Funds for Non-governmental Organisations
Strengthened civil society development and enhanced contribution to social justice, democracy and sustainable development
Stefan Batory Foundation
20 June 2013
PA10 - Funds for non-governmental organisations
Calls for proposals
There are no further calls for proposals.
Why was the programme needed?
The programme Citizens for Democracy was launched in mid 2013 and in the next two years general situation of the third sector was quite stable. At that time several changes in legislation regarding civil society organisations were adopted. These changes were postulated by civil sector and they enabled its operations (e.g. they simplified procedures of associations registration and requirements regarding reporting).
A number of disturbing trends have been observed after the presidential and parliamentary elections won by the conservative Law and Justice Party in the autumn of 2015. They have harmed NGOs, especially those specialising in human rights and discrimination. The new governing majority adopted many amendments to legislation (e.g. on the Constitutional Tribunal, police, public media, civil service, anti-terrorism, data retention, public assemblies) which have raised serious concerns regarding human rights and the rule of law. The Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment was closed and its powers have been transferred to the newly created position of the Government Plenipotentiary for Civil Society and Equal Treatment. The equality agenda has been sidelined. There is a plan to establish a National Centre for the Development of Civil Society which would centralise the distribution of public funds for third sector and would make them completely dependent upon and controlled by the government. The monitoring conducted by the National Federation of Polish NGOs has shown dozens of cases of irregularities in public funds distribution. Furthermore, there have been cases of vandalism and physical violence against human rights and LGBTI activists and a smear campaign was staged in public media against several NGOs that were accused of having allegedly privileged access to public funding thanks to personal connections with politicians in the previous government.
Among positive trends it’s worth to mention that confidence in NGOs has increased by 11 percentage points over the last three years, according to a study completed in early 2017 (44% in 2014, 55% in 2017). The visibility of NGOs and their programmes has increased by 13 percentage points in the same period (60% in 2014, 73% in 2017). Although there is no hard evidence, it is likely that the Citizens for Democracy programme and communications made by participating NGOs made a meaningful contribution to this.
What did the programme achieve?
Within the Citizens for Democracy programme 548 thematic and systemic projects were financed. Projects were implemented by 451 leading organizations and 497 partners from Poland and abroad. Project activities were carried out in 773 locations in Poland and 146 projects were national in scope or dedicated to national institutions. The projects brought tangible results.
Watchdog and Advocacy. 179 NGOs (project promoters and their partners) conducted watchdog and advocacy activities in different areas (such as healthcare, judiciary, education, ecology, access to public information, transparency) addressed to 6,814 institutions (mainly local governments). 105 various themes were monitored such as transparency of local council meetings, policy inclusion of people who do not use private vehicles in urban areas, compliance with high standards of perinatal care, best practice in cancer detection, environmental compliance, respect for the rights of children with disabilities in education, legislation process, enforcement of national legislation and international conventions. 517 reports, web pages, statements etc. were prepared to document monitoring findings and present recommendations. 2,567 of the monitored institutions cooperated with NGOs or reacted to their activities.
As a result, 122 legal provisions, policies and existing practices were changed, replaced or amended (such as an amendment to the act on the educational system to adapt exam procedures to disabled students’ needs; improvement of the perinatal care standards in hospitals in Malopolska province which increased the quality of medical care for women during pregnancy and in the period of delivery; recording and publishing online all meetings of Kraków City Council which increased transparency of City Council operations; modernisation of city infrastructure in Wrocław and Lubin for the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists). The implementation of these projects helped to strengthen 128 organisations.
Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups. 66 initiatives were adopted to support self-help, self-organising and volunteering in socially vulnerable groups (e.g. self-help groups of parents of autistic people, women foreigners clubs, voluntary work in welfare centres) for 4,800 people. Among them, there were young volunteers who became involved in activities benefitting their peers and/or the local communities; 45 organisations applied participatory approaches to engage vulnerable groups in co-designing needed methods and forms of assistance.
Organisations provided 183 services of all types (such as legal counselling, therapy, physiotherapy, social knowledge and skills building); 21 new arrangements were introduced for improved service provision (e.g. work with networks of organisations/institutions, new tools, use of new technologies). The quality of service was also raised due to training for professions to use the new work methods; 7,900 people improved their skills: there were mainly employees of organisations that provide services and support to socially vulnerable individuals as well as government officials and uniformed services who deal with socially excluded people on a regular basis. 143 organisations expanded their service portfolio and/or improved the quality of service. Assistance in everyday life issues was provided to 42,500 people from socially vulnerable communities (such as people with disabilities and their carers, seniors, children and youth from problem families, individuals learning difficulties, families in crisis, inmates, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, homeless people, migrants, Roma, sex workers, victims of violence).
Strengthened Capacity of NGOs and an Enabling Environment for the Sector. Altogether, 4 systemic projects targeting the entire sector and 5 projects targeting its individual sub-sectors were completed. Moreover, 404 individual NGOs were provided with funds to support their institutional development. 3
The Strategic Civil Society Roadmap (SCSR) was developed. It is the first ever broadly consulted document that sets out the roles and responsibilities for the third sector in Poland (3,000 NGO representatives were involved); public consultation standards were developed for the national and local level in consultation (450 NGOs were involved). Two major portals were expanded and upgraded (ngo.pl and mojepanstwo.pl) - they are available to support organisations by providing a platform of communication and promotion, offering data, legal texts, advice, campaigning, fund-raising and networking opportunities. The portals have a combined reach of some 50,000 organisations.
Activities addressed to specific ‘branches’ of the third sector (watchdogs, rural organisations, organisations dealing with: addictions’ prevention, social archives, food banks) focused on raising knowledge, improving skills, providing tools, supporting networking, as well as on advocating for changes of legal provisions enabling NGOs operations; 3,060 organisations benefited from these activities.
The indicators tracked throughout the programme show that as many as 402 organisations (almost 90%) reported having gained more institutional strength, acquired new experience, skills, as well as new contacts as a result of the programme and the projects; 438 NGO activists (leaders, members, staff, volunteers) have improved their skills due to training, postgraduate studies, and specialized courses funded under the programme. By implementing projects in partnership 272 organisations have additionally strengthened their capacity and improved the effectiveness of their efforts.
How were bilateral relations strengthened?
Activities undertaken under complementary actions focused on two issues. First, they aimed at counteracting hate speech, xenophobia and discrimination in Poland. These activities largely addressed horizontal concerns. Secondly, they offered opportunities to exchange experience between EEA Grants beneficiaries in Poland and in 15 other EU Member States.
Initiatives to counter hate speech were an important programme component. Some of them supported the Council of Europe No Hate Speech Movement youth campaign. We published two research reports on hate speech against minority groups (2014 and 2017) and we carried out the #StopHateSpeech youth campaign. Both the reports and the campaign were widely covered by traditional and social media. Together with a group of organisations we prepared a number of events devoted to equality and antidiscrimination issues.
We joined forces with other organisations in 2016 to respond to the growing sentiment against refugees in the context of the migration crisis in Europe. The uchodzcy.info.pl [refugee.info] portal was launched. Solidarity with refugees campaigns were conducted. A “Topic: Refugees” contest for journalists was organised.
In 2015-2016, in co-operation with other organisations we arranged seven NGO Forums with participation of 880 people, including 55 from other countries. The representatives of Polish organisations took part in events in other countries, organised by Operators or by international organisations.
What will be the impact of the programme?
The sustainability of project results as well as the sustainability of the organisations are quite strong. Data show that 36.5% of thematic projects will be continued and their results will be further promoted/disseminated; and 10% will not be continued. For more than half the projects (53.5%), organisations stated they will continue implementing activities related to the theme of EEA-funded project albeit at a smaller scale, mainly because of limited resources. Based on data (including ex-post monitoring findings), we can conclude that 80% of organisations implementing thematic projects have continued activities using the results one way or the other, kept promoting them and observing the project impact. All organisations implementing systemic projects are continuing and developing their activities while using and disseminating the results of the projects they completed under the programme.