Community-Organizing-Leadership

Through its newest program, Ökotárs, an organization with 20 years of experience in grantmaking and capacity building of NGOs aims at contributing to the revitalization of civic community life in the countryside. During the past two decades our foundation has initiated and managed a number of various grant programs, always emphasizing that financial support must be accompanied by knowhow and skills development in order to enhance the conscientious and sustainable use of the resources provided.

During the past decade the life of Hungarian CSOs changed markedly not least thanks to the financial support provided by the various European Union funds. Parallel with this their public image and support has changed, too, but not necessarily for the better: only few „big” cases could raise public attention towards the work of NGOs, but otherwise their social embeddedness remained weak. At the same time, the cohesion and the integrity of the communities from which CSOs themselves come has deteriorated as well. Citizens lost their motivation, and in general fewer and fewer organizations and individuals participate actively in the life and development of their communities.

In order for civil society organizations to function efficiently and to fulfill their missions, they need to have strong constituencies and ties to the smaller and bigger community they work in: they should have active, mobile people behind and around them who are ready to participate in the work for the common good either with their time, with their voice (through speaking up for the cause) or with their money. In contrast with this, we see it often in Hungary that NGOs are operated by small groups of professional and deeply committed persons. In order to make an impact they would need to rebuild, broaden and strengthen their constituencies – and we aim to contribute to this through our own means.

We launched our new programme with this goal: to support community initiatives in Hungary. In spring 2016 we published an open call seeking organizations and communities that want to build their advocacy and mobilization capacities, and to exercise effective public control over the institutions, authorities and businesses. We expect that the participating 10-12 civic organizations and groups will become able to learn and use the tools of community organizing through training, mentoring and consultations and thus to improve the quality of their life, the state of their environs as well as to identify and solve local problems and issues.

Why community organizing?

The Community-Organizing-Leadership Program is based on the methodology of community organizing, which is a democratically-governed long-term process by which people are brought together to act in their common self-interest to identify community problems and solutions, and to take action by engaging existing power structures to make those solutions a reality. The essence of community organizing is to enable local communities to influence local and regional decision-making and decision-makers and thus to take their own matters in their hands. Community organizing empowers people by actively involving them in the solution of their own problems: mapping and sharing these, identifying the powers that be and engaging with them through consultations and advocacy, but even taking up conflicts if needed achieve their common goals.

In our first two-years long programme period we provide the tools organizing to the involved communities

  • to discover common needs;
  • to explore community opportunities;
  • to build advocacy;
  • to plan common actions;
  • to win cases.

In the open call we expect the application of CSOs or grassroots, self-governed and not profit based informal groups of citizens from settlements with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, committed to change and to participate in the one-and-half year long learning process.

In the long run, our programme aims at vitalizing and fertilizing the NGO sector in countryside Hungary, so as to enable the organizations/groups to become actors and partners not only on the local, but also on the regional and national level thereby creating vibrant civic communities that can play a key role in democratic development.

Further information: kozossegszervezes@okotars.hu, 06 1/411-3505

Further reading:

Civil Kollégium Alapítvány - http://www.cka.hu/blog/kategoria/kozossegszervezes/

European Community Organizing Network (ECON) - http://econnet.eu/pages/community-organizing.php

Virginia Organizing - http://www.virginia-organizing.org/

Ökotárs in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung e.V. wrote a brief summary of the experience with programs aiming at supporting communities.