About the Programme
In times of polarization and deep political divisions, open and functioning civic spaces and active citizens at all levels of society are the strongholds for democracy in Europe. Only a vibrant and diverse civil society lives up to the potential that the core idea of democracy holds: co-creating our own future and having agency to influence our collective lives.
Because polarization has grown over recent years around Europe and the world, support for civil society has become more crucial. Organizations, initiatives and projects that showcase the possibilities for living in diversity and remaining open and tolerant while holding profound disagreements operate most effectively on local level, filling the specific needs of their local community. Their work can also be regarded as “a living practice of democracy”, democracy at its core: actively co-shaping a colorful, vibrant community life that builds bridges, strengthens civic cohesion and creates hope for a better future. This is where the Civic Europe Idea Challenge starts: We are looking for 15 lighthouse ideas that function as bright horizons and inspiration for bringing people together in times of segregation and animosity.
Locally rooted civil society organizations and civic grass-root initiatives outside of the big urban centers. Civic Europe’s aim is to support initiatives that are oases in so-called civic deserts: those organizations already active or willing to fill the gap in places characterized by little to no opportunities for civic and political learning and engagement.
The Civic Europe Idea Challenge is mainly aimed at CSOs that have previous project experience and have been active for some time in their communities, to help them upscale their activities, start a new project or develop a structure. However, newcomers with a solid idea to solve societal issues in their community can also apply. Civil society initiatives working in cross-sectoral partnerships with other local actors, e.g. municipalities, are welcome.
**Funding per project**
Up to €50,000
**Mentoring and support**
The Civic Europe Idea Challenge is not only about grant giving. The selected civic initiatives receive administrative, strategic and methodological support from the Civic Europe team at all times online and on the phone throughout the program as well as in person during our network meetings. The network meetings are not only an opportunity for the winning initiatives to overcome blockades or get feedback on their projects, but also to meet the other selected civil society actors and learn more about their projects, to extend their network throughout Europe and to get into peer-to-peer exchange and learning.
**Application & selection process**
Applicants submit their idea in the idea space. Submitted proposals can be edited during the entire duration of the open call period, until May 27. After the call ends, the Civic Europe team creates a shortlist of around 30 submitted projects in cooperation with an external reading team. Shortlisted candidates will be asked to hand in a financial plan in addition to their proposed idea and they will have the opportunity to answer questions about their project idea during a brief interview with the Civic Europe team. All shortlisted proposals will then be considered by a multidisciplinary jury. The jury will select the 10-15 winning initiatives based on the selection criteria for the idea challenge.
In parallel to the selection process, there will be a Community Award vote among all applicants that have successfully submitted project ideas. The winner of the Community Award will receive €5,000 and will directly get on the shortlist.
Civic Europe is an incubator for locally rooted civic initiatives, organizations and individuals in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe realized by MitOst and Sofia Platform, funded by Stiftung Mercator.
Civic Europe assists civil society actors by providing them with funding and mentoring to
implement their project ideas. We fund up to 15 local projects with grants of up to