Reports

Welcoming Remarks and Cocktail Reception, 10 November 2009

Over the course of the afternoon, the conference participants arrived at the elegant Allianz Stiftungsforum, the representative office of Allianz insurance company right next to the Brandenburg Gate. Many commented on the venue’s fitting location for this year’s GEF conference, marking the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as twenty years of philanthropy and the building of civil society in the former Eastern bloc. One participant remarked that this was the first time she had been to Berlin since the Wende (change or turning point), noting that she did not recognise a thing, that today Berlin was ‘a completely different city’.

Michael Thoss of the Allianz Cultural Foundation, the host organisation, welcomed the participants to Berlin and provided a brief history of his foundation. He furthermore evoked the fall of the Berlin Wall, which brought the era of Europe’s division to an end and enabled the development of the philanthropy and NGO sector in Central and Eastern Europe. In closing, he encouraged the conference participants to continue ‘defining the future of Europe’ through their work – even in times of economic crisis.

Ingrid Hamm of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the conference’s co-host, started out by recalling yesterday’s lively discussion at the European Foundation Centre’s conference ‘Moving European Philanthropy Forward’, for which the GEF opening session served as a closing event of sorts. She stressed the role of the EFC in keeping the European continent in motion, defining European identity and breaking down the Fortress Europe attitude. NGOs and foundations must take risks and encourage participation, which the GEF has done in the past by fostering growth and unifying forces.

Pavol Demes of the German Marshall Fund of the United States introduced the keynote speaker of the evening, William White. He recounted that White received an award in the form of a compass at the EFC meeting the day before, expressing the hope that White would continue to successfully navigate the world of philanthropy and always find his way back to Europe. He moreover highlighted White’s role in building philanthropy infrastructure, especially in his home country, Czechoslovakia (and its two successor states), and expressed his appreciation of White’s humour, reliability, sincerity and spirit.

In his keynote speech, William White, president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, began with a criticism of the GEF conference’s subtitle, ‘Doing Better with Less’. He encouraged the participants not to accept doing with less, warning against a drift towards mediocrity. Referring back to the 1995 annual report of his organisation, entitled ‘Berlin Walls of the Mind’, White transferred the image of the Berlin Wall to worldwide developments in the early 1990s, and especially in his home country – the United States. Citing poverty, inequality, the alarming decline of American cities (with detrimental consequences for inner-city families and especially youth), he asked the participants to consider the ‘Berlin Walls in their own backyards’, ‘the Berlin Walls of the mind’ that undermine connectedness, community and civil society. The remedy for these developments lies in the civic participation that philanthropy and NGO engagement are able to promote. Today’s challenges are to define commonalities, clear visions and wise leadership in order to translate these goals into practical reality. In closing, he emphasised the EFC’s role as a ‘thought leader’ for philanthropy and noted that by crumbling, the Berlin Wall has become a symbol of unity, persistence and courage.

Guest speaker Parag Khanna wrapped up the welcoming session by offering a modern geopolitical outlook on the challenges the philanthropy and NGO sector faces today. In order to discourage any conspiracy theory up front, he clarified that his cryptic-sounding ‘Global Governance Initiative’, did not refer to some clandestine power, but rather to an initiative of the New America Foundation, the independent and innovative American think tank where he works. Khanna argued that European integration is the geopolitical event of our time and that NGO efforts are key to driving integration. In this context, he defined Europeanisation as a ‘bottom-up process’ that ends, not begins, with EU membership. He then defined three challenges influencing the work of NGOs, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe and ‘Eurasia’: the growing role of China and its establishment of new ‘silk roads’, along which the country implements its security and economic interests; the gateway between Europe and the Middle East; and the need to ‘do better with less’ in times of economic crisis as well as mounting environmental and social problems. He nevertheless expressed optimism about future developments in the region, as the European neighbourhood strategy recognises different regional trajectories that can generate positive integration dynamics. Last but not least, he defined Turkey’s ‘new Ottomanism’ as a confident strategy to extend its influence in multiple directions. Again, he did not necessarily regard this as a negative development, since Turkey as a stronger partner might facilitate the rise of a Euro-Turkish superpower – the only option for Europe to attain superpower status, as he noted provocatively in closing.

After this speech, a female singer appeared on the spiral staircase of the building, wowing the listeners with a soulful interpretation of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’. The conference participants were then invited to socialise and enjoy drinks and a light buffet on the fourth floor of the Allianz Stiftungsforum, providing a spectacular view of the Brandenburg Gate. The singer, accompanied by a jazz pianist, created the perfect atmosphere for relaxation and refreshment at the end of the evening.

Scaling another wall – Visions for the next 20 Years

‘Winds of change’, the music video of the German band ‘The Scorpions’, opened the first plenary of this year’s GEF. This song was the soundtrack of change for many people 20 years ago. Nowadays the icy winds of the economic crisis are changing the climate for non-profit organisations.

‘What happened to the dreams we had 20 years ago and what are our new visions for the next 20 years?’, moderator Pavol Demes (German Marshall Fund of the United States, Bratislava) asked the five panellists. Helmut Anheier (Center for Social Investment, Heidelberg) stated that the events 20 years ago were highly improbable: ‘We were just lucky!’ He considers the development of civil societies in Central and Eastern European countries an uncompleted project: ‘We have to be patient!’

Regarding the development of philanthropic work, Andrey Kortunov (New Eurasia Foundation, Moscow) shared the following lessons from Russia: ‘We thought democracy and liberal values were a gift without a price. We were wrong. We learned that you have to fight for them.’ He stated that there are no ready solutions for any civil society and underlined the importance of local issues. It does not take heroes, but responsible and engaged people to concentrate on local issues in order to learn the culture of philanthropy in Russia: ‘It is very important that our country be open.’

‘When do you consider a revolution finished?’ asked Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin). In her opinion, a revolution is not finished until the old elite is completely replaced and there ‘is still a long way to go’ before that happens.

Twenty years is not a long time for societies. This is also the opinion of Joanna Tyrowicz (University of Warsaw). ‘We cannot just import civil society or philanthropy,’ she pointed out. Accepting personal responsibility is a necessity: ‘We need another change!’ she insisted.

‘We need newcomers!’ Ivo Prokopiev (Alfa Finance Holding and Economedia Publishing Group, Sofia) also emphasised. He believes that many of today’s civil society leaders are bored and tired – or retired. Another weak point is the crisis in the media sector, i.e. the transition from print media to online media. Civil society needs an economically independent media, and currently this is in real danger due to the dependencies created by the economic crisis.

Prokopiev called for a new era of non-governmental projects. According to him, the criteria for new projects should be:

* efficiency
* costs
* scalability
* involvement of the local community
* transparency

Questions and remarks from the audience underscored this assessment. Participants asked: How can we generate new ideas for the development of civil society? How can small organisations become sustainable? NGOs should become more competitive – they should move away from dependency on grants and should find their own voice. One audience member suggested that grantmakers should invest in the media: ‘And that means not only building a website!’

Last but not least, the issue was raised that the discussion was often too Eurocentric. What experiences can Central and Eastern European countries pass on to other regions of the world, e.g. South Africa? What can they offer? Europe might lose ground to countries like China and India from an economic point of view, but should nevertheless transmit its achievements in the area of social and human capacities.

Hard Times, Hard Choices: Advocacy Funding vs Soup Kitchens

This session covered a wide range of topics relating to the issue of advocacy vs service funding. The moderator posed some questions in the form of opinion polls that the participants were asked to vote on. In the panellists’ talks and the ensuing discussions, even more questions arose. Most conference participants, as one poll established, are more involved in advocacy than in service funding. However, already at the outset, an audience member objected to the dichotomy between advocacy and service funding, saying this is a false choice – almost all projects encompass both aspects to varying degrees. The panellists agreed with David Devlin-Foltz (Aspen Institute), stressing that the real challenge lies in adjusting the balance. A successful combination increases the credibility of the non-profit organisation in question.

With most participants defining advocacy as policy change at the local or national level, it became clear that the diversity of experiences and conditions in different countries needs to be taken into account, and that advocacy needs to target very different fields and topics in different societies – there are no ready solutions. One commentator remarked that, although in many post-Soviet states the laws exist, there are great deficits in the area of accountability. Another remarked that in Transnistria, advocacy is practically impossible because there are no (legal) state structures to speak of. Likewise, it is often difficult to define ‘achieveables’ and assess the success of advocacy projects.

The economic crisis increasingly creates growing basic needs. The majority of participants expressed the opinion that, for the coming years, grantmakers should therefore favour some degree of direct service provision. However, ‘soup kitchens’ need to avoid the dependency model that often resulted from past charity efforts.

Andris Aukmanis (Soros Foundation, Latvia) argued that different countries have been affected in various ways by the current economic crisis, with Latvia among the worst hit. Thus, service and catastrophe funding is currently gaining in importance in many countries, also raising the issue of whether the non-profit sector can and should temporarily take over some state responsibilities. He also emphasised, however, that it is important not to cut back on important areas such as monitoring and civic engagement. Good non-profit infrastructure built up over the course of many years should not simply be abandoned and left to deteriorate. It will be more difficult to start again from scratch once the crisis is over. Sustainability and continuous engagement are among the most important factors – a statement that Devlin-Foltz agreed with in his closing remarks. Here, as in many other areas, co-funding and partnership between different grantmakers are more important than ever.

Ise Bosch (filia. die frauenstiftung) expressed her surprise that the topic of women’s rights and gender has not been raised in discussions so far. She argued that the most important gender issues in Central and Eastern Europe today are employment, violence (including sexual violence) and reproductive rights. She stressed that although gender mainstreaming has succeeded in increasing the visibility of gender issues, it has also led to a reduction in funding for women’s projects – as a consequence of bad monitoring, among other things. Funding women, however, does not just ‘fund women’, but provides access to entire communities.

A discussion ensued on whether or not gender is an appropriate lens through which to allocate funding. Some commentators argued that lenses per se are problematic and that funding should instead pursue a human rights approach facilitating inclusion on all levels.

Ketevan Chkheidze (Women’s Fund in Georgia) recounted some of her experiences in promoting women’s advocacy in Georgia after the violent conflict of 2008, the consequences of which are still tangible. Her work mainly targets internally displaced persons and questions of national and local government accountability.

In their final remarks, the panellists stressed that it is important to work in one’s field of expertise, that it is a very long process to achieve genuine social change and that it is important to build capacities and maintain gains. After all, successful capacity building among local grantees will continue to positively affect society in the long run.

Tipping points – from the fall of the Berlin Wall to climate change

‘The next transition phase is at our doorstep’ – according to the speakers of this panel.

Rather than tracing developments from the early 1990s to today, as the panel’s title might suggest, this panel outlined the challenges global and local reactions to climate change are facing, with a special focus on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). Andrzej Kassenberg (Institute for Sustainable Development, Warsaw) provided some statistics outlining the future effects of climate change in the region and explained the important ‘2° C aim’ for those less familiar with climate issues. He established that EECA is the most carbon-intensive region of the world and that emissions will rise even more in the future. The main reasons for this are its dependence on fossil fuels and the inefficiency of energy use. Long-term effects will be increased rainfall (but also fertility) in northern Europe and Eurasia and increased draughts in the south. As the key risk areas of climate change, he listed water management, health care, energy, nature conservation and migration. On a pessimistic note, he concluded that currently many Eastern European countries are not taking the necessary steps to address climate change and its effects. However, if countries are not prepared, these might be even more drastic than those of World War II.

Martin Rocholl (European Climate Foundation, The Hague) conceded that although his organisation measures success by the achieved results (megatons of CO2 reduction), the path to achieving these goals – an active process engaging people across society – is equally important. He first warned that climate changes are bigger and coming faster than we expect. He nevertheless offered a positive prognosis, asserting that many measures to reduce CO2 output not only entail reasonable costs, but even generate gain – an aspect that invariably raises the question of why these measures are not (yet) being widely implemented. Thus, the good news is that the problem can be solved, while the bad news is that many countries in EECA are currently adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Bulgaria, for instance, uses ten times more energy than Denmark , which, however, also results from its very inefficient use of this energy. There and across the world, more regulation is needed to implement the necessary steps. A political debate on and strong lobbying for the issue are necessary. ‘We have to bring players together,’ he said, demanding a shift to a low-carbon society. The European Climate Foundation – a global network of various foundations – is working to develop an electricity grid system across Europe that combines different renewable energy solutions. ‘Climate change will cause the biggest transition since the fall of the Wall,’ Rocholl concluded, ‘Prepare for it and you will win.’

Madga Stoczkiewicz (Friends of the Earth, Brussels) introduced her organization’s work in the framework of the Big Ask campaign, a powerful Europe-wide grassroots movement demanding climate legislation and climate justice. The biggest success concerning a legally binding framework was achieved by Friends of the Earth in the UK and in Scotland, where climate laws were implemented in 2008 and 2009. The initiative is currently working to push through climate laws in Hungary, Belgium, Ireland and other European countries. Stoczkiewicz emphasized the importance of media partnerships, ‘celebrity support’ and the involvement of professionals such as filmmakers in raising the visibility of these sorts of causes. She demonstrated the impressive result of this cooperation by showing the Big Ask advocacy film that director Nic Balthazar made with thousands of volunteers on a Belgian beach.

Ugis Rotbergs (Soros Foundation, Latvia) employed ‘open society arguments’ instead of climate arguments to make a case for the need to avoid the ‘capture of the state’ through interest groups not working to combat climate change. In Latvia, he claimed, there is still great need to pave the way for discussion, as dependency on fossil fuel is still too strong. He stressed the importance of the global level of decision-making and called for quotas to combat the greenhouse effect.

In the discussion, as well as in the panellists’ closing remarks, speakers expressed concern about the apparent Eastern European indifference towards the problem – with the important caveat that in contrast to most governments, many people in these countries do appear to take climate change seriously. Eastern Europe may currently even be at risk of becoming the ‘manufacturing backyard’ for green technology developments in China, which is at the forefront of the shift towards a green economy – for reasons of economic profitability, no less. They also noted that today, many of their own or their grantees’ projects are integrating climate issues into their overall striving to promote human rights and develop civil society. The effectiveness of energy use must be increased especially in EECA and we can all contribute to combating climate change through changes in lifestyle and behaviour, although NGO capacities in this area are still in need of development and improvement.

Continuing the mission: success stories and lessons learned

‘It’s time to look back: We did great jobs!’ Despite mistakes that have naturally been made, Balazs Sator (Civil Society Development Foundation, Budapest) encouraged his audience to congratulate themselves. ‘After 20 years there is a lot of knowledge in this group,’ panellist Christopher Worman (Odorheiu Secuiesc Community Foundation, Romania) also pointed out. Now would be the time for everybody to ask themselves: ‘What could we do better?’

The panellists agreed that a change in grantmaking is needed. In economically difficult times, local foundations and NGOs have discovered that the populations in the countries where they work are a potential resource. Concerning the question of whether there is actually enough capacity in the Central and Eastern European countries to raise money among the population, Sator said: ‘We communicate too little with the people. We have to understand that fundraising is communicating!’

Christopher Worman does communicate and cited his project in Romania as a positive example. The initiative is a community project and that depends on small donations by local people. One of its campaigns: In cooperation with a local supermarket chain, customers donated 1% of each bill to the project. This creates positive effects all around: shoppers tend to buy more and feel better about it, the supermarket achieves greater customer attachment and the project raises funds – only the state suffers a certain tax disadvantage. 800 families signed up in one month and also provided their personal data, which will serve as useful material for future fundraising.

The conference participants agreed in the discussion that tapping into local resources to secure necessary funding was common sense. ‘Being dependent on donors and writing proposals cannot be the only aim of NGOs,’ one commentator argued. Apart from suggesting partnerships with governments in social services, Michaela Lednova (UNDP, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States) pointed out the model of social enterprises as a way of making money. Participants of the discussion provided examples of their own social enterprises: a successful charity shop in Latvia, a restaurant in a small town in Hungary run by disabled people, trading in organic honey in Bosnia, and many more. ‘You don’t necessarily need to be innovative to be successful!,’ Sator pointed out.

Christopher Worman asked donors in the audience whether they support social enterprises. Only a few answered affirmatively. ‘Maybe it is time to rethink,’ he suggested. Some participants asserted that social enterprises need a strong management structure and entrepreneurs with business sense. ‘Social enterprises are not the only answer to the NGO crisis,’ said one audience member, ‘NGOs had better concentrate on their core issues.’ Nevertheless, the majority of participants seemed to be optimistic. Most of them considered the glass to be half-full instead of half-empty, as a little poll conducted by moderator Zoran Puljic showed. This positive attitude, combined with the competence and experience of the grantmakers assembled at this year’s GEF conference, gives reason to hope: ‘There is knowledge, passion and power in this room to make a change!,’ Worman concluded.

Summaries of auction sessions

Human rights and democracy twenty years later: sustaining the commitment

Moderator Pavol Demeš introduced the session by citing a question posed at this year’s European Council on Foreign Relations conference: ‘Is democracy assistance dead?’ This title had caused him great discomfort. He asked the participants to consider whether advocating human rights and democracy is still necessary in the countries of CEE, which have since joined the EU. Are donors and foundations justified in assuming that democracy and human rights are no longer in danger in these countries and that it is time to move eastward into more problematic world regions such as the Caucasus and Central Asia? Should they not give priority to social projects in CEE in these times of economic crisis? A majority of the speakers as well as audience members who commented answered “no” to all these questions. For one thing, the development of civil society entails more than just concrete social projects and, for example, in countries like Hungary, dissatisfaction is still high and there is a great lack of trust in the government as well as the overall socio-political system. Since democracy is about participation, the encouragement of a good dialogue between civil society and the government is thus imperative – among other things to establish trust in politics and institutions. A participant noted that from the perspective of many Caucasian and Central Asian countries, the countries of CEE often in fact do appear to be a paradise. However, we cannot ignore that CEE has witnessed an upsurge in right-wing radicalism and violence in recent years. This calls for intense and sustained NGO involvement and advocacy. Since many donors are indeed moving east, another audience member felt that democracy assistance in the region is in fact ‘almost dead’, but that fostering democracy and human rights in the region is as important as ever.

CSR & philanthropy: Strange bedfellows or a heavenly match?

A key question raised by the session’s moderator, Melissa Pailthorp, was how foundations can sustain their commitment even in times of economic crisis in order not to endanger what both financial input and great human effort have built up over the years. One response the speakers and the audience agreed on is that it does not always take money to invest in and support local NGOs and initiatives – human involvement in the form of technical training or networking is at least as important. Here corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important strategy. Companies should rethink their role in society. Often there is a will among managers and other professionals in the corporate sector to engage in the social sector by contributing both know-how and financial resources. Foundations and grantmakers can play an important role in establishing contacts with the NGO sector in this context. There was agreement that CSR should be all about sustainability, but some disagreement on whether companies should stick to their areas of expertise or if it is also helpful for them to invest in projects unconnected to their work.

The speakers, many of whom were involved in Russia, recounted some of their experiences in working to promote CSR, networking, and matching funds among foundations and corporate donors. They agreed that finding good opportunities is not so easy. One factor that often impeded their work is that in Russia charity is often still associated with corruption and that engagement depends heavily on personal ties of trust.

In closing, the question was raised of whether the true role of CSR was turn big corporate managers into compassionate human beings. The session’s participants agreed that companies have a responsibility to work with philanthropy towards the sustainability of society as a whole. However, as one participant critically noted, ‘to me, CSR often appears to be the music to cover up the sound of the saw sawing away at the branch of the tree on which we are sitting. Instead, it should be the fertilizer that allows the tree to grow.’

The ‘community model’ for providing technology support to civil societies

The session’s moderator Rebecca Masisak asked why people were interested in this particular topic. One participant responded that in her field of work in Russia, the availability of information is often insufficient and she hopes to learn how this can be improved through technology. Another participant said that a priority of his work is to help young people develop, but that the discourse on new technology has become almost like a mantra which does not provide concrete information on how it can help empower people. This led to the moderator’s central premise: Assuming that new technology is important – and available – there is a need for discussion on how to make it more effective and how to provide access to the necessary information. Technology is a tool. So how can we avoid using technology for the sake of technology? The community model, understood as peer-to-peer assistance, can contribute to achieving these aims.

It becomes apparent that the discussion almost exclusively focused on communication technology – for example, how to increase access to mobile phones and computers, as well as the potential for social networking and information that the internet has. Rural communities in Central and Eastern Europe were often referred to as an important target group. However, a guiding principle must be to foster the development of ‘real’ communities and networks with the help of ‘virtual’ communities. One critical comment on this point was that often the internet platforms intended to connect people actually have the effect of individualizing and creating islands that no longer interlink. Also, the predominance of the English language strongly impedes the accessibility of information for many internet users.

Training is thus imperative to raise media literacy that helps people navigate the information jungle and develop good critical thinking skills. This is an important priority of the telecentre movement and in many schools across CEE, according to one of the speakers. However, controlling precisely what use technology is put to is impossible in the long run. The moderator concluded that the crowd sourcing model and peer-to-peer assistance, however, are good means to ensure that the use of technology fosters empowerment, not destructiveness.

Investing in youth for social change: Does economic crisis spur innovation?

Session participants presented their methods for working with children and youth from local communities as well as their approaches to establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial alliances with the public and private sector. Olga Moshkova spoke about the projects of the Eurasia Foundation in Russia, e.g. in Nizhny Novgorod (Volga Region): Students actively engage in the ‘community university’, for example, with a social services helpline. In housing lessons (‘My city – clean city’) they provide help in an office that they are in charge of. Law students moreover run an office for legal information and advice. Moshkova pointed out that the model does not require a lot of money to develop – it is a one-time investment and helps young people find an approach to social ideas.

Angelika Krüger, programme director of the Youth Empowerment Partnership Programme (YEPP), presented her organisation’s engagement in Italy, where it helps young people establish small businesses, such as a bicycle rental and repair shop. The crisis is affecting YEPP, Krüger noted. A few donors have cut their funds in 2010, but the European Commission stepped in and is now supporting the programme.

Tim Pilote (East Europe Foundation) presented a programme for orphans in eastern Ukraine. The project is called ‘Everyone has the right to work’. The sixteen to twenty year-old adolescents and young adults are not only literally, but also socially orphans, Pilote informed the audience – those who still have parents are often neglected by them. They live in a ‘social dormitory’, where they commit themselves to not drinking alcohol, not taking drugs and not causing trouble of any kind.

To develop sustainable solutions, the project links the local government, local business and local NGOs. These public-private partnerships work out: the programme successfully found local businessmen to act as mentors to the kids.

Broadening the realm of Europe

The European Commission has put forward a new framework for enhancing the EU’s relationship with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus through the recently launched Eastern Partnership (EaP). EaP implies comprehensive reforms to transform the institutions in these Soviet successor states into institutions that correspond with European values and standards. These reforms should eventually lead to improved economic, social and security conditions in the EaP countries as well as wide-ranging association agreements with the EU.

‘We want to pass on our experiences, to establish dialogue and personal contacts,’ said Carsten Lenk (Robert Bosch Stiftung), presenting his understanding of the role foundations and donors should play. He also pointed out that the opportunity for young people to study and work abroad is a key to better mutual understanding – programmes that the Robert Bosch Stiftung carries out.

Citing the Balkans as an example, where in many countries state institutions are still weak and civil society is very important for the government, one panellist argued: ‘You need to advocate in Brussels and you need private donors.’ Networking – either internationally or regionally – is the main issue in her eyes.

Sorin Mereacre (East Europe Foundation, Moldova) talked about the situation in his country: Many people have emigrated from Moldova over the last 20 years and the country naturally suffers from it. European support and the prospect of future membership will mitigate emigration and create an incentive for people to stay in their country, according to Mereacre. In his opinion, foundations still have a lot of work to do: ‘NGOs form a closed club in Moldova right now. We need to intervene there. Networking must break the wall!’

New resources through cooperation, partnership and networking

In this session, participants discussed the transformation processes currently unfolding in their countries and how foundations in East and West could cooperate in activities to make grantmaking and social work sustainable. Klaus D. Schickhaus (Foundation for Encounter between East and West) stated: ‘Grantmakers can have a big influence on countries – not by being teachers, but partners.’ His organisation is a grantmaker that was founded in 1994. It sponsors exchange and encourages people from various Central and Eastern European countries to meet ‘peer to peer’, on the basis of partnership on an equal footing in order to promote friendship, historical reconciliation and European integration.

The speakers agreed that local participation is a necessity for sustainable work. One panellist pointed out: ‘You have to make your project known to the public and you need political support for this.’ A lively discussion ensued among the participants, with one of them recounting his experiences from working in Russia, where NGOs often have problems in their dealings with local authorities: ‘What we lack is a podium to discuss these problems, to unite and form a coalition!’ he pointed out. Another participant countered that networking should be more than just bringing NGOs together on a podium: ‘There is distrust between the NGOs, they do not want to share information and donors. What we need is team-building competence. People must notice that it pays off to work together!’