Strengthening Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations

Strengthening Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations

ERGO members from the Western Balkans, Turkey and the ‘Visegrad countries’ Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic met in Brussels on 24-25 November to prepare a new ERGO project that will strengthen Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations.

Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society organisations that are taken seriously by their institutional counterparts. It also shows public authorities that civil society take transparency and accountability very seriously and demand the same from the public sector.

With financial support from the International Visegrad Fund and the European Commission, ERGO Network member organizations therefore agreed on joining their efforts and put their thorough expertise together to set up a list of ‘transparency criteria’ and capacitate Roma civil society in their countries in implementing them.

During the meeting, all partners agreed that using transparency criteria would give them more legitimacy, better fundraising opportunities and more trust from both the grassroots level and institutions. They then drew up a list of criteria, divided into the chapters ‘governance’, ‘finance’ and ‘performance’. These include points such as giving access and distributing information about statutes and funding sources of CSOs, clear decision-making structures that divide responsibilities and ensure gender equality in CSOs, as well as the participation of target groups in the development of strategies and goals.  The partners furthermore stressed the importance of open leadership and regular training within the organisation that contribute to a positive performance of the staff, as well as the need not to use ‘dirty money’ coming for example from illegal sources or from companies using child labour.

Transparency also demands a proper and clear communication strategy (both internal and external) that communicates the vision, mission and the long term goals of the organization. If applicable, diversification of funds also contributes to more independence of organisations.

In 2018, ERGO Network will organise a training for trainers on the transparency criteria in order to help their usage and dissemination in the participating countries as well as offer coaching visits to the partner organisations. You will be able to find regular updates on our website.

Annual Members Meeting

Annual Members Meeting 2017

On 26 November 2017, ERGO Network’s member organisations came together for ERGO’s Annual Members Meeting. 45 participants from 25 member organisations joined the ERGO Board and Secretariat in Brussels for a day full of discussions and networking.

After being updated on the highlights of ERGO’s work in 2017, the members shared the achievements of their national and local organisations, showing the wealth of expertise that ERGO Network assembles through its membership. This expertise also became evident in a membership survey that ERGO has conducted in the past months and that has been presented by the secretariat, giving everyone a better oversight over the diversity within ERGO.

To follow up on this membership survey, the ERGO board set up a working group that will establish clearer criteria for membership in ERGO Network as well as propose reforms to the process of joining the network in the coming months.

Finally, the Annual Members Meeting was also an opportunity to plan common initiatives. During the ‘Open Space of Cooperation’, the participants discussed project proposals or used the time to share their experiences in specific working areas. One working group for example planned a European youth project on online hate speech, whereas another one discussed the current statutes of ERGO and reflected on possible constitutional reforms.

The following day, all members were invited to ERGO’s public event ‘Investing in our future: what work(s) for young Roma’, with some of them contributing as speakers to present promising examples of Roma youth employment and empowerment from their own work.

We thank every one of our members for contributing to the meetings and for all their input and engagement throughout the whole year.

Invitation: Public event on Roma youth employment

Investing in our future – what work(s) for young Roma

ERGO Network Public event

Monday 27th November, Mundo B, Brussels

09:00 – 12:30, followed by networking lunch

Equality of employment opportunities for young Roma is fair and just, but also a smart economic choice: It is an effective way to improve growth prospects and respond to the demographic challenge of rapidly ageing populations in EU Member States. Investing in young Roma breaks the cycle of poverty, discrimination and exclusion. It can yield high returns and can deliver the kind of lasting change that many policies and programmes have so far failed to achieve.

At ERGO’s Public Event, we will discuss the issue with representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Europe, present qualitative research done by ERGO members in five EU member states on youth employment measures and launch a campaign to mobilise support for investing in employment opportunities for young Roma.

The campaign will be centred on views and messages of young Roma themselves. We aim to convince decision-makers to support employment of young Roma and break the stigma that Roma do not want or can work. The campaign aims to make clear that young Roma want to work and can have opportunities, if sufficient investment is done and they receive the right support.

Download the programme here.

Please confirm your participation by 21st November here.

ERGO’s Annual working meeting and exchange visit in Hungary

ERGO’s Annual working meeting and exchange visit in Hungary

From 22-24 May our Hungarian members Autonomia Foundation and Pro Cserehat Association organized an exchange visit between the ERGO core members from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

The first day of the visit was dedicated to discussing and exchanging views and practices from our common work conducted under the Annual Work Programme 2017 and to plan ahead. After the meeting, the ERGO members had the chance to visit and learn more about the work conducted by our Hungarian members in the rural areas of Borsod county.

The first visit was organized by Autonomia in the village of Tomor, where the local Roma coordinator László Siroki stressed the challenges that Roma communities are facing due to the reluctance of local authorities to cooperate with Roma.  As a good practice example, the local coordinator presented the social enterprise Romama, where several Roma women are employed in a restaurant in an area where 90% of Roma are in the Public Work Program.

The second visit was organized by Pro Cserehat Association who presented their Pro Ratatouille project in Edelény.  This community gardening initiative targets disadvantaged communities. The community garden in Edeleny is run by 6 Roma families and proved to be a very successful project for the self-reliance and civic empowerment of Roma.

The meeting and the exchange visit brought up a lot of new information and many practices that the communities and our members can learn from, and was a starting point for new projects together.

ERGO Network Annual Platform Members’ Meeting

ERGO Network Annual Platform Members’ Meeting

ERGO Network brought together people from over 20 organizations and young Roma activists for the Annual Members’ Platform that took place in Brussels on 28 November 2016.

The meeting was opened by  Ruus Dijksterhuis, Director of ERGO Network, who shared a short history of the work that was conducted by ERGO and opened a space for the members organizations to present their own work and share their motivation for taking part in the network and its activities.

Then the ERGO members split into small groups to develop a common approach for fulfilling the ERGO Network Strategy. The group work was focused on the questions: What brings members together? What drives them in their work? How can the ERGO Network be strengthened?

During the meeting ERGO was using methods of the participatory leadership methodology. The methods were introduced and facilitated by four young Roma activists who were trained in those methods during the ERGO Summer Academy.    

The members agreed that ERGO Network offers its members an effective platform for provision of information and exchange on relevant political and policy developments from the European perspective and from other countries, which can be used at local level. It is a platform for like-minded people. It serves as a source of motivation and inspiration for more effective grassroots work.  

ERGO Network for many members represents a strong organization based in Brussels that can bring the grassroots reality to the Brussels fora and advocate for Roma people. Moreover, the members agreed that ERGO needs to keep its focus on network development and engagement of members in the work of the others, because only by working together we can strengthen the voice of Roma.