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.
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