Civil Society Resiliency in Central and Eastern Europe: Confronting Closing Civic Space in a Covid-19 World (2020-2021)

In July 2020, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) engaged PartnersGlobal to promote new models for building civil society resilience in Central Europe. In partnership with our sister organizations Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia (PDCS) and Partners Hungary, we implemented a 17-month civil society resilience-building project using our trademark ResiliencyPlus Framework to understand the challenges of shrinking civic space and charting a path for civil society organizations and actors to adapt and thrive in response.

The restrictive quarantine measures and emergency government actions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic put the concept of “civic space” front and center and forcing us to confront what it means and why it is important for a healthy society to thrive and meet the needs of its citizens. As a result, civic space is becoming better understood around the world as a necessary aspect of a healthy society and essential for the advancement of human rights and fulfillment of basic human needs. Civic space drives the ability of civil society organizations to function freely and without threats to their operations or security. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, civic space had been shrinking at a rapid pace, with its restriction becoming the norm rather than the exception.

This dynamic has been especially present in Central Europe with authoritarian trends worsening, polarization deepening in the region, anti-EU and illiberal sentiments gaining popularity, and challenges to independent journalism and media manipulation. COVID-19 presents new challenges as authoritarian tendencies are exacerbated, using the crisis to consolidate power; but it also, offers an opportunity for organizations to re-assert their relevance in meeting citizens needs in a time of desperate circumstances, and to channel citizen voices in government decision-making.

Under this project, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, PartnersGlobal collaborated with PDCS and Partners Hungary to improve civil society resiliency in both countries. Specifically, we:

  • Trained a new cadre of ResiliencyPlus Coaches
  • Developed a new ResiliencyPlus Overview and Coaching Guide
  • Organized a series of civil society dialogues with local organizations to assess the operating environment for civil society and raise awareness about civil society resilience
  • Led six organization (three per country) through a complete ResiliencyPlus process

Check out the full Coaches Guide Below and don’t forget to check out our podcast, Resilient Conversations for conversations between coaches, organizations, and experts on different facets of civil society resiliency throughout the world.