Meeting of the Orpheus CSP Centres 18 September 1999, Sofia, Bulgaria

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1 European Foundation Centre (EFC) Orpheus Civil Society Project (CSP) Meeting of the Orpheus CSP Centres 18 September 1999, Sofia, Bulgaria MINUTES The Orpheus Meeting of information and resource centres was held on 18 September 1999 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The participants came from 11 centres in 10 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries and the Newly Independent States (NIS). List of Orpheus CSP Centres is attached (Annex I). The aim of the meeting was threefold: 1. To review present Orpheus initiatives and priority needs of the centres in the light of the meeting of the Orpheus CSP Centres in Celakovice, Czech Republic in 1997, 2. To discuss and agree on the Code of Practice, and 3. To plan future activities of the Orpheus CSP Network. The meeting was superbly hosted by Open Society Foundation (OSF) - Sofia and the Union of Bulgarian Foundations and Associations (UBFA), Bulgaria. It was possible thanks to the support of the OSF-Sofia and the Open Society Institute East-East Programme. I. CURRENT ACTIVITIES AND PRIORITY NEEDS OF THE ORPHEUS CSP CENTRES Session chaired by Kadri Kopli, NENO-Estonia The aim of this session was to update the centres on the current initiatives related to the Orpheus CSP Network and describe the long-term priorities of individual centres BORIS Support Centre for the Movement of Self-Help Initiatives, Poland: Pawel Jordan described four challenges his centre is facing nowadays. They include: 1. expanding the SPLOT Network of regional information and support centres in Poland (from 6 to 11). Pawel offered to share the standards of operations of SPLOT developed by the regional centres themselves, which could be useful for other Orpheus centres. 2. cooperation with the local government - as a principal funder for NGOs in the long-term perspective, 3. federalisation of NGOs - as an effective tool to influence public administration, and 3. community development - as a mechanism to activate local communities. Civil Society Development Foundation (CSDF), Romania: Lorita Constantinescu stressed that one of the main priorities for the centre will be developing public awareness activities to make the public more aware about NGOs and the Third Sector as a whole. In order to achieve this the centre will be undertaking a series of activities such as: a) National NGO Forum, b) researches on NGO sector, and c) cooperation with BBC News and the national radio and TV on broadcasting programmes and reports on NGOs and their involvement in community life. 1

2 Slovak Academic Information Agency (SAIA) Service Center of the Third Sector (SCTS), Slovakia: Zuzana Kalinacova reports that there are four priority areas the centre will focus on: 1. expanding the Network of regional information and resource centres to other parts of Slovakia, 2. improving the existing legal framework for foundations, including advocating for 1 percent law that would allow individuals to designate 1 percent of their after-tax income to charity, 3. influencing public institutions to assure transparent decision making regarding distribution of public funds, and 4. expanding the volunteer centre concept to other regions of Slovakia (there are already 9 volunteer centres operating in the country). Odessa Regional Resource Centre for NGOs, Ukraine: Olena Semenova confirmed that Anna Morozova, director has left the centre for a year and that she is now an Acting Director. The main challenges of the centre are: 1. expanding the centre s activities to small towns, 2. developing public awareness activities to enhance citizens participation in community life, and 3. influencing public institutions to assure transparent decision making regarding distribution of public funds. United Way-Belarus: Alicia Shibitskaya reported that the centre has successfully gone through the re-registration process. At the moment, official data reports that there are 800 registered NGOs out of 2500 organisations operating before the new law was passed. Due to many restrictions imposed by the government, organisations are facing many difficulties in finding financial support. The regime stopped many funders from providing support to the civic sector in the country. United Way-Belarus is presently focusing on providing useful information and consultations to NGOs on how to operate in this difficult environment. Centre for the Development of Non-Profit Sector, Yugoslavia: Milan Milosevic described current initiatives undertaken by the centre. These are: 1. English language course for NGO leaders, 2. School of Social Action, 3. Volunteer Centre, 4. directories of NGOs and media, 5. National Forum for NGOs in Yugoslavia to held on October 99 in Subotica. Resource Centre for NGO Development (GURT), Ukraine: Bohdan Maslych reported that the Volunteer Centre project is very successful in Kiev and is receiving support both from the Kiev City Government and the local government. As the presidential elections are approaching, the centre wants to use this momentum and undertake a series of public awareness activities and inform citizens about the role and importance of the Third Sector in Ukraine. There will be a number of programmes and reports broadcast on TV and radio. In order to facilitate communication and educate both NGO leaders and journalists the centre will organise training sessions for selected representatives of both groups. Bohdan stressed that the long-term priorities for the centre shall be: 1. community development, and 2. developing national standards for NGO operations and self-regulation mechanisms. 2

3 Nonprofit Information and Training Centre (NIOK), Hungary: Krisztina Vincze reported that there are two initiatives undertaken by the centre that proved to be very successful. These include: 1. Volunteer Centre; the centre has already started its operations per cent law; the law allows individuals to dedicate 1 percent to NGOs and 1 percent to a church from their after-tax income. The challenges for NIOK in the coming years will be: a) to develop a quality measurement system for NGOs in order to examine the stage of development of an organisation b) to establish mechanisms of continuous support for the 1 percent campaign e.g. by taking advantage of the well developed volunteer programme, c) to create and agree on standards for NGO operations and self-regulation mechanisms. Open Society Foundation - Sofia, Bulgaria: Darina Kadunkova briefly described activities undertaken by the Foundation, which fall into three categories: 1. Grants: This year the priority areas of the OSF are: medical health, education, European Union, culture, civic education; 2. Information Centre activities; 3. Operating projects: a) National Centre for Non-Profit Boards - 4 year programme, b) volunteer development programme implemented by the Open Society Clubs, c) Big Brother Big Sister programme, d) Bulgarian NGO directory, e) Funders-on-Line (services provided to the Bulgarian Donor s Forum). Darina informed also that the Open Society Institute in Brussels has completed an EU Funding Guide for NGOs in CEE and NIS. It can be found on Network of Estonian Non-Profit Organisation (NENO), Estonia: Kadri Kopli reported that the Volunteer Centre has proved to be a big success. The long-term priorities of the centre will be: 1. expanding the national network of support centres from 6 to 10 organisations, 2. organising an NGO Forum in November 99. Presently NENO is developing a 10-year strategy for cooperation between local government and NGOs. This strategy will be supported by a policy paper to be approved by the Parliament. Union of Bulgarian Foundations and Associations (UBFA), Bulgaria: Ognian Lipovski confirmed that UBFA provides services both for its members and other NGOs. Presently the centre has been heavily involved in 1. preparing a new law on NGOs, 2. NGO campaign conducted in 27 towns in Bulgaria. Prior to elections to the local government, to take place in October 99, local government representatives have been invited to meet with NGOs and discuss the new NGO law. At the same time organisations were provided with the full contact details of the current MPs, who could not meet with NGOs and examine their attitude towards the NGO law. Ognian underlined that presently the main challenge of the Union is developing standards for NGO operations and self-regulation mechanisms. 3

4 II. CODE OF PRACTICE Session chaired by Krisztina Vincze, NIOK-Hungary: The aim of this session was to discuss and approve the final version of the Guidelines for Good Practice of the Information and Resource Centres Participating in the Orpheus Civil Society Project. The participants introduced two changes to the document: 1. There will be one Orpehus CSP Centre (Coordinator) per country that will coordinate the activities of all Orpheus Centres operating in this country. 2. The Coordinator will be chosen by the Orpheus CSP Centres in a given country. 3. The Coordinator will be a principal point of contact for the Orpheus Network. It will be responsible for replying to all the enquiries coming to Orpheus CSP Centres in a particular country and distribute all the information that can be of relevance to other Centres. 4. All the Orpheus CSP Centres and Orpheus CSP Points will be informed about the activities of the Orpheus CSP Network. After having introduced the changes, the participants approved the Code of Practice. The document is enclosed as Annex II. The centres who did not participate in the meeting can send their comments on the document by 20 October 99. It was agreed that the Oprheus CSP Centres must re-confirm their interest in being a Member of the Orpheus CSP Network by completing the questionnaire. The centres will be asked to confirm whether they want to: a) remain an Orpheus CSP Centre, b) become an Orpheus CSP Information Point, or c) leave the Network Action: 1. Lorita and Bohdan will prepare the questionnaire by 20 October Centres who did not participate in the meeting will send their comments by 20 October 99. III. FUTURE PLANS OF THE ORPHEUS CSP NETWORK Session chaired by Pawel Jordan, BORIS-Poland The aim of the session was to plan the future activities of the Network Pawel distinguished two types of activities undertaken by the Network: 1. Special projects e.g. Volunteer Agencies project, where one centre is taking a leadership role in the Network project. 2. Operational activities; these include: a) exchange of information on projects and activities undertaken by the centres, b) exchange visits within the Network that would facilitate the exchange of experience between the centres and help to prepare joint projects, c) meetings of the Orpheus CSP Advisory Board, d) meetings of the Orpheus Centres directors. Pawel advocated for establishing an operational budget for the Network. These funds would support: b) exchange visits of the centres within the Network, c) two meetings of the Orpheus CSP Advisory Board per year, d) one meeting of the Orpheus CSP Centres directors (part of the costs related to travel 4

5 would be covered by the centres themselves). Pawel added that the possibility be investigated of whether EFC could fundraise for the operational budget of the Network for the years He further suggested the fund be on the advice of the Orpheus CSP Advisory Board. Or alternatively could be that the chair of the Orpheus CSP Advisory Board could advise the coordinator on the use of the fund. Lorita supported by Pawel stressed that the Orpheus CSP Network should not go out from the EFC as it benefits considerably from having direct links with the organisation. Bohdan advised approaching bilateral donors like USAID and MATRA who support the development of civil society in the region while preparing the fundraising strategy for the Network. Action: 1. Agnieszka will investigate the possibility of whether USAID and MATRA could support the Civil Society Project. 2. Centres will advise on and support the coordinator in terms of identifying potential funders of the Project. Database of Orpheus CSP Network initiatives: The development of the following was suggested: 1. a database of successful projects undertaken by the centres that can be replicated and implemented by other centres. Such an exercise would help to identify valuable projects worth implementing in other countries. It would also inform the general public about the work and capacity of the Network; 2. a data bank of success stories from the countries of CEE and NIS. It was suggested that all the centres should look for successful projects implemented in their countries and share this information with other centres in the Network. Orpheus CSP Network Website: The Working Group has been selected to develop the concept of the Orpheus CSP webpage. The group consist of four people: 1. Usnius Saviskas, Kaunas NGO Support Centre, Lithuania 2. Alexandar Metodiev, UBFA, Bulgaria 3. Svitlana Kuts, The Centre for Philanthropy, Russia 4. Virag Mezei, NIOK, Hungary Lorita suggested the Orpheus CSP webpage also including news from the Orpheus Network and calendar of events, among the others. It was suggested the EFC administer the website. Action: The Working Group will develop a first draft of the Orpheus CSP webpage by 20 October 99 Evaluation Services: Lorita gave background information about the projects that goes back to the meeting in Celakovice, Czech Republic. On that occasion, centres called for a project that would increase their evaluation skills. On the basis of the questionnaire sent to all the members of the Network, the project outline was prepared (the copy of the project is attached as Annex III). Lorita suggested this project be targeted at those representatives of the centres who already have experience in conducting evaluation projects. Action: Lorita will prepare a set of criteria for people willing to participate in this project by 20 October 99 5

6 Orpheus Civil Society South European Project: Zuzana Kalinacova of SAIA-SCTS presented an initiative aimed at assisting the development of the Third Sector in Yugoslavia, and in particular to support the development of information and support centres in this country. The support would draw on the already existing experience in the Network. SAIA is ready to lead this initiative. Milan Milosevic, Centre for the Development of Non-Profit Sector - FR Yugoslavia commented that the Third Sector in Yugoslavia is rather weak, especially in the Kosovo region. Revitalising civil society there should now be a priority. Milan suggested that one should be aware of the fact that in Kosovo, Montenegro, Voivodina and Serbia civil society is at different stage of development so that different measures should be taken while working in these regions. Pawel suggested the SAIA-SCTS prepare a list of tasks to be completed so that the centres willing to participate in this project could get involved. Action: SAIA-SCTS will prepare a list of initiatives in which the Centres could get involved. European Union Relations : The next step in the EU relations project would be the meeting in Romania. Lorita informed that the CSDF approached the Delegation of the European Commission in Romania to discuss the possibilities of supporting an international meeting of NGOs. This initiative is aimed at informing NGOs on the available support to non-profit organisations from the European Union. She confirmed that the application looks promising. The Orpheus CSP Centres were invited to participate in this meeting. The meeting is scheduled for the first quarter of The further refinement of the project will continue after the meeting in Romania, when the centres discuss this initiative in more detail. In the meantime centres are asked to submit suggestions specifying development of the EU strategy and specific actions to CSP Coordinator. Also the EFC EU Secretariat will continue to inform CSP Centres of all relevant development at EU level, including funding opportunities. Action: 1. Lorita will update on the status of the development of the EU initiative in Romania 2. EFC will continue informing centres on all relevant developments at EU level. 3. Centres will update the CSP Coordinator about the EU developments on national level. 4. Centres will submit suggestions to the CSP Coordinator regarding specific action points on EU relations project. Agnieszka Sawczuk, Coordinator of the Orpheus Civil Society Project, European Foundation Centre September

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