STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS
ERGO Network’s new transparency and accountability criteria give recommendations on how grassroots civil society organisations should be governed and managed in order to be reliable and accountable. Fulfilling the criteria will bring attention to an organisation’s quality work. The set of criteria focuses on governance, financial management and performance.
ERGO Network together with its member organisations – Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (Slovakia), Roma Active Albania (Albania), Slovo 21 (Czech Republic), Autonomia Foundation (Hungary), OTAHARIN (Bosnia and Herzegovina), RROMA (Macedonia), Mladi Romi (Montenegro) and Zero Discrimination (Turkey) – developed a set of transparency and accountability criteria for grassroots organisations with the aim to strengthen civil society organisations. Using the criteria will give more legitimacy, better fundraising opportunities and more trust from both the grassroots level and institutions and ultimately reinforce the power of civil society organizations. Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society that is taken seriously by its institutional counterparts and other partners.
Furthermore, the members of ERGO Network agreed on joining their efforts and putting their thorough expertise together to empower Roma and pro-Roma civil society in their countries in implementing the transparency criteria. For this aim, ERGO Network has developed a board game that leads the players through different steps necessary to become more transparent and accountable. Anyone can download the game and play it by themselves, or invite an ERGO Network facilitator to support them through the process. Besides the offline game, there is also an online self-audit that you can go through to discover how far you are in applying the criteria in your organisation.
Fulfilling the transparency criteria means not only being able to show that Roma and pro-Roma civil society takes these very seriously, but also having the right to demand the same from other stakeholders.
Find out more about the transparency and accountability criteria and download them in several languages: https://ergonetwork.org/transparency/
Do the online audit and know how well your organisation fulfils the transparency and accountability criteria https://ergonetwork.org/transparency/transparency-audit/
Training of Trainers – Transparency and Accountability Criteria
12 -15 May 2018, Durres, Albania
Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society organisations that are taken seriously by their institutional counterparts. ERGO members from the Western Balkans, Turkey and the ‘Visegrad countries’ Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic met in Durres, Albania from 12-15 May under the project “Strengthening Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations” for a training on how to become accountable, transparent and independent organization that can be examples for others.
The training was based on a set of transparency criteria developed by ERGO Network that focus on financial management, governance and political transparency of grassroots civil society organisations. Once the organisations will implement what they have learned, they will receive a ‘transparency label’, recognising their good governance, accountability and transparency.
The participants learned and practiced how to address these organisational and managerial challenges through a board game that introduced in a playful way what is needed to implement the transparency criteria. Back in their countries they will multiply what they have learned within their local grassroots organisations and in a later stage with institutions in order to increase each other’s visibility and accountability. The group also stressed the importance of building trust between institutions and grassroots civil society through the criteria.
The project receives funding from the International Visegrad Fund and is part of the Joint Initiative to Empower Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey, financed by the IPA Civil Society Programme of DG NEAR and ‘Roma Included in Social Europe’, funded by the EaSi Programme of DG EMPL.
A local dialogue meeting under the project “Strengthening Roma NGOs as transparent and independent watchdog organisations” was organised in Bijelo Polje on 8th May 2018. in cooperation with local NGO Klub kulture and coordinated by NGO Young Roma, partner of ERGO Network in the project funded by the Visegrad Fund.
The aim of the local dialogue was to discuss the issues of the community with Roma and the representatives of the local authorities. The meeting discussed the results, extracted good practices used by the municipalities and provided ideas on future joint initiatives.
Recommendations from the meeting:
- Increase the level of transparency of local municipalities in the process of allocation of funds (to publish all information – public call, public and final decision, total score lists as well as individual score lists)
- Local authorities in charge of implementing policies related to social inclusion of the Roma should cooperate intensely, in an organised and structured way with NGOs dealing with the issues related to the protection of Roma’ rights. Local authorities should provide continued funding of joint activities with NGOs, in line with the Strategy.
- Local action plan is in the process of development and it should be made in close cooperation with community representatives and local NGOs.
- It is necessary to provide for adequate quality of education and care for all Roma children, primarily through the intensification of additional lessons (language learning and learning backlogged subject matter) with the help of teaching assistants.
- It is necessary to work more intensely on raising awareness about the importance of education and removing the barriers between Roma children and children from the majority population
- Introduce mediators to all schools attended by members of Roma populations. It is necessary to additionally train mediators and organise their work so that they can help schools update lists of children to be enrolled with schools as well as to regularly keep track of the risks, contact parents, schools and social welfare centres.
- Vocational training for Roma should be designed on local level to combine the needs of the labor market and the demands for skills and knowledge of Roma.
- Particular attention should be paid to the adequate employment of Roma in local institutions
- Funds for solving the housing problems of Roma should be urgently taken into consideration.
- The housing programs implemented for Roma on local level have to ensure sustainability of the solutions, meaning ensure possibility for the beneficiaries to cover their rental fee and communal services and ensure integral social services. It is also recommended that the housing programs ensure desegregation of Roma and prevent forming of new ghettoes.
The participants at the meeting were able to watch a short film produced during the realization of the project “Roma from the North” organized by the NGO Klub kulture from Bijelo Polje. This video was realized through the program of granting small grants within the project Joint Initiative for Empowering the Roma Civil Sector in the Western Balkans and Turkey, in which the NGO Young Roma is a partner, while financial support is provided by the European Commission.
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.