Constituency for Reform Final Networking Event
“You are there at the forefront; informing people what their rights are and which avenues they have at their disposal to fight for them” – NHC representative during the opening of the event
On 20 and 21 November 2023, grassroots partners from Ukraine met in Chisinau, Moldova for a final networking event of the “Constituency for Influence and Reform: Building the Capacity of Civil Society for Meaningful Change”, a European Union funded project. The networking event aimed to provide a platform for the project’s grassroots partners for shaping solidarity networks and exchanging best practices, and culminated in the presentation of the “Civil Society Campaigning Award”.
Networking & Exchange of Best Practices
Some 40 participants in Chisinau and many more online joined the hybrid event, which kicked off with a full day of networking and exchange of best practices, as well as presentations from short listed candidates for the “Civil Society Campaigning Award”.
Amongst the main issues discussed by participants were similar difficulties being faced when it comes to working in times of war. Ukrainian participants in particular noted that there is currently even less funding for civil society in the country, with the bulk of funding being directed to the front. All agreed that the lack of sustainable funding for core civil society issues such as environmental protection and LGBTQI rights remains highly problematic, as “when budgets are limited so are the potential solutions”.
Participants also reflected on what initially motivated them to join the project, and how they looked back on the trainings and campaigns that resulted. As one participant noted: “Initially, I was inspired by the topic itself, this communication on democracy, because the biggest challenge now, during the time of the “information society” is that we’re all overloaded with information.” Many praised the “fascinating experience during the project that helped them building a communication team and campaign with the help of local experts, ultimately as a way to improve, inspire and accelerate the way forward for strengthening civil society.”
Moreover, the interdisciplinary/intersectional approach of the project was noted:
“Another thing that inspired me in this project is that the organisation focused on various areas, anti-corruption, environmental protection and gender equality […] Each area has its strengths and can enhance the experience of others, by providing best practices in supporting sustainability, an active civil society, efficient work and crisis management.”
“Civil Society Campaigning Award”
“Keep in mind that you are the catalysts of change, and you need to take care of each other and yourselves in order to continue this honorable work.” – from the event’s closing statement.
Day two of the networking event was marked by the presentation of the four shortlisted CSOs for the “Civil Society Campaigning Awards”.
Two awards (each in the amount of 1000 EUR) were granted to grassroots organisations that best explored viable partnership and communication opportunities, displayed durability and sustainability of their crowdfunding efforts, effectively set and achieved their goals and objectives, demonstrated added value of the award in supporting the activity of the initiative, as well as the transferability of the knowledge gained to other organisations or initiatives.
Four candidates from Ukraine were shortlisted, with the final winners being the Khmelnitsky Energy Cluster and Green Leaf NGO. Khmelnitsky Energy Cluster presented their work on initiatives such as the School of Municipal Energy Management in Teofipol Community and the promotion of renewable energy transfer and sustainable solutions, on both the national and regional level. At the national level, their efforts intensified after February 2022, with the Russian aggressor specifically targeting the energy sector. At the regional level, the main initiative dealt with a lack of energy management knowledge at the community level, with most regions spending 25% of budget on energy resources. The main objectives of the organisation were to launch community activities in energy management and strengthen local authorities’ institutional capacity through collaboration. This resulted in some impressive outcomes, such as establishing a strategic partnership with Teofipol community in energy management, initiating new projects with Teofipol council, supporting the work of the Teofipol Council on Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan, cooperation with other communities following the media activity surrounding the successful initiatives, as well as expanded cooperation with three new communities in Khmelnytskyi region in 2023.
The other Ukrainian award winner Green Leaf presented their work on environmental protection, namely the project on the recognition of the Kuyalnik estuary as a National Park. Since February 2022, “Green Leaf” has predominately been engaged in recording environmental crimes, but it was their participation in this project “Constituency and Influence for Reform” which allowed the NGO to expand and strengthen their activities. They launched a major advocacy campaign with NHC’s support for the recognition of the Kuyalnik estuary as a National Park and formed a task force together with local counselors, experts, and legal professionals.
About the project
In July 2020, the Netherlands Helsinki Committee began work on the project “Constituency and Influence for Reform,” aiming to support grassroots civil society organisations (CSOs) working on gender, corruption, and environmental justice in Eastern Partnership countries. The aim of the project is to increase the capacity of CSOs in the target countries to plan and implement advocacy campaigns, effectively communicate their goals, and manage organisations.
Main goals are:
- Strengthen civil society’s communication capacity, supporter base, financial sustainability, and good governance;
- Enhance the use of policy-influencing strategies towards national authorities, applying international standards and procedures, and context-specific approaches; and,
- Increase the operational resilience of civil society.
The project focused on implementing activities such as: trainings on social media communication strategies, advocacy campaigning, crowdfunding, and CSO good governance. These were successfully carried out for 69 civil society organisations (129 CSO members), and in total €264,313 was awarded in grants to small locally initiated projects run by the selected 46 CSOs. Furthermore, more than € 50,000 was granted as supporting funds for video production, printing materials and social media production for grassroots’ project implementation, and € 68,618 as an emergency fund to address immediate emergency and security needs of the CSOs and local experts in the target countries.
As such, the project aimed to enable CSOs to increase and better mobilize their constituencies to engage with governments on these pressing issues, and contribute to maintaining and expanding civic space in their respective countries and across the region as a whole.
In Ukraine specifically, the NHC organised trainings for 68 members of 34 participating Ukrainian CSOs and awarded mini-grants (up to 6000 EUR) to 23 CSOs for a total of €131,745. Around € 23,000 was granted for additional support for campaigns developed during the project, and €42,796.42 as emergency funding. In total the NHC allocated around € 200.000 for strengthening the capacities of the 34 participating Ukrainian CSOs.
 This publication is funded by the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.