Where is the new beginning?


Kaja Petryka


I have such reflections after taking part in the European Conference of Community Foundations in Cardiff, which was organized in September by ECFI and UKCF. I participated in two sessions – ‘Creative fundraising and capacity building’ and ‘Community Dynamics’.

I found it pretty inspiring, but also it has shown me that the upcoming period will be difficult, not only for Polish NGOs. The environment for NGOs in Europe is in a bad condition. The best – worst – examples are in Poland, Romania and Hungary. Terrified? Afraid? Challenged? Which word describes our feelings best?

Trust towards NGOs is decreasing; people are describing NGOs as a strangers, alien institutions that collect money for unnecessary aims (in their opinion). The space for civil society is shrinking.

In Poland the government is implementing a Centre for the Development of Civil Society which will be some kind of a government institution monitoring work of the NGOs.

Photo credit: Dalia Association‏.

Moreover, there are introduced regulations which will limit the activities of non-governmental organizations; international donors are turning away from the third sector.

Everything what is new is arouses fear among the society, the political situation is worsening morale, people are not talking to each other and it is repeating all over again.

Polish example shows that NGOs operate in various areas: from education, through health, to ecology.

Thousands of people are involved in their activities – social activists, urban activists, local leaders. Every day, all these people build something that is very much lacking in Poland – trust. There is a huge potential in the third sector. The society just needs to believe in it.

Sadly, there is a gap between what people say and do. A lot of people are talking about building trust in the society, but their activities are not heading into this direction.

What could we do to make a change? To make people more engaged and let them believe in the NGOs?

We need to talk more to our local communities, listen about their needs and fears. This might be the way to understand each other better and instead of mutual slandering we could work together to change our world for a better place.

Even the biggest, most crucial social problems can be better solved on the local level, in other words starting from the bottom. Or at least ideally they would be solved this way. If there is no support and understanding at the local level, if at the local level leaders are not engaged, they won’t marshal resources towards solutions, and the problems will remain unresolved.

That is also why The Academy for the Development of Philanthropy has started a programme called ‘Global Challenges Local Solutions’.

Self-organizing communities supported by local philanthropic resources are key to addressing our societies’ problems and improving quality of life.

We are strongly convinced that local communities should play the key role in the process of a global problem resolution. It is impossible to solve global issues such as Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,) without grass-root initiatives, run by local communities.

Change comes from the bottom-up, so if we want to empower local communities and to encourage them to take part in such process it is needed to foster solidarity by cherishing the values of community philanthropy (tolerance, empathy, care and peace) and to inspire them by promoting good practice.

To read more visit our website.

Kaja Petryka is a Coordinator of International Projects in the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy, Poland.

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