Thursday, September 17th 11:15

Harnessed and unharnessed energies

To what extent has the NGO model fulfilled its intended mission – and what is the need and place for formally registered associations in the future. We will later tap into the uncharted territory of individual, ad-hoc and informal groups' energies as the driving force of the civil society of the future. The session will be divided into two parts, organically connected.

Time for a new approach to NGOs?
Over the last two decades, NGOs have drawn their appeal from a series of features: predictability, institutional reaction, the possibility of a track record, responsibility, representativeness. Are these features still needed? What is the profile of the perfect civil society actor?

In order to answer these questions, we have to analyze what exactly the “old NGOs” have accomplished, which would not otherwise have been possible. We will look into their staffing patterns, their funding structures and their birth mechanism. The top-down approach (from donors and facilitators to grass-root NGOs) was arguably the best way of activating civil society, but was it the only one?

Professionalism comes with maturity, but with maturity comes mannerism too. What if we discover that some NGOs have slid from “know why” to “know how”? What if we – or others we know of - do projects just because we know how to do it, just to keep ourselves in business? Let’s look for a way back that can reconnect the CSOs to the people whose interest they claim to represent. If there is a space for us to reinvent ourselves, let’s explore it – speakers and participants together.

Nilda Bullain is Executive Director of the EuropeanCenter for NotforProfit Law (ECNL), aiming to promote an enabling legal environment for civil society in Europe. Ms. Bullain works internationally and serves as a member of the Civil Society Advisory Committee to the Administrator at UNDP. As a Young Global Leader she is also a member of the community of the World Economic Forum. Prior to joining ECNL, Ms. Bullain was Executive Director of the Civil Society Development Foundation Hungary and a parliamentary aide in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian Parliament

Michael Edwards is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, a Senior Visiting Scholar at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Brooks World Poverty Institute at Manchester University in the UK. From 1999 to 2008, he was the Director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Program in New York, and also co-founded the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation he was the World Bank’s Senior Adviser on Civil Society and also spent 15 years as a senior manager with Save the Children-UK, Oxfam-UK and Voluntary Service Overseas. He has published several books on Civil Society.

Codru Vrabie is a trainer and consultant in the field of public administration and public service reform from Romania. He has international experience in non-profit and public management, administrative capacity and institution building, strategic development, fighting corruption and transposing provisions of acquis communautaire. Besides the 6 years spent with the Romanian Chapter of Transparency International, his work experience includes Access Info Europe of Madrid, Spain, the Romanian Institute of Training, as well as the Center for Legal Resources of the Soros Open Network in Romania.

Civic engagement: Sights&Sounds

And what if the NGO model becomes obsolete? Who is there to instigate and channel civic energies? Is virtual space as good a medium for interaction as a physical meeting space? We will also take a leap into the future of civil society.2 through a combination of filmed materials and live testimonies from the public about how energy can be harnessed, combined and put to work for the benefit of the people.


Ioana Avadani is the executive director of the Center for Independent Journalism in Bucharest. She has experience of some 15 years in the media field, having worked as a news agency editor, a TV editor and as a media developer and is dedicated to a freer media and real citizens’ voices being heard.

George Ene is the general secretary of the Romanian Press Clu. His academic background in philosophy helps him to ask the right questions when it comes to the “why” and “how” of society.




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