Pavol Demes’s comments on the ‘new local donor organizations that have evolved in Central and Eastern Europe’ (‘Then and now’, Alliance, June 2009) seem to be a clear answer to the question that constituted the title of a session at a Grantmakers East meeting a few years ago: what is the role of international donors/entrepreneurs in the region? Is it looking for a quick return or is it that of patient gardener?
Twenty years ago Central and Eastern Europe needed some major structural changes, including the (re)establishment of the forms of civil society and the domestic philanthropic tradition. These have begun to appear, but letting the new philanthropic mechanisms in the region just weather the winds of the market – and, even worse, the blows of the crisis – might bring more damage than benefits.
Participation in, and representation on, international membership organizations such as the EFC is one possible tactical approach to strengthening local donors. External donors formerly active in the region reviewing their strategies is another. However, mobilizing and especially consolidating local initiatives and organizations to labour for a better environment and public support holds out, at the end of the day, the only long-term promise of stabilization, and this will require long-term cultivation.
Executive Director, Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe