, is not high. The project aims at improving the quality of public consultations in 7 municipalities and raising civic culture and citizen involvement through the introduction of working modern mechanisms. The proposal will provide for a real opportunity to regulate the rules for public consultations, set up a fund supporting civic initiatives and introduce an online platform for consultations in 7 Bulgarian municipalities. In the course of the project implementation the representatives of NGOs and municipalities will be introduced to successful models of interaction between local authorities and citizens. Based on the latter, proposals will be developed for the introduction of the models through amendments to the legal framework in 7 pilot municipalities. Public discussions of the draft ordinances are planned and they will enable real citizen participation of more than 350 citizens in the adoption of the documents. Local organizations and administrations will be trained to boost their capacity for holding public consultations which will result later in greater public trust in them. The project will use advocacy actions to mobilize public energy to implement innovative solutions for citizen participation.
Summary of project results
The main goal of "Entrance for Citizens" was to improve the quality of public consultations in 7 Bulgarian municipalities and to increase civic culture and public activity. The approaches we used in the course of the project were tailored to the specifics of the municipalities and target groups. First, we organized a conference with workshops for over 100 participants - representatives of institutions, civil society organizations, partners and followers of the Citizen Participation Forum, before whom we presented three different tools for promoting civil participation: a regulation of public consultations at the local level, the digital platform for civic participation Consul (translated and adapted for the Bulgarian audience by CPF within the project) and a local fund for civic initiatives. We held a competition to recruit local partners - municipal administrations and NGOs, and we also organized several trainings for the selected candidates. Thus, we increased the skills and motivation of both CSOs and municipal officials to implement new instruments for citizen participation. During the entire project we actively collaborated with local media in the partner municipalities (Vratsa, Karlovo, Kardzhali, Lovech, Montana, Sofia, Targovishte), and we managed to attract the attention of national media as well. The project also gave us the opportunity to conduct the Civic Participation Index evaluation in all seven partner municipalities.
As a result of our almost three-year joint efforts, regulations on public consultations were adopted in 4 municipalities, the Consul platform was implemented in 2 municipalities, and local fund for civic initiatives was established in 1 municipality. We also created and participated in the implementation of a new model for holding public consultations on important strategic documents in Sofia Municipality. ln the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, we supported two other municipalities in the adoption of special measures for the organization of local social services and how to optimize their work with citizens and volunteers.