Lëviz Albania






Blerjana Bino, Gentian Elezi, Knowledge Management Consultants

Saimir Musta, LevizAlbania



This article analyses the topic of local alliances and coalitions in the context of civil society in Albania. The addressed topic represents an interesting element in the framework of cooperation instruments and forms, and thus the focus of the article is mainly on the characteristics and challenges of that field. While exploring the previous concepts and experiences, subject to analysis are also elements such as the cooperation form and structuring, communication, inclusion and coordination, maintaining the organizations’ identity and profile, as well as the dimension of impact to policymakers. The article concludes with some recommendations for the donors and civil society organizations, as key aspects to address with regard to the practices of establishing alliances or coalitions with civil society organizations.


The purpose of this article is to analyze the main features of cooperation and alliances in the field of civic society, focusing on the Albanian context and experience of LevizAlbania (LA). Building new connections among the civil society actors is known in literature as a valuable and efficient tool in improving service quality, reducing costs, strengthening strategic innovations and organizational trust as well as information transparency, in particular in some fields whose main focus is civic engagement, such as the environment (Civil Society Partnerships). For that reason, after more than two decades of activism and community work of civil society organizations in Albania, it is important to know more on dimensions of such cooperation, its benefits and impact, as well as the challenges it presents. To this end, on 23 May, LA organized an open activity in Korça, where more than 50 representatives of civil society organizations and different alliances focused on environment, in particular, gathered and discussed on common challenges and ideas to further encourage cooperation. Some of the comments and recommendations of that activity are presented in this article as well. It is important to point out that the scope of this article is limited to the Albanian experience of CSOs collaboration, and does not consider inter-sectoral cooperation between CSOs and other sectors.

Initially, the article explains the concept of alliances in the framework of civil society, focusing on main definitions and features, and the context in which they develop and are more successful. Then, the analysis continues with the Albanian context by listing some of the challenges encountered by different organizations and alliances, as well as those resulting from the gathered data. More specifically, this part will address the LA experience in that context, as well as findings on projects implemented through support by alliances.

In the end, discussion will focus on lessons learned and recommendations for the future, thus focusing on the current stage of coalitions development in Albania and the LA experience with the support given to them.

Building civil society collaborations alliances

The forms of joint organization and cooperation in the field of civil society are diverse. According to the Sourcebook on Building Partnerships with CSOs of the UNDP, CSOs represent a variety of organisations through which citizens associate with one another. They are comprised not only of NGOs, but also trade unions, community-based organisations and people’s movements. Known as the ‘third sector’, these groups operate alongside and interact with the state and play a valuable role by articulating and defending the rights and interests of citizens. As such, there are mainly four important forms in practice: networks, coalitions, alliances and partnerships.

Networks consist of individuals or organizations that share information, ideas and resources to meet individual or group aims. Networking is a process of collecting resources and building the strength by using or establishing connections between two or more individuals, groups or organizations. Networks have the tendency to be flexible and get together groups of common interest or concern to exchange information and ideas.

Coalitions are groups of people or organizations working together to pursue a single goal. Coalitions do often have a more formalized structure with members that have been involved for a long time and who share responsibilities and resources. Their sustainability determines the impact they have in society and decision-making. When needed, organizations request to join a coalition to strengthen the impact of their advocacy.

On the other hand, alliances, in general, include short-term relationships among their members and are focused on a specific objective. Being limited in time and aims, alliances have the tendency to be less demanding and consuming to members. Alliances are not as permanent as coalitions, but share the same approaches and benefits.

More specifically, the grouping and cooperation of civil society organizations and activists in an alliance brings the following benefits:

  • Increase of their actions’ impact
  • Increase of access to policymakers and expanding contacts
  • Increase of public reliability
  • Increase of visibility and improvement of image
  • Better opportunities to expand public support
  • Opportunities to strengthen civil society in its entirety
  • Organizations have different fields of expertise and complement each other, etc.

Coalitions also have some obvious benefits. Building a broad coalition increases the chances of success and has an impact on decision makers, thus indicating that an action has wide social support for the desired change of policies. Decision makers are more likely to pay attention to coalitions - and alliances - as they bring a louder voice to the decision-making table. These benefits are increased even more in difficult contexts where the need to use more the fewer human and financial resources and to avoid the doubling of efforts among organizations working in similar issue is larger. Work in coalitions ensures a coordinated way for organizations to build and maintain strategic partnerships with external actors. It is easier for a government connecting with a coalition as a single partner representing the range of civil society actors for an issue than finding who to interact with from a number of organizations, spending time, energy and resources.

From all these forms of cooperation, communication is of paramount importance. Maintaining the communication flow and information update is an essential aspect of the work of alliances and coalitions. These cooperation forms of civil society are known for long time, but they have been significantly used in the last decades. A key factor in the emergence of broad alliances and coalitions, always referring to 1990s, is the dramatic evolution of communication technology. The massive cooperation enabled by the opportunity of sending the same message to hundreds of thousands of people via an email has changed the dynamics of alliances and coalitions’ campaigns. It has made it easier for individual voices to have a unified voice for a certain issue, to stay updated on developments, to plan together, to adapt and exercise maximum impact on decisions made at national and local level.

Partnerships between local, national and international civil society organisations (CSOs) are a powerful tool to achieve societal change. They help local and national CSOs to empower citizens to perform their civic rights and to ensure representation of local communities as well as local ownership of programmes. Moreover, partnerships create benefits on both sides if partners work equally empowered towards mutually-agreed objectives. International CSOs have a better chance to achieve long-term effects with higher legitimacy if they engage in partnerships with local and national CSOs (Partnership Principles, Civicus). Partnerships need to be based on common and shared principles including share vision, building upon shared organizational values, recognising and respecting differences between the organisations, having specific roles and responsibilities and building accountability tools.

Experiences and lessons learned

The experience of civil society in Albania with various forms of cooperation has been diverse and has had its fluctuations. Recent studies show that without strategic coalition building, networking, and coordination among CSOs, their impact in legislative and policy processes is limited. In Albania, CSOs oftentimes do not coordinate, show more competitiveness than cooperation, do repetitive work, and ultimately are not taken seriously by the public authorities. This is also observed when attempting to produce a joint stance on issues. There are difficulties in creating networks that function on mutual trust, regardless of the diversity of opinions (Study on university to society collaborations and Study Participation of CSOs in Decision Making Processes in Albania). Based on the previous experiences and practices, LA has made meaningful efforts to encourage and structure cooperation for joint purposes by strongly suggesting in the call for applications the necessity to build alliances and encouraging also larger CSOs cooperation with smaller ones. The LA approach has favored the establishment of alliances and cooperation in that context, stimulating a more organic interconnectedness between the grassroots and think tanks. Regardless of challenges and difficulties, this approach has produced some positive outcomes through years, with the support of approximately 36 projects with cooperation among various actors, out of 194[1] that is the total of projects implemented by organizations. Despite the efforts, the majority of the projects are not implemented in partnerships which also speaks for the need to further strengthen CSOs cooperation in Albania. Collaboration efforts happen often when required by donors (in the call criteria) rather than by genuine necessity of the project methodology during the design phase. In this respect, there is a general need to focus more (as LA has been doing) in providing incentives for expanding the coverage and range of interventions with grassroot and local actors, by designing calls which do not simply impose partnership.

90 organizations (with respective activities and defined budget) have been involved in the implementation of 36 partnership projects. Usually, LA has incentivized partnership building in the call for applications and in other cases, CSOs have identified the need and suggested to cooperate with other CSOs themselves so as to have more outreach and impact. Most partnerships include one leading organisation and one local group from the area of intervention. While in other cases, there is a larger number of partners, if the territory covered is bigger (more than one municipality).

However, challenges have always been present. More specifically, the level of formalizing cooperation and procedures to decide on cooperation have had different perceptions among organizations, based on the size, mission, as well as the form of organization, experience, very different expectations related to procedures, etc. On the one hand, these standards are necessary to ensure progress, concentration and results. However, on the other hand, the lack of capacities and experience, as well as the time and energy necessary for formal aspects can be often perceived as a burden as pointed out by representatives of CSOs in the LA rountable and corroborated from other studies as well (Study on university to society collaborations and Study Participation of CSOs in Decision Making Processes in Albania). For instance, the alliances and coalitions supported by activists and experts in specific field should not be taken for granted as all share the same understanding on the organization of joint work. This is more evident when the nature of alliance members is different, as may be the cases of environment protection initiatives where the diversity of activists goes from large organizations (think tanks) to simple activists of the community. This element leads to a significant challenge from the perspective of balance requiring work flexibility and structuring with strict procedures and formalized rules.

As mentioned in the previous section on theoretical concepts and general experiences on alliances and coalitions, the issues of trust and communication are evident even in the case of Albania (LA experience and also Study on university to society collaborations and Study Participation of CSOs in Decision Making Processes in Albania). Although coalitions and alliances are established and developed, it is the trust among involved individuals and organizations and the communication flow that will turn a group of organizations into a strong force for the change of policies. Trust can be developed by quality communication, in particular by effective communication in the face of disagreements and tensions. The special challenge for civil society alliances and coalitions is that there are no fixed rules or practices related to the way these dynamics should be addressed or resolved. Such tensions may be valuable, requiring a detailed review of positions of work policies, strategies or ways, but they may also create large problems if not effectively addressed. They may lead to a lack of cooperation or fictitiousness of alliance, which would weaken their operational strength. Even the practice in Albania has shown that alliances are more successful if they have a better organization of the communication and mutual trust.

Another challenge encountered by civil society organizations when facing the alliance dilemma is the fear of identity weakening and organization profile. Regardless of the awareness that joint actions increase the impact power to policymakers, the perception of merger into a large and diverse community risks to change the image of a certain organization and its positioning in a specific field. An alliance needs to agree upon clear messages and a joint stance. In doing this, it is important to clearly see the sharing of duties, as well as the profiling and expertise of everyone, so that there is visibility for every organization, without risking their identity, thus strongly contributing to the joint cause. The lack of those elements may cause misunderstandings and disagreements even in the Albanian context, thus fragmenting the action of civil society, even in cases when they have specific joint causes and objectives.

Another issue encountered and brought to attention by civil society organizations in Albania is that, in some cases, alliances are dominated by a large and strong organization, which recruits others for its purposes with limited ownership on the action by smaller organisations. Such practice may reduce the space for small organizations and might lower the voice in making strategic decisions within the alliance, thus expecting more from the lead organization that has know how and risking not developing its capacities. This means that careful consideration must be done by all members of an alliance to ensure that the power structure is equal and builds its members and not only the lead organisation. On the other hand, the alliances and coalitions need efficient organization and structure. In addition, the association with large organizations and participation in many activities where they would have not had access if they were alone might result in additional benefits even for small or local organizations. The comprehensive and transversal cooperation and joining is a key element in increasing the impacting potential to policymakers, in particular in the field of environment.

Based on the experience of LevizAlbania with grant award for causes of local democracy, the establishment of alliances and partnerships among organizations has been encouraged since 2017, with the first call “UPSCALE”[2].

LëvizAlbania aims to have a wider coverage and to support initiatives from as many units and communities as possible, be them isolated and rural.

The approach of local initiatives far from Tirana, undertaken by new small organizations, which are generally categorized as grassroots, is accompanied by problems related to implementing capacities and experience in project management. On the other hand, consolidated CSOs operating mainly in the capital and large cities find it difficult to penetrate rural and remote areas, not only because of the physical distance, but even due to the lack of understanding community issues and features.

In response to those two issues, observed during the implementation, LevizAlbania has redesigned the criteria of grant selection by conditioning on the one hand - in the second phase - the grant award for grassroots organizations (lead partner in project implementation operating in one of the municipalities of the region where the proposed project activities will be developed) and, on the other hand, by prioritizing the partnership between grassroots and consolidated organizations. Maintaining ongoing contacts with LevizAlbania and continuous participation in training, counselling and leading activities of LevizAlbania has created the appropriate environment and circumstances for these local organizations to increase their capacities, while also maintaining contacts with an experienced organization.

The analysis of cases identified as less successful has shown that one of the widely observed aspects considered as the most significant in not achieving results is the lack of simplicity in the established relationship. As mentioned earlier, clarity on the roles, mandates, and procedures, when implementing a joint project has been reported as an important factor by local CSOs. Regardless of having a short-term and involving nature in implementing a single joint initiative, factors such as different profiling of fields of activity, large variations in experience or being part of an unnatural partnership have had a significant impact on achieving joint objectives.

Conclusions and recommendations for the future

The stimulation of organizing civil society actors and their cooperation for joint causes presents some disadvantages, and raises some questions.

First of all, the community of donors should bear in mind finding the balance between demand and supply. The excessive top-down approach (e.g. imposing cooperation among the organizations that have no cooperation experience) must be moderated, paying attention to the inclusion of some additional criteria in building a more organic alliance or coalition. Otherwise, we risk the classical outcome of “box ticking”, with a non-integrated involvement of all the alliance members and with a not fully met objective. On the other hand, this practice cannot be dependent only on the bottom-up “inspiration, as the Albanian society still reflects structural problems from the past, with regard to civic engagement and activism. Therefore, the stimulating approach and capacity building and strengthening for the organizations of local nature must be strengthened and oriented towards cooperation.

The focus and orientation of alliances must be on the impact they have on the cause or the final objective. This needs to be highlighted as the local approach towards the support of projects balances the mission of the organization with the location, thus sometimes favoring the latter, to increase the intervention authorship. Firstly, as mentioned above, the authorship does not necessarily fall only on local partners, as this is mostly related to the form how an alliance is built and how the cooperation is structured. Secondly, the mission of an organization can be a “fuel” much more valuable than the geographical aspect. For this reason, in building future alliances and coalitions, a balance among those components must be considered, so that potential contributors are not excluded from cooperation, thus favoring local organizations of low impact and experience.

Another element in building alliances, in particular in the field of environmental protection, is the engagement and involvement of directly affected communities. Wherever possible, the alliances or coalitions must be led by representatives of this communities, and not from other organizations. This approach increases the alliance potential to expand inclusion, building more trust and knowledge from other communities.

Although, as mentioned above, there is no standard recipe for forms of cooperation, there are some criteria deemed as necessary. A better coordination is key for any form of cooperation. Clearly formulated and joint interest- and value-based messages or actions should be accurately coordinated, in particular with regard to policymakers or external actors. This is closely related to the importance of communication, which was addressed in this article.

Inclusion (from grassroots to the academia), hearing the voice of alliance members, encouraging the sense of belonging and promotion of everyone’s sensitivities must also be considered in establishing a successful alliance. The practical approach of presenting objectives by requesting others to follow, without any discussion with the members, may result in failure or weakening of the joint action, thus questioning the reliability. Therefore, alliances must pay attention to directly involve members in joint activities and works, by dividing tasks and using the skills of everyone to the benefit of the objective. This approach increases trust, which must not be underestimated for the importance it has in such types of cooperation. In particular, when organizations or individuals that have closely worked with each other in previous causes, they must play a central role in coordinating and organizing the joint work due to the trust they have built.

About LevizAlbania

LevizAlbania is a project of the Local Democracy of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), implemented by a consortium composed of: (i) Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA), (ii) Partners Albania and (iii) Co-Plan. Since 2015, LA has contributed to strengthen local democracy through grants awarded to Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs), informal groups and individuals, thus supporting their request for transparent and responsible local governance, and efficient public services. The project supports building coalitions to boost structural and systematic changes at local and national level, and to promote positive practices in support of local democracy.

Knowledge Management System and Civic Engagement Platform

The Knowledge Management and Civic Engagement Platform of Lëviz Albania aims at collecting, structuring and capitalizing the whole contribution and achievements of LA in the last 6 years. At the same time, this exercise reviews the challenges encountered by Lëviz Albania in meeting its objectives, as well as the challenges of grant recipients and the broad context of local democracy. The knowledge management analyzes internal and external processes of LA, as well as designs the establishment of mechanisms based on identified needs. This selected approach aims to improve the new projects effectiveness and to instill the culture of systematic and structured use of acquired knowledge, using the set up instruments and mechanisms (platform). The Knowledge Management System and Civic Engagement Platform contributes to the increase of intervention effectiveness and allows a detailed analysis and overview of challenges related to the support of local democracy and civic engagement. The experts engaged in this aspect by LevizAlbania (in alphabetical order): Blerjana Bino and Gentian Elezi.

[1] Since 2016, LevizAlbania has supported 300 projects, out of which 194 projects have been implemented by civil society organizations (NGO) and xx from individuals and informal groups

[2]  One of the main directions of call no. 4 for grants initiated by LevizAlbania, aiming at “Continuity”. This call was addressed to all grant recipients of LevizAlbania, who were supported in the previous calls for application 1, 2 and 3. The purpose of the continuity direction had as its essence the objective to support projects that were successful in their interventions, and have produces concrete outcomes in strengthening local democracy, increasing transparency, accountability, participation and involvement in local decision-making.




Gentian Elezi, Knowledge Management Consultant

Saimir Musta, Grant Manager, LevizAlbania



This article summarizes an analysis conducted on the Albanian context in the framework of promoting digital democracy, looking at the role of LevizAlbania (LA) in this area. Considering the space that combines two already vital components for social development, democratization and technological innovation, the article explains the main features of this interaction. This is done first by traversing the main existing theories and models, and then analyzing and categorizing the Albanian experiences. Finally, the experience and lessons learned from LA are discussed, focusing on the recommendations for the future of digital democracy and the necessary interventions in this area.


Following a successful wave of democratization during the 1990s, democratic systems around the world are experiencing stagnation or deterioration (Freedom House). Rapid developments and fundamental societal transformations have put insufficiently consolidated democratic institutions to the test. This situation has gradually led to a deepening of the distance between citizens and decision-making, as well as an increase in lack of trust in democratic institutions. Albanian citizens show a low level of participation in democratic processes. Lack of transparency and accountability has further widened the gap between them and institutions (See article). Specifically referring to local democracy, the 2015 territorial reform seems to have added to the challenges in this regard (See article). However, technological development and advances in the digital field have also affected the realm of democracy, offering new forms of online citizen participation. In this context, LA is committed to the Albanian context to encourage and support such alternative participatory practices to strengthen local democracy.

The purpose of this article is to introduce and discuss the dimension of institutional interaction of LA-supported projects in the field of digital democracy. More specifically, the authors provide a brief analysis of the response and institutional readiness in relation to these forms of participation, focusing especially on good practices, obstacles and lessons learned for a successful collaboration.

Initially, the article will briefly present key theories and models in the field which will be followed by the broad framework and context in which LA's efforts for digital democracy have been made. We will then focus specifically on LA's experience in interacting with the institutions involved and the efforts of other actors in the country. This section will also provide concrete data from the interaction that grantees have had with local institutions, providing an analysis of the main features of this relationship and the attitude that these actors have held towards the instruments of digital democracy. The analytical part will continue with a discussion on the lessons learned from LA in relation to institutions in this field. From this experience and lessons some conclusions will be drawn, which will close the article in the form of recommendations for the future.

Conception and theorization of digital democracy

Participation through digital instruments empowers citizens to monitor and provide support to public authorities so that they can perform their duties more efficiently, thus creating a closer relationship between all actors involved. In many parts of the world, citizens use the Internet for all their interactions, including their governance decisions (See  article).

According to Erkul’s article (2014) some of the key advantages of e-participation are: Greater government transparency; increasing citizen involvement; improved government accountability, etc. First, through open initiatives, public authorities provide citizens with access to information that was not previously available. Thanks to the means provided, transparency reaches a higher level, so that citizen participation is improved and democratic processes are simplified. Second, countries improve online methods of providing public services in order to meet the needs and requirements of citizens, thus strengthening their electronic information, consultation and electronic decision-making activity. Finally, in order to have successful democracies, government authorities must respond to citizens. For example, public authorities can create sites where citizens can start petitions on various issues of interest or they can vote on specific issues.

According to existing models and theories in this field, web solutions and digital instruments as a whole can be used: 1. to strengthen democratic institutions (e-voting); 2. to change existing institutions (webcasting for transparency); 3. to replace current practices with new ones (online newsletter and other new communication tools); 4. to develop democratic institutions (online forums and new ways of reflective approaches) and; 5. to expand democracy by using online platforms to include groups that are marginalized or far from decision-making (Pratchett 2016).

It should be noted that from the point of view of their approach and goals, the models implemented around the world so far are numerous and different from each other. Key models that can be distinguished include:

  • The consolidated Swiss model, which also stems from the relationship built over decades between the citizen and the institution;
  • Estonia's fast-paced and innovative model, led by the municipality of Tartu, where participatory budgeting has been set up and sophisticated in its most optimal form;
  • Romania's model, to be further approached in the context of the region, which increased transparency and direct citizen engagement, leading to constitutional changes to include instruments of continued participation;
  • The case of Kosovo (GAP) where online monitoring of public revenues and expenditures at the local level has produced significant results.

Leviz Albania has supported a considerable number of projects focusing on democracy and digital participation (see article by Blerjana Bino and Anahi Martinez). But how are these instruments integrated in the wider Albanian context and how have they dealt with institutions and decision-making actors?


Digital democracy in the Albanian context

Efforts for democratization and civic engagement have been numerous in Albania over the past three decades, both by domestic demand and by external factors (Albanian Institute for International Studies). So far, we have identified and then categorized these experiences into three main groups:

1. In the context of the digital agenda, some donors and international organizations have contributed to pilot projects or local experiences that have served as a good test to understand the main features of the Albanian context and related challenges. Almost all of these efforts have had one thing in common: working with institutions. Their purpose and objective has been to strengthen institutional capacity, providing models and instruments to enable civic engagement in information, accountability to institutions, service delivery and participation. So, their direct and main beneficiary have been the institutions and the improvement of the service they provide to the citizens, especially in terms of access to governance and expression of opinion (For instance ISDA project and STAR 3 project).

2. A second group, more complex and more debatable than the first, relates to the efforts of public institutions themselves to create and disseminate instruments of civic participation in decision-making. These experiences have mainly been ad hoc and have shown lack of transparence in functioning and management. Despite the shortcomings, these cases have played a useful role in educating citizens about online practices and familiarity with various instruments from the point of view of functionality. However, from the point of view of democratization and improving civic engagement and participation, these formats have had less effect on increasing civic trust in these processes. This could be the case for government platforms (co-governance) or a few attempts from big municipalities to introduce instruments of gathering public opinion.

3. The third category, which we have chosen to list separately, consists of the contribution of the Swiss project LevizAlbania focused on local democracy. The focus of LA in this dimension, as well as in other areas, has been direct work with citizens, various groups or civil society organizations, not institutions. The aim has been the engagement and independent organization of sections of society towards institutions, and not necessarily the alignment of practices with the latter. This approach is a novelty and a separate category. The flexibility and diversity that has characterized the LA philosophy in supporting these initiatives, has enabled the comprehensive exploration of digital democracy models, without being conditioned by predetermined or standardized formats. Among other things, this has brought as a contribution the easier adaptation of the instruments to the Albanian context. Geographical extent is another aspect to be distinguished in LA's work in this area, as the initiatives have represented different areas with special characteristics compared to each other. In some cases the whole territory is covered or a centralized platform is given that provides information for the whole country.

This independence that LA has enabled for these initiatives and instruments has made it possible for the voice of the citizen to be transmitted directly to the local authorities.

 LA-supported projects focusing on digital democracy have aimed at improving democratic and legal processes such as: public consultation, participation in budgeting, monitoring of contracts and public expenditures, online petition, promotion of participation in decision-making, etc.

LevizAlbania in the support it gives to its grantees initially contributes to the creation of tools in the function of digital democracy.

In the context of digital democracy, tools consist of platforms, databases, forums and online applications, which depending on the goals of specific projects, come in different forms, but are based on the creation of communication channels and information transmission ready to use.

These communication channels generally have three actors involved, the data creator, the data processor in the information, and the recipient of the information. Depending on the project, data creators can be citizens (Buxhetim.AL), or public institutions (OpenData). Data processors in information are generally the experts involved in the implementation of projects who package data/content, extract data/content and adapt data/content for the needs of simplification and transmission to the final recipient (citizens of choice), as well as in the opposite direction where everyday issues identified during the project, should be codified and translated into technical content to be submitted to public institutions (contractual violations, legal obligations or violations of the rights of the parties) to take further action.

From the activities and utilization of the tools described above, to the popularization of communication channels or to the innovation of packaged data, LA grantees create valuable products for strengthening democracy and civic engagement. The nature of these products includes publications, articles, reports, ongoing monitoring, research, etc. Beneficiaries of these products are citizens but also experts in various fields, who are provided with instant access to information, real-time reporting and consultation of reports created from reliable and verifiable data. These products aim at interaction in terms of equal access to information, between the elected and the electorate and consequently the removal of artificial barriers in communication between the government and the electorate.

Creating products is not enough to enable digital democracy. The literature[1] suggests that a strong flow of information in communications between the elected and the electorate is essential to having a functioning governance system with satisfactory participation of all parties.

LevizAlbania through its grantees and its communication channels has aimed to increase the power of this flow of information between citizens and local elected officials. This aspect of assembly and interaction is part of all LA-funded projects, regardless of the scope of the intervention. Especially projects that address digital democracy, have features of interaction with the general public.

These projects generally include as their part, activities that affect the ability and willingness of citizens and institutions to embrace E-Government initiatives.[2]

LevizAlbania and its grantees make simultaneous efforts to increase the usability of the tools of digital democracy. Efforts are also reciprocal in terms of product distribution across all channels in use. Beyond online media channels, social networks, the official website and PortaVendore, LA also uses the network of supported journalists and its collaborators to engage citizens in recognizing and using the tools and products of digital democracy.

The culmination of digital democracy initiatives is the undertaking by citizens to join implementing organizations, initiatives and the "ringing of bells" for local government through online petitions, formal written requests, presentations of reports and findings at thematic events or even lawsuits addressed to law enforcement agencies.

LevizAlbania has successfully granted 11 projects and initiatives in the digital democracy sphere, aiming creation of digital tools, channels and increased information flows among citizens and institutions.

The number of citizens involved in local actions sprouting from the funded projects has overpassed 2500[3]. After the termination of the projects, all the online platforms created are currently active and continue to contribute to the initial set goals of the projects.

In conclusion, we consider that the contribution of LevizAlbania, as a supporter for civil society actors in the implementation of initiatives in the function of digital democracy, in general, is an intervention that creates and improves the enabling environment for civic engagement.

A very important aspect that is promoted using digital tools is also the impact of systemic changes at the local and central level, which means changing the rules or regulatory and institutional processes through an advocacy process that aims to internalize functional models created by institutions and used in the service of citizens. But this aspect is not part of this article and deserves a special treatment.

Lessons Learned

Despite the positive innovations that LA has brought in the Albanian context in the field of digital democracy such as making it possible to explore and test different models, some shortcomings remain which are also connected to the broader conditions for local digital democracy more so than LA itself.  First, the lack of a proper and integrated strategy on the objectives and goals of promoting these initiatives of digital democracy, has led to a fragmentation of results and made it difficult to create genuine synergies between them. However, as argued in this article (Link Bino and Martizen), digital democracy was not an intrinsic part of the theory of change of LA, but it strongly supported the use of digital tools to foster local democracy. As such the lessons learned should be seen in this context and serve other actors who have an interest in this regard. The experience of LA grantees can be replicated, expanded and further consolidated. Another challenge is that of the difficulty of sustainability of the initiatives and instruments conceived by them. One lesson that can be learned in this context is the need for more focused and strategic work to create and maintain a better balance between flexibility and freedom in producing ideas and tools (on the one hand) and delivering of a macro structure for the field (on the other hand), where all ideas meet and interact.

A second lesson relates to the need for a more efficient dissemination of the models promoted, to incentivize civic education and replication. Promoting successful practices in the field of digital democracy requires the use of the entire LA network in the country, as well as cooperation with other actors. To help in the sustainability and consolidation of good ideas in this field, a platform is needed which, under a common denominator, can present and represent all tested models and provide opportunities for capacity building and empowerment between other groups or other areas.

Finally, another aspect of this experience relates to the need to coordinate public with non-public initiatives regarding digital democracy. From the above we have described a stage of the environment in which there are formal initiatives of central and local level, supported or not by foreign donors, (such as the co-governance platform of the Albanian government, participatory budget in a few municipalities, Bashki të forta, etc.), and there are also initiatives of civil society actors which receive donor support as LA, which were mentioned earlier.

The successful products of digital democracy are those that provide irrefutable data and studies, known to both citizens and the elected. In consolidated democracies it is the governing bodies themselves that implement projects oriented towards digital democracy. In the Albanian context, it is still necessary to involve civil society actors in more instruments of interaction between institutions, especially local ones and citizens.

Conclusions and recommendations for the future

The close connection that this field creates between the deepening of democratization and keeping pace with technological developments in general, makes it a necessity for the future development agenda of the country. The digital revolution can significantly help fill the gaps created between the citizen and institutions. However, for an effective use of these instruments, a process of civic education is needed on the one hand, as well as a cooperative work with institutions on the other hand. Regarding the work of LA specifically, the contribution through initiatives has been invaluable in the engagement of civil society and activists, who have independently proposed and developed such instruments.

From this point of view, LA and/or other bodies should maintain this approach in the future as they cover a role that other existing practices do not have, working primarily to directly support institutions. However, the usefulness and sustainability of initiatives in this field would be higher if a genuine strategy and an integrated map of practiced models were developed, recording this knowledge, and making it replicable, in the service of citizen education and activism.

To conclude, digital democracy in the Albanian context is still at its early stages. A few actors have attempted to introduce and implement some instruments. However, there is still plenty to do, especially in terms of sustainability and establishing synergies which might help the overall environment of this sector. Lessons learnt are also focused on sustainability of implemented models and in the need for a better strategy when designing methodologies and dissemination activities. Overcoming public skepticism and institutional apathy towards these instruments are crucial points that have merged from projects supported by LA.

About LevizAlbania

LevizAlbania is the Local Democracy project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) implemented by a consortium of (i) the Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA), (ii) Partners Albania and (iii) Co-Plan. Since 2015, LA has contributed to the growth of local democracy, through grants to Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs), informal groups and individuals, supporting their demand for transparent, and accountable local government and efficient public services. The project supports the building of coalitions to foster structural and systematic change at the local and national levels and to promote positive practices in support of local democracy

Knowledge Management System and Civic Engagement Platform

LevizAlbania's Knowledge Management and Civic Engagement Platform aims to collect, structure and capitalize on all of LA's contributions and achievements in the last 6 years. At the same time, this exercise examines the challenges that LevizAlbania faces in achieving its objectives, but also the challenges of grantees and the broader context of local democracy. Knowledge management analyzes the internal and external processes of LA, as well as conceives the establishment of mechanisms based on the identified needs. This chosen approach aims to improve the effectiveness of new projects and will instill a culture of systematic and structured use of the knowledge gained, using the tools and mechanisms (platform) set up. The Knowledge Management System and the Civic Engagement Platform contribute to increasing the effectiveness of interventions, and provide an in-depth analysis and overview of the challenges in supporting local democracy and civic engagement. Experts engaged for this by LevizAlbania (alphabetical order): Blerjana Bino and Gentian Elezi.


[1] Crozier 2008

[2] It is important to distinguish between e-government (e-Albania in the Albanian context) and e-Governance. The first is the platform for providing online public services and the second is that phase of digital governance that instills digital democracy and where the participation of online citizens in public discussion, politics and decision-making is enabled along with the aspects of providing public services online.

[3] All participants in activities organized by the grantees in projects are counted while petition signers are not counted as the number are progressively changing.






Albania’s long transition journey towards good governance, led by democratic principles, continues to produce questionable results. (Albania Transitional Results Report 2018–2020, 3) A highly conflictual internal political debate and a fragile economy bring additional vulnerabilities to an already brittle society. One of the side effects, further accentuated by a disastrous earthquake and a global pandemic in recent years, is a temperamental level of trust in governance, be this central or local. (Trust in Governance 2020) Despite ongoing reforms, there is still a long way to meaningful achievements in this space. Nonetheless, there is widespread consensus that citizen engagement is key to stimulating a balanced power of authority, which is simultaneously representative of its residents and their interests. With this background and context, in 2015 the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) deployed LevizAlbania (LA) as project that has been implemented by a fully Albanian Consortium of Partners. The goal refers to the benefits of the Albanian population from an improved democracy at the local level. Through a grant mechanism, LA has supported emerging and existing civic actors to raise community relevant demands, maintaining an action-oriented approach that yields tangible results for the local population. Through its innovative intervention that shifts focus towards the less prominent members of the Civil society, LA has provided support to 79 individuals and informal groups covering almost all Albanian geography.

As part of its effort to sustainably increase citizen engagement, LA provides support which contribute to a full cycle of active citizenship, from the nascent ‘social hero’1 to the well-positioned formalized organization (CSO). Its transparent Calls and processes are held in high regard by the grantees and add credibility and integrity. LA has often iterated and enriched its practices to enhance desired outcomes and impact. This assessment is, therefore, part of its learning and improvement cycle and aims to specifically examine how and where the support given to individuals and informal groups contribute to sustainably increase activism. The results show that under current conditions, the contribution of LA towards sustainable activism is commendable, though not evened as an outcome amongst target groups. Key motivators and constraints develop from the background characteristics and traits of individuals and informal groups which, along with other context singularities, determine the effectiveness of what LA offers and the degree of sustainability achievable.

The concept of the ‘social hero’ refers to the individual whose personal cause reaches a greater audience in a community and whose character and values appeal others to a deeper and wider level than a single problem. The ‘social hero’ becomes a point of reference and a figure of respect for others because of (among other things) the integrity, the deep empathy, and a sense of objectivity that with time see the social hero gain further moral grounds and eventually trust of his/her followers.

LA’s simultaneous idea incubation and platform approach are highly valued by grantees as a real and practical influence towards capacity building, strengthening this way the credibility of the civic actor and the quality of the results achieved for the community. Likewise, coaching proves to be especially relevant to Individuals, not only as transfer of knowledge but also as an emotional enabler. The latter prevails with informal groups too, who articulate the need for a more participatory and empathetic approach. Finally, one of the key findings for LA’s improvement cycle refers to a blind spot created by the lack of a follow up mechanism, after the grant projects end, which is seen as imperative by individuals and informal groups alike. Backing up efforts to yield results beyond the lifetime of a project, and addressing project failures to tackle impediments and inefficiencies, in the form of a fully dedicated Call would be a meaningful contribution by LA. They are likely to enhance considerably the legitimacy, credibility, and traction of the civic actor. More importantly, such efforts are central to creating change agents and initiatives with a direct effect on sustainability of engagement.

The full report realized by expert Mrs. Floreta Zhulali can be find in the link below.


#LevizAlbania #DedicatedToLocalDemocracy #LocalDemocracyWeek2022



Authors: Blerjana Bino, Knowledge Management Consultant

Anahi Martinez, Grant, Monitoring and Civil Society Manager, LevizAlbania


Summary paragraph

What is digital democracy? Why is digital democracy at the local level more likely to be successful? What has been the contribution of LevizAlbania in supporting initiatives that promote digital democracy at the local level in Albania? How can digital democracy be further strengthened at the local level? This article tries to provide answers to these questions based on the experience of LevizAlbania and the conclusions of the last regional forum for digital democracy practices in Albania. The article argues that digital transformation offers an opportunity to increase citizen participation at the local level, to improve transparency and accountability as well as decision-making processes. At the same time, digital transformation requires political will and investment in digital infrastructure, but on the other hand it also requires digital training, engagement, and civic mobilization.


The practical application of technology in defining and facilitating the processes of local democracy is defined as digital democracy (see article ). In the context of rapid and comprehensive digitalization and given the intertwined social and political changes, it is important to understand how technological transformation affects local democracy. The purpose of this article is to reflect on the contribution of LevizAlbania to digital democracy in Albania by supporting various forms of technology implementation for civic engagement and participation in decision-making, monitoring and increasing transparency and accountability.

Since 2015, LevizAlbania (LA) has focused on empowering social actors at the local level in supporting democracy, enabling civil society organizations, informal groups, and individuals to engage and participate in local democratic processes, increasing demand for transparency, accountability and effective public services. LA has established a network of local partners, it has made various and complementary interventions to each-other, and it has had a wide geographical reach, accumulating knowledge on the mechanisms that shape the effectiveness of democracy support and civic engagement at the local level.

LA grantees (organizations, individuals and informal groups) have received support in using digital instruments to promote local democracy, mainly through the use of digitalisation in monitoring election promises or municipal services, increasing transparency and strengthening accountability (A detailed list of awarded grants can be found in the first footnote).  These instruments have also been used to raise awareness and empower citizens, or certain groups such as young people, marginalized groups, to be more active and participatory as well as to monitor and interact with local government. The main form used has been the creation of online platforms for monitoring, transparency, accountability and giving voice to citizens. However, the main challenges remain: first, the financial viability of these platforms; second, their interconnection with existing local government or civil society platforms; third, their mass usability by citizens beyond the life of the project (which established it); fourth, the transition from monitoring to action and the creation of communities for engagement and mobilization.

Based on the experience of LA grantees as well as a regional forum in Durres organised with local actors for local democracy in May 2022, this article aims to present some recommendations regarding the development of digital democracy in Albania. For further information regarding this aspect, see the article by Gentian Elezi and Saimir Musta (link).

How to understand digital democracy?

In principle, democracy is a political system that enables fair and representative governance. However, in practice, democracy has developed at different levels in different countries (see e.g. Freedom House rankings). A crisis of trust in the system of representative democracy has been confirmed in contemporary society and this is considered problematic for the functioning of democracy itself. In response to complex social, political, cultural, economic, and technological changes, democratic systems need among other factors also institutional innovation to ensure that they are governed responsibly, effectively, fairly and transparently. Thus, the Internet and rapid technological developments were seen as golden opportunities to revitalize democratic governments and to increase public trust and engagement. The initial expectation was that technology, and the Internet would enable a greater and more direct involvement and engagement of citizens in democratic processes. However, in practice, technology does not necessarly leads directly to better democratic processes as will be briefly outlined below.

Various forms of digital democracy have already been developed, i.e. the use of digital tools (technology and the Internet) in improving representation structures, decision-making processes and civic engagement and participation. The digitalization of public services is generally known as e-government (e.g. e-Albania, the platform of digital public services in Albania), while the digitalization of participation and decision-making processes is known as e-democracy or digital democracy. Essentially, digital technology serves as an enabler of various forms of democratic innovation (direct, participatory, assembly and representative democracy). For more about the theory of digital democracy, see this article.

Digital democracy has several often mentioned benefits, such as: mass engagement of citizens through forms that have lower financial and time costs than other forms (e.g. organizing an public hearing with the City Council online vs. physical meeting of a large group of participants[1]); enables effective instruments for monitoring transparency and increased the accountability of local actors (development of instruments for civic monitoring of Municipal contractors for public services and investments, such as OpenCorporates[2]); provided opportunities for participation regardless of physical or geographical and time constraints (exercise of the civil right to request from the local government such as the use of on-line petitions QytetarIN[3]). However, digital democracy requires at least the necessary technological infrastructure, access to infrastructure, digital capabilities and financial investment (e.g. building a digital platform for participatory budgeting buxhetim.al[4]) as well as the will and investment of the local government to internalize these new digital instruments in their daily work.

However, the concept and practices of digital democracy are very complex and closely related to the political context, government system, civic engagement level, level of development and access to technology and other social and cultural factors. Despite the complexity that is not the subject of this article, digital democracy serves as a normative concept - it enables us to think of democracy as an open, dynamic, and evolving form of political organization. Therefore, digital democracy should not be seen neither as a utopian model of the near future, nor as a simple technological transformation of existing democratic institutions (see article). Digital democracy must be analyzed both from the point of view of the political system and from that of transformation and digital infrastructure in a certain social context.

LA's experience in supporting digital democracy at the local level

In addition to the initiatives mentioned above, some other additional initiatives which are supported by LevizAlbania are as follows:

Monitoring the implementation of transparency laws by the Municipal Councils (INFOCIP) regarding the implementation of law No. 139/2015 “On Local Self-Government” through the monitoring of municipal councils in Tirana, Kamza and Vora in relation to the implementation of chapters IV and IX of this law and the promotion of civic monitoring and commitment to a transparent decision-making.

“Advocating and encouraging citizens and the media to participate in local government and its accountability, to put pressure on the realization of electoral promises"- Free Thought Forum. The project has encouraged citizens to ask the municipality to solve emergency problems and fulfill election promises. Specifically, the project focused on the cooperation and lobbying of the media to denounce the problems that are within the competence of the municipality, especially those related to environmental pollution.

Local multimedia platform in Gjirokastra: "Open Government"/Raimond Kola - Gjirokastra. The project has contributed to increasing citizen participation in the policies of municipal governments through multimedia (Facebook, Blog, Magazine), as well as awareness and practical assistance to citizens in obtaining information based on the Law on the Right to Information.

Public Transport in Tirana. The importance of citizen involvement in decision-making - Alterum Center. The project focuses on implementing a model that, on the one hand involves citizens in identifying problems and advocating for their improvement, and on the other hand increases the accountability and responsibility of local government. In addition, the project aims to increase safety and quality in urban transport by raising awareness and maximizing the role of citizens, stakeholders through active involvement in the decision-making process and legal advocacy regarding the tools that can be used by citizens/stakeholders to oppose/repeal, monitor the decisions of the Municipal Council regarding public transport.

Use technology, improve democracy! - A.L.T.R.I. The aim is to enable citizens' digital skills to understand and effectively use the tools of digital democracy.

Lessons learned

LevizAlbania has supported several pioneering initiatives in the field of digital democracy as analyzed in this article, which have shown how the instruments of digital democracy can be implemented in practice at the local level even though digital democracy is not a goal in itself for LA. In the wide range of digital democracy practices, the focus has been the development of online platforms for monitoring local government, promoting the demand for transparency and accountability from municipalities and municipal councils, as well as giving citizens a voice to be more engaged. Although for LevizAlbania, digital democracy at the local level has not been its specific objective, it has nevertheless made an important contribution to the dissemination and popularization of digital democracy practices at the local level. This process of supporting such initiatives has had some major challenges which apply not only to LevizAlbania, but are lessons learned that also serve other actors interested in digital democracy at the local level.

First, the support of different initiatives in different geographical areas on the one hand has increased the diversity of digital democracy practices and has incentivised local organisations to engage in such practices. Considering the theory of change and the purpose of LevizAlbania, it did not follow a strategic and coordinating framework of these initiatives.. In the future, it would be advisable for other actors who will implement interventions in digital democracy to build a specific theory of change on how technology will strengthen local democracy in Albania.

Secondly, despite the positive results achieved by the LA supported projects as evidenced in the article and in the local digital democracy forum, the sustainability of the platforms remains challenging, especially the financial one. A lesson learned here is that the civic actors undertaking such initiatives need to be empowered and supported to find other ways to ensure the sustainability of the platforms, once the support is complete. Connecting and collaborating with other local actors could be another way to ensure more sustainability. Thus, cooperation with universities can serve to ensure the sustainability of human resources, while alliances with local media increase the promotion of initiatives and can contribute to a greater engagement by the public on these platforms.

Third, their widespread use by citizens beyond the life of the project remains challenging and requires such communication and engagement strategies to reach different civic groups. The experience of LevizAlbania shows that a combination of the use of social media, alliances with local media and networking with other local actors is needed to encourage citizens to use the platforms. Furthermore, awareness and education about the practices of digital democracy is also needed.

A fourth challenge is moving from monitoring to action, creating communities for engagement and mobilization. Practices of digital democracy at the local level so far have focused more energy on monitoring than on action. While monitoring and information serve to promote local government transparency, it is essential that digital democracy initiatives also focus on ways in which digital tools can be used to foster civic participation and engagement. A lesson learned is that in designing these initiatives, ways of engaging and mobilizing citizens and social groups in digital democracy must be thought through and planned. While mobilization in the digital public sphere may be more easily feasible, the transition from online to offline mobilization in practice is more challenging and constitutes a still evolving field of action. Several studies have shown that digital technologies, and especially the spaces that allow for social interaction, can facilitate forms of political engagement. (see article). Some scholars describe online political participation as “clicktivism”, while others argue that it is useful to understand that participation and civic engagement is not one-dimensional, but multi-dimensional by combining different forms of engagement that are complementary to each other. However, there is still room to thoroughly study the reasons that push citizens to move from online to offline mobilization.

Finally, digital inequality in terms of digital capabilities and access to digital infrastructure and the Internet is a prerequisite for a successful digital democracy initiative. The same social groups that are more inclined to be active and have skills and access to the digital world generally participate in digital democracy initiatives. Successful and sustainable practices require working with the principle of inclusive digitalisation, which seeks to bridge the gap between those with and without Internet access and digital infrastructure. Here, of course, we refer to the citizens on the one hand, but also to the employees and representatives of the local government, who should be part of the digital training process. Municipalities should not only embrace this opportunity for democratic innovation, but also invest in their technological infrastructure and digital training of their employees. 

Conclusions and recommendations for the future

As technology has transformed the way we live, work, and communicate, governance systems require more time to transform and respond to change. Local government in particular has an even greater potential for digital democracy as it has an obligation to engage citizens in the day-to-day affairs of community life. Technology is the means by which local government can foster this open relationship with citizens for better, more accountable and transparent governance. Therefore, social actors must exert pressure and take initiatives that enable the strengthening of digital democracy practices at the local level.

In conclusion, we must keep in mind that digital democracy allows for citizen engagement using technology, and is part of a wider field of democratic innovation that includes consultative democracy (through discussion) and participatory democracy (where citizens can be involved in the decision-making process). Digital democracy is a way to enable engagement and participation. However, the practices of digital democracy cannot be oriented only towards technology as a means, but towards democracy and democratic values, i.e. open, transparent governance, accountability and civic engagement.

Some of the recommendations in this regard are:

  • Work should be done on comprehensive digitalization by devising and financially supporting initiatives that provide internet access and digital infrastructure for marginalized groups.
  • It is important to work for the digital empowerment of citizens and social groups, so that they can benefit from e-services or the opportunities of digital democracy.
  • Digital instruments are not exclusive to traditional forms of engagement and participation but are complementary.
  • It is important to focus resources also on the interconnection, integration, and sustainability of platforms by providing a more strategic approach, better coordination, local alliances and continuous communication with citizens.
  • While the use of digital tools by social actors to promote transparency and accountability of local government and citizen participation are valuable mechanisms that should be supported in the future, it is also important that society continues to exert influence on local government to be more open, transparent and accountable through the promotion of the principles and implementation of digital democracy.To better understand the practices of digital democracy in Albania so far, it is important to analyze the contribution of LevizAlbania as well as other initiatives in a broader context of other developments in local democracy. In this way data can be provided to inform future strategic interventions for digital democracy.

About LevizAlbania

LevizAlbania is the Local Democracy project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) implemented by a consortium of (i) the Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA), (ii) Partners Albania and (iii) Co-Plan. Since 2015, LA has contributed to the growth of local democracy, through grants to Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs), informal groups and individuals, supporting their demand for transparent, and accountable local government and efficient public services. The project supports the building of coalitions to foster structural and systematic change at the local and national levels and to promote positive practices in support of local democracy.

Knowledge Management System and Civic Engagement Platform

LevizAlbania's Knowledge Management and Civic Engagement Platform aims to collect, structure and capitalize on all of LA's contributions and achievements in the last 6 years. At the same time, this exercise examines the challenges that LevizAlbania faces in achieving its objectives, but also the challenges of grantees and the broader context of local democracy. Knowledge management analyzes the internal and external processes of LA, as well as conceives the establishment of mechanisms based on the identified needs. This chosen approach aims to improve the effectiveness of new projects and will instill a culture of systematic and structured use of the knowledge gained, using the tools and mechanisms (platform) set up. The Knowledge Management System and the Civic Engagement Platform contribute to increasing the effectiveness of interventions, and provide an in-depth analysis and overview of the challenges in supporting local democracy and civic engagement. Experts engaged for this by LevizAlbania (alphabetical order): Blerjana Bino and Gentian Elezi.

[1] During the Covid-19 pandemic, in accordance with all the imposed measures, several projects of the Call for Applications No. 6 of LevizAlbania ensured the participation of citizens in discussions with Municipal Councils online. For example: The project “Activation and empowerment of young people to be part of local decision-making, through free speech and civic action”  implemented by the Foundation "Sustaining Inclusive Growth" in the Municipality of Pogradec managed to ensure the participation of a youth group in several Municipal Council meetings online  during the pandemic period. They requested that these meetings be made public within the legal deadline and with the necessary quorum. They were provided access to the Zoom and participated in various discussions. The project "Services for citizens with citizens – The case of Municipality of Lushnja implemented by the Institute of Public and Legal Studies in the Municipality of Lushnja has encouraged the civic group trained by the project to discuss four detailed proposals online with the executive of the Municipality, as well as with two members of the Council.

[2] Call Project No. 7 of LevizAlbania “Citizen Monitoring and Transparency on Municipal Contractors for Services and Pubic Investments” implemented by the Albanian Institute of Sciences (Open Data Albania). The project managed to open data on contractors. i.e. businesses that have won a tender with municipalities. The open information is placed in a passport and in a few seconds every citizen, journalist, civic actor, or official can obtain information who the owner of the business is, what economic performance this business has, its object of activity, licenses it has, data on the administrator, data and lists of other contracts according to the municipalities and partnerships with other businesses. The passport is also linked to information on value treasury transactions in favour of this business. It is a carefully designed and developed algorithm, as an anti-corruption tool for risk assessment, which identifies businesses that have indications that are favoured by lack of competition, irregularities or low efficiency.

[3]Call Project No. 6 of LevizAlbania “QytetarIN” was implemented by the organization Qendresa Qytetare (Civic Resistance). During 2020, time when the pandemic isolated opportunities for action, Qendresa Qytetare provided the opportunity to several interest groups to electronically sign petitions. These groups, which were legally and technically supported by the Qendresa Qytetare team, managed to influence the agenda of Tirana Municipal Council and municipality by transforming their neighbourhood and by getting back the fees they were entitled to by law. A total of 1,299 citizens, 755 of whom were women and girls were involved in the project activities and in the signing of the petition. Indirect beneficiaries were 5,400 students of the Student City, who benefited from fee reduction, about 500 residents of the Former Polygraph Neighbourhood, who suffered the presence of waste in the area, as well as over 20,000 students who use public transport in the capital, who received student bus passes. From 2022, the strategic project of LevizAlbania “#PërQytetin” implemented by Qendresa Qytetare widens the coverage of the platform and a model built with QytetarIN. It is currently being implemented in Durres in partnership with the organization Durresi Aktiv and in Kurbin with Sebastia Center.

[4] LevizAlbania supported the Agenda Institute in creating, piloting and extending the platform for civic participation buxhetim.al. This platform was initially developed as a result of the project "Active participation of citizens in drafting the budget of the municipalities of Durres, Elbasan and Korca” and later expanded through the project "Expansion of buxhetim.al in 20 municipalities of the country." Through the project of Call No. 6 of LevizAlbania "Extension and consolidation of the online instrument of civic participation buxhetim.al in 61 municipalities of the country” 55,908 citizens used the platform buxhetim.al to express their priorities in the budget for 2021.

SEMI-ANNUAL REPORT  July 1st – December 31st 2021

SEMI-ANNUAL REPORT July 1st – December 31st 2021

Executive summary

Mid-way through the implementation of its second phase, LevizAlbania has formed a critical mass of active citizens, interest groups and CSOs that participate and influence local government action. About 40% of supported civic actors report that they continue to carry out initiatives in the benefit of local communities, 12 months after grant support is concluded, providing evidence of long-lasting impact and sustainability. This is a major achievement considering the context is hindering civic engagement and financial viability of civil society.

The contextual trends pointing at weakened citizens’ engagement and participation in decision-making, public consultations and protests, a non-enabling environment for civil society and other democratic setbacks have continued to be present over the reporting period. The latest developments surrounding the Law on “Registration of Civil Society Organizations” and the recent Law on “Co-Governance” raise red flags pointing to concentration and increased governmental control on actions of and interactions between citizens, interest groups, CSOs and the governmental bodies at both central and local level.. 

In this challenging context, LevizAlbania has continued to work with a wide range of different actors in the civic space to drive change and incite local government to take action in the benefit of citizens.

Empowered civic actors are achieving social change by resolving issues of interest to local communities, forming a critical mass of active civic actors. A total of 332 individuals, informal groups and CSOs have received LevizAlbania support since 2015. Their initiatives have incited a total of 207 actions and reactions from local government in response to a strengthened demand for better local governance amounting to 653 concrete demands and proposals raised by citizens themselves, mobilized through the different LevizAlbania instruments.

LevizAlbania granting mechanism is recognized widely as innovative, competitive and transparent. Through 8 Calls for Applications (CfA) we have received more than 2,270 applications from a diverse group of civic actors’ country-wide, out of which 283 projects have been supported. The practice of public Idea Competitions, an innovation aimed not only at transparency but also for interaction among applicants, is highly regarded as a crucial moment and an important motivating experience by many of them. Throughout these Calls nearly 700 applicants have presented an idea to the Grants Board over 24 Idea Competitions organized in 15 different locations. The outreach of LevizAlbania has extended to practically every municipality in the country.

During the reporting period (July 1 – December 31st 2021) 32 grants were contracted, bringing the total number in Phase II (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2023) to 117, by involving 166 different civic actors. As a reference for comparison, in Phase I LevizAlbania granted a total of 166 projects. Until the end of the reporting period 53 grants have completed their activities and have been closed. Overall, LevizAlbania has contracted 3,335,865 CHF for the implementation of demand-driven interventions and VASS during the Phase II.

LevizAlbania has continued to enable civic actors by:

  • Promoting formation of alliances and partnerships of civic actors to undertake joint actions, making citizens’ voices stronger.
  • Encouraging community mobilization and promoting that more people get involved
  • Capitalizing on the current legal framework that regulates citizen participation, overall readiness for active citizenship and pressure for more responsive local governments.
  • Supporting grantees to increase the visibility of their causes, promote a closer collaboration with journalists and local media for improved local democracy.
  • Offering Value-Added Support Services (VASS), designed to have an effect on the environment for civic engagement in areas related to local governance. The four VASS) continued implementation: i) Law Clinics, providing legal support to communities and civic actors; ii) Municipal Finances and Citizen’s Perceptions on Local Services; iii) Youth Movement: a new page for local communities; and iv) Exchange, networking and coaching opportunities.
  • PortaVendore has continued engaging local journalists to report on local issues.

During Phase II, LevizAlbania has managed through its interventions to reach 54 municipalities. LevizAlbania has closely monitored and systematically followed up on the outcomes achieved by each of its supported civic actors. Information collected through different means of verification provide evidence for the following:

  • Improved local public services;
  • Addressed local environmental issues;
  • Shaped local priority setting/decision-making in favour of vulnerable groups;
  • Enhanced transparency & accountability;
  • Strengthened role of CSOs, particularly locally-based, as intermediaries between citizens and local governments;
  • Strengthened leaderships at community level.

The experience gained by the grantees during collaboration with LevizAlbania project, has also been thoroughly assessed. LevizAlbania’s approach and support are highly valued by grantees as a real and practical influence towards capacity and sustainability building.

In the frame of the efforts for establishing a Knowledge Management system, LA has traced the sustainability of activism and of initiatives, 12 months after the end of support. About 40% of supported civic actors continue to carry out initiatives in the benefit of local communities after support is concluded, providing the first hints of evidence of sustainable long-lasting impact.  This is considered as a major achievement, taking into account the challenging contextual developments hindering civic engagement and financial viability of civil society. Within those grants with limited sustainability, the project team is currently identifying factors influencing sustainability and lessons learned. Key motivators and constraints develop from the background characteristics and traits of different grant recipients which, along with other context singularities, determine the effectiveness of what LA offers and the degree of sustainability achievable.

The External Mid-Term Review (MTR) of LevizAlbania project, as foreseen in the Phase II Project Document, took place in the Fourth Quarter of 2021. The Embassy of Switzerland in Tirana mandated a team of external independent consultants (one international and one national) to perform an External MTR, in accordance with SDC regulations.

Looking ahead

Over the next six months LevizAlbania will focus in the awarding process and contracting of grants through the last periodic CfA for Phase II. In addition, the project team will continue working with on-going grant recipients and partners in the implementation and reporting of the grants currently active, systematically monitoring its outcomes during and after the projects’ periods.  In doing so, LevizAlbania will continue to monitor closely the context developments in order to be able to “react” and adapt to new challenges, using its instruments. Particular attention will be paid to the development of the pandemic in order to have a well-thought reflection and reaction in cooperation with the donor.

Additionally, LevizAlbania will finalize the Knowledge Management Framework to ‘produce’ knowledge conducive to better local democracy and enhanced civic engagement in Albania.  In terms of leverage and dissemination of knowledge, different seminars have been planned as outreach and engagement activities.

Based on the MTR’s relevant recommendations, as well as information from internal reflection processes, LA is currently entering a new learning cycle to be fed by its own first-hand experience as well as on a solid Knowledge Management system.

The organization of Local Democracy Week 2022 will build up on these efforts and include a wide range of innovative activities enlarging the opportunities for open dialogue between diverse groups of different civic actors and stakeholders in Albania. 

Finally, LevizAlbania will continue to nurture the collaborations and synergies with other projects, in addition to taking part and contributing in the building of a community of practice.


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