1. Description of the context
Civil society plays an important role in enhancing transparency and good governance by contributing to increase public debate and influence the government and hold it accountable. In Albania, CSOs operate in a very dynamic environment and play a significant role in country development through their diverse competencies and operation areas. Participation and involvement of NPOs in decision making at central and local level is a key factor to ensure laws, policies and strategies respond to the needs and priorities of citizens. Regardless the experience gained during the years, civil society is still relatively underdeveloped, and particularly CSOs are project-based, donor-driven and lacking network among them. Many CSOs do excellent work in isolation from each other in different cities. There is a clear need articulated in all these years from the sector itself but also as part of different assessments and reports tackling civil society issues, for active networking amongst demographic, field of work and beneficiary target that may further result in joint advocacy efforts and projects. In addition, according to the baseline assessment report conducted by Partners Albania as part of LevizAlbania project, with the aim to measure impact, identify main strengths and weaknesses from participants in PA training programs, there is need for partnership and collaboration between grantees.
Civil society needs to know and understand the legal and fiscal framework related to its operation and its relations with the state, to improve coordinated actions for an effective participation in decision-making and policy-making, and to build its identity and image as a key change actor and contributor in the country development. Therefore, strengthening networking, increased mobilisation of supporters, and improved advocacy skills and initiatives are indispensable to enabling their inclusion in policy-making, as a way to more transparent, predictable and qualitative policies and processes. As stated in the EU Progress Report for Albania 2018, substantial efforts are needed to ensure meaningful consultations with civil society actors as part of an inclusive policy dialogue. Consultation of civil society in legislative and executive processes has increased but needs to be more systematic, transparent and with adequate time frames at the central and local levels. So far, civil society participation still remains occasional. Considering the need for increased transparency, information, consultation, guidance and support for civic actors (CSOs, community groups, active citizens, journalists, etc.) to be active in their localities through exercising informed pressure to the municipalities and other state authorities and institutions, PA proposes the following intervention that is designed to address the needs of LevizAlbania beneficiaries (grantees and fellows) for networking and advocacy, in order to increase their effectiveness in the implementation of their initiatives funded by the project.
2. Goal and specific objectives
The goal of this component is to increase networking, synergy and advocacy effectiveness of LA grantees to better influence local policies and decision-making.
Specific objectives are:
Increased exchanges and networking between LevizAlbania and other civil society local actors to achieve joint results and to ensure amplification of their initiatives’ results and impact;
Improved advocacy efforts of LevizAlbania grantees.
The work will be focused on two main pillars: networking sessions between civil society stakeholders working on local democracy issues and individual coaching of LevizAlbania beneficiaries. The combination of these two techniques will enhance the capacities of LA beneficiaries to better implement their initiatives and to contribute to strengthening local democracy in their area of operation. PA experts will work closely with beneficiares providing them the needed guidance and techniques that are useful for the implementation of their initiatives. The intervention will be based on a careful assessment of the needs of beneficiaries that will be done through discussions with LA staff and grantees. A combination of on site and on-line assistance will be used to increase the participation of beneficiaries from different geographical areas in the project, and to exchange formats and tools to be used by the beneficiaries during their project implementation.
Efforts will be made to involve other non-grantees working around any issues brought up by LA, interested in exchanging and coordination.
4. Plan of Activities
The project will be implemented through the following set of activities:
Thematic Networking Sessions for grantees. This activity will serve to enhance networking skills and opportunities to beneficiaries to closely work on successfully implementation of their local initiatives. For that purpose, PA will deliver two rounds of three-thematic networking sessions each year of project implementation. Through these events, grantees will have the opportunity to generate contacts, connections, showcase their activities and results, and network with their peers enabling future partnerships that may lead to increased activism and civic actions. In order to bring together a variety of local actors around an issue, PA will seek participation of other, non-grantees interested in such an exchange, by opening up networking and exchange sessions also for non-grantees.
The networking sessions will be organized between the second and third month of implementation of grantees’ initiates supported by LevizAlbania in each round of grants. The agenda of the networking sessions will be designed based on the challenges and needs identified by the beneficiaries during the project implementation, and based on the needs identified by the LevizAlbania staff during the monitoring visits. The networking thematic sessions will include not only LA grantees, but also other civil society actors working on local democracy issues. The participants in the networking sessions will be gathered based on the main thematic issue of their initiative implemented to enhance local democracy. Furthermore, these sessions will aim to share experiences (best practices and lessons learnt) among LA grantees, and between LA grantees and other civil society actors in the implementation of similar ideas (the sites and the thematic issue of discussions will be selected in close cooperation with LevizAlbania staff). In addition, best experiences from the grantees supported during Phase 1 of LevizAlbania project will be shared with the grantees and other participants, in order to encourage them and to learn from best practices of similar initiatives.
Individual Coaching Sessions. The detailed report that will be prepared by PA experts after each Thematic Networking Session will be used as an effective tool for follow up coaching assistance that PA will provide for the grantees on individual bases.
The coaching will be focused on advocacy efforts and will be tailored based on the needs and challenges that will be identified during the Thematic Networking Sessions, and discussions with LevizAlbania staff. The coaching sessions will be organised on-line or on-site with the beneficiaries and will provide grantees with concrete tools to be used in their work as part of the project implemented through LevizAlbania financial support, for example an advocacy plan, a monitoring plan, a communication strategy with media and relevant stakeholders, community mobilisation plan, etc. Through the discussion of concrete challenges faced during project implementation and the weaknesses identified during the implementation of the project, the beneficiaries will be guided and assisted to overcome these challenges and weaknesses through innovative techniques provided during the coaching session.
PA will make efforts to involve at the extent possible, other non-grantees actors into the coaching sessions, using both direct interaction and other dissemination/sharing tools.
The main beneficiaries of the intervention (the target group) are LevizAlbania grantees that will benefit from the grants under CfA or incidental Rapid Response grants. PA in close collaboration with LevizAlbania staff will invite all grantees to participate in the thematic networking sessions, and will contact individually all grantees for the organization of the individual coaching sessions. It is expected that at least 70% of all grantees during the 4-years project implementation will benefit from the coaching sessions and improve their interventions. Other beneficiaries are civil society actors that work on local democracy. Final beneficiaries of the project are the local communities where the initiatives are implemented that will benefit from improved services and/or performance of public institutions as a result of projects implemented by LevizAlbania grantees and other civil society actors. The project is based on the previous implementation of “Strengthening CSOs for effective inclusiveness and participation in policy-making and decision-making”, implementated in LevizAlbania Phase 1.
PA will make efforts to involve other non-grantees actors as beneficiaries of the networking and coaching sessions, in those cases where there is possibility for synergies with LA supported grantees, around an important issue, in terms of coordinated actions, advocacy, etc
6. Expected Results and/or Impact
- 24 Thematic Networking sessions during the 4-year project implementation will contribute to increase networking and exchanges between LA beneficiaries;
- Around 90% of grantees participating in the thematic networking sessions will meet and learn from others’ experiences and best practices, as well as from PA experts;
- At least 70% of LA beneficiaries are assisted to overcome challenges and weaknesses in the implementation of their projects implemented though LA support;
This project will contribute to the creation of a cohort of NPOs and informal groups, individuals all over the country that are capable to influence local government decision-making and to mobilise constituencies for a better local democracy. On the other hand, as a result of the project networking and partnership between NPOs for the implementation of joint initiatives in the future will be increased, addressing a weakness of the sector as evidenced from the different monitoring reports on NPOs in the country. At the end, this will contribute to better services for the citizens, as a final impact of the intervention in support of LevizAlbania project.
7. Continuity and sustainability
The foreseeable risks about the continuity of the project during its implementation are minor, and are mostly related with the low attendance of LA grantees in the project activities, especially the networking sessions. This risk will be mitigated through a close coordination with LevizAlbania staff, and through the preparation of an agenda that is relevant for all grantees.