Coalition building to address the shrinking space for civil society in Europe - August 2018

For this first round of funding Civitates opted for a two-phased process. Our rationale was to provide an initial space for organisations to come together and brainstorm collectively about what was needed in each specific context before starting to draft a coalition strategy, and to then provide more funding to the most promising coalitions. So, first we provided several small grants (up to 10K EUR) for a short duration of time, aimed at initial coalition building and strategising. Next, several larger grants (up to 100K EUR) were provided for the implementation of these coalitions’ plans, over a longer period (18 months). The grants listed below relate to the first phase of this process.

Please note that only the name of the lead partner is mentioned, as this is the grantee with which we signed a grant letter, while these cross-sectoral coalitions involve a variety of partners and stakeholders.

All projects started in August 2018.

This coalition consists of CSOs from different sectors, including faith based, international development, environment, housing/homelessness, and community engagement. It will challenge the shrinking space for civil society through an advocacy strategy and public debate about the importance of civil society campaigning. The overall goal is to create an environment conducive to bringing about change and roll back the current restrictions faced by civil society, in particular the reform/repeal of the Lobbying Act.

This coalition, initiated by four well-known Bulgarian NGOs, will lead a process of research, structured debate and planning, involving over 100 NGOs.  It will develop an action plan to coordinate NGOs’ efforts to address the anti-NGO smear campaign in Bulgaria, as well as the issue of the shrinking space more generally. The coalition will actively work to enlarge its community of supporters and is open for representatives of various sectors.

This coalition is initiated by ten organisation from seven different cities, working on women/gender/LGBTQ+, youth and media. It will use the diverse expertise of its partners to develop and implement a local and national strategic communications campaign addressing the shrinking space for civil society, particularly around the need for safe space. The campaign will address the negative image of the CSOs, expose the hate speech and threats towards CSO representatives, and expose the conservative groups behind the attacks against the Istanbul convention and the civil sector.

This cross-sectoral “Mej-se-k-svetu” coalition will engage CSOs platforms, experts and progressive parts of society to challenge the growing popular distrust in civil society and the way in which civil society is increasingly denied access to media, decision-making and public funding. It will devise a joint action plan to develop operational capacities for rapid mobilisation in cases of imminent threats to democracy, defend public media and advocate for CSO participation in policy-making and public funding.

This pre-existing coalition brings together NGOs working on a wide range of civil liberties and human rights issues.  It aims to expand its network and empower civil society organizations in Italy to protect and expand its civic space, by improving their strategic communications capacities to reach a broader audience and build new alliances outside their sector.

This coalition, initiated by eight NGOs working in different fields, aims to address the negative image of civil society in the public discourse, a mistrust that is driven by right-wing politicians, actively supported by the new Austrian government as well as the highly concentrated media. The coalition partners aim to strengthen the voices of civil society through media training sessions focused on developing new communication strategies around the framing and role of civil society.

This pre-existing informal coalition of CSOs aims to make the public appreciate the key role of independent free and diverse civil society. It will launch a nationwide information campaign with a view to build a positive image of CSOs acting together and unified by the same vision. It will expand the coalition by enlisting new partners, including businesses and media.

This is a Coalition of Regional Ententes (CORE), a nationwide cooperation initiative between regional civic centers that work with local CSOs in the fields of social justice, culture education and religion. These regional civic centers, which are pre-existing coalitions in themselves, will be connected under one structure to enhance nation-level cooperation.  It will support local CSOs through capacity building and PR, as well as by providing meeting- event space, and financial help for overhead or project costs.

This coalition is initiated by four service providing organisations working for civil society, poverty reduction, women’s rights and environmental protection.  It will ensure a regular dialogue on issues of relevance, including conditions in which civil society organisations operate in Hungary. The coalition partners will reach out to citizens, citizen groups and local NGOs to join the coalition.

The existing Civilisation coalition, which is working to defend Hungarian civil society organisations, will work to expand its popular base and membership, especially in the countryside, and to improve the resilience of civil society against continued attacks and restrictions.  The project partners will reach out to smaller organisations working outside major urban centres, provide capacity building, and facilitate regional networking amongst them and the more experienced civil society organisations to identify common issues and to initiate joint campaigning.

This coalition brings together Slovenian CSOs working to defend human rights, media freedom, and independent journalism. It will design a strategy to map and report media ownership and financing patterns that enable the rise of hate and propaganda, as well as provide capacity building in relation to legal defence, digital safety and strategic communication, so CSOs are better equipped to counter pressures, threats and attacks.

This coalition includes organisations from different fields and sectors, including experts in communication and legal affairs, and has a strong national reach.  With its main focus being effective communications, which is essential for CSOs to expand their reach and reclaim their space, the coalition aims to build a network of organisations that share communication competences and tools, coordinate their actions and amplify individual voices while having a legal backing.

This coalition aims to address the challenges faced by civil society in Romania. Combining the expertise of experienced NGOs with the energy and enthusiasm of younger groups, the coalition partners will use a participative process to strategize about ways to be stronger together and generate new tactics to enlarge the space for participation for both citizens and NGOs.

This coalition of cultural initiatives is set up to connect the mediating forces of art, discussion and journalism through the format of a jointly organised travelling festival. It also aims to bridge the gap between the capital and the countryside and to develop methodologies of spreading ideas about how to change our social environment. the coalition unites the expertise of its partners which work at the intersection of culture and human rights advocacy.

This coalition aims to create a platform of actors to defend space for civic sector as the basic pillar of a democratic political system in Slovakia. Its objective is to prevent political and legislative activities that would restrict the democratic process and undermine the advocacy by civil society organizations. It will also cultivate a political, social and media debate on the civic sector and its importance. It will act as a watchdog and engage in advocacy and lobbying.

This coalition is composed of civil society actors that experience the shrinking of space for civil society in different fields, including that of migration, anti-discrimination, freedom on the internet, etc. By working together, the members of the coalition will elaborate an actual, global and precise assessment of this shrinking phenomenon in France and will think of ways of action to prevent this shrinking from continuing.