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Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organisations from the IPA beneficiaries 2 (TACSO 2)

Bosnia and Herzegovina, North-Macedonia, Serbia, Türkiye, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro

Environment and Climate Change, Civil Society, Public Administration Reform, Local Government and Decentralisation, Training Programmes, Good Governance and Public Administration, Natural Resource Management

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The overall objective of the “Technical Assistance for Civil Society Organisations” (TACSO) was to strengthen the overall capacities and accountability of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Western Balkans and Turkey within a participative democracy. Other stakeholders addressed by this project were different levels of governments (central, regional, local) as well as media, the private and the public sector in the respective countries. TACSO is part of the Civil Society Facility (CSF) which is an EU mechanism that provides support to CSOs in those countries that are not yet part of the EU.

This large-scale program assisted the target group i.e. CSOs through measures focused on increasing CSOs’ access to relevant information and strengthening of their institutional capacities.TACSO 2 continued to support CSOs and contributed to enabling the civil society environment along the same lines and actions as the past four years, abd there were four key issues that the project centred its activities around:

1. Further strengthening civil society’s role in national democratisation and accession processes
2. Increasing the communication and visibility of civil society’s contributions to society
3. Supporting the discovery of new resource mobilisation strategies and approaches, which are needed to provide for civil society sustainability and development
4. Improving the legal and institutional framework for civil society actions.

The project team consisted of 17 full-time staff as well as a range of short-term 250 experts. 

Civil society visibility

This project component promoted and facilitated civil society visibility. TACSO organised a number of activities at regional and national level to build capacity among CSOs to communicate effectively with the public and beneficiaries as well as to build relations between civil society and the media sector. Specific needs were identified and priorities set during a series of annual regional events. Capacity building was addressed through a range of national level activities including trainings and mentoring sessions. Communication and media strategy development, design of PR campaigns and storytelling are examples of subjects. The visibility was also enhanced through CSO fairs. All actions were implemented with the support of the communication unit at the project’s regional office in Sarajevo.

Help-desk services                                  

TACSO help-desk support was delivered to CSOs in response to specific requests, often on an ad-hoc basis. The assistance included i) information, guidance and contact provision for CSOs; ii) support to enhanced cooperation between governments and civil society; iii) project information, guidance and monitoring for EU and EUDs; iv) assistance on requests to the CSF framework partnership agreement projects; v) capacity building assistance to CSOs and occasionally to government units for cooperation with civil society; and vi) management of data bases for networking and reporting.

All TACSO national offices provided support through the help desks. Upon selection of the TACSO Resource Centres (RCs); this function was transferred to them. In general, the objective of the help desk function was to inform on all important issues and new developments relevant to civil society, particularly on donor funding opportunities, new legal provisions and other ongoing initiatives.

The People to People programme

The People to People (P2P) programme offered CSOs to expand their knowledge about the EU and the accession process through visits to the European Institutions, meetings with EU based CSOs and to network internationally and regionally. Being a major logistic service TACSO built P2P interventions through a combination of networking events, including conferences, workshops, and study visits. The overall P2P budget amounted to 2,2 million €. Regional or sub-regional events have been followed by events at national level in order to disseminate information and experiences to as many CSOs as possible. P2P guidelines, a manual and the programme calendar where produced to streamline and facilitate the implementation of P2P.   

The TACSO P2P programme implemented 69 events with over 4 000 participants. The events brought together representatives from CSOs, governments, EU institutions, media, business, and social enterprises from all around the Western Balkans, Turkey and the EU.

Other capacity building interventions

With idea to identify a few major themes of importance for civil society a Road Map for introducing new organisation development topics was elaborated, to promote innovative learning approaches and multiply knowledge and capacities acquired.

TACSO regional and national offices organised capacity building activities (courses, conferences, workshops, mentoring, study trips, etc.) in project cycle management and participatory project planning, strategic planning, quality assurance systems, advocacy and lobbying, organisational development, network management as well as other subjects. Study tours were also organised to review sector reform experiences in Estonia, Croatia and Serbia. 

Enabling environment development

TACSO promoted improvement of the enabling environment for civil society action and the conditions for dialogue between civil society and other stakeholders. Priority areas were the overall legal framework for CSOs, public funding, volunteering, civil society and government co-operation, as well as CSOs financial sustainability including philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

Particular attention was given to: 1) establishment and/or strengthening of fora for dialogue between CSOs and decision makers, CSOs and media as well as CSOs and the private sector, and 2) advocacy actions of CSOs to improve the enabling environment and the dialogue with governments. The multidimensional approach to enabling environment development has offered many stakeholders the opportunity to participate in key processes.

CSO Guidelines

TACSO has developed baselines for the Result Framework of the ‘Guidelines for EU support to civil society in the enlargement countries, 2014-2020' (CSO Guidelines). TACSO also lead the establishment of the monitoring system including the collection of data, consultations with CSOs and monitoring. The project disseminated the results of the annual monitoring.

Communication and dialogue between CSOs and CSF/EU facilitated

The Local Advisory Groups (LAGs) have guarantee broad representation of civil society and other relevant sectors, such as media and private sector. The TACSO 2 version of the LAGs had 119 members from civil society, governments, media, donors/international organisations and the private sector. The formation of the LAG has mirrored the needs and conditions in each country. The LAGs have ensured that the project’s outputs match the needs of the beneficiary CSOs. They have provided advice and offered links to local organisations and civil society networks, governments, media and other key stakeholders. In most countries the LAGs have also developed into important platforms for dialogue between civil society, government institutions and the donor community.

TACSO Resource Centres

The TACSO Resource Centres were identified through an open and transparent selection process. TACSO National offices and activities were gradually transferred to the Resource Centres. To capacitate the resource centres, TACSO designed a self-assessment process/tool with the objective to encourage organisational self-reflections regarding internal systems, values, competencies, and capabilities, as well as aspirations and perceived challenges. As a result capacity building plans for each Resource Centre were produced, and included topics such as strategic thinking and management, monitoring and evaluation, organisational development, financial sustainability, human resource management and partnership building.

Media guidelines

In 2017 TACSO was assigned to establish a monitoring system of the Results Framework of the 'EU Guidelines for Media Freedom and Media Integrity 2014-2020' (Media Guidelines). Fully implemented, the guidelines monitoring will provide information for the EU political and financial support to media development in the region. They will also offer governments and media communities in the EU enlargement countries comprehensive data for their own policy making and action planning. Likewise, the idea is to have a systematic, comprehensive and efficient assessment by applying the same methodology and approach in all the countries concerned.

The project, forms part of the Civil Society Facility (CSF) and aims to strengthen civil society within a participative democracy, as well as to stimulate a civil society-friendly 'environment' and culture in all the IPA beneficiary countries.

*The TACSO 1 program began in August 2009, received an extension in 2011 and officially closed in August 2013.