The Regional Accountability Community of Practice (RACoP) recently held its second thematic event, focusing on the vital role of NGO partnerships in supporting community-led development. This event aimed to explore the concept of community-led development in the Balkans and shed light on international examples that demonstrate its potential for creating meaningful and lasting change. By examining practical aspects and sharing experiences, participants had the opportunity to reflect on the commitment of NGOs toward community-led development and discover ways to establish more impactful and sustainable connections with the communities they serve.
During the event, guest speaker Ms. Christine Mbito from Viwango, the Kenyan Civil Society Organisations’ Self-Regulatory Initiative, shared insights into community-led development in the African context. Christine emphasized the need to place beneficiaries at the center of organizational efforts, highlighting the significant role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in shaping narratives. She advocated for self-regulation and accountability within civil society organizations (CSOs) to ensure sustainable and impactful initiatives.
Two esteemed speakers, Ms. Dragoslava Barzut from Civic Initiatives and Ms. Liljana Jonoski from Rural Coalition, provided valuable perspectives on community-led development in the Balkans. Dragoslava Barzut shared compelling examples of successful NGO partnerships that empowered communities through a community-led approach. For instance, she highlighted the resistance against vaccination in Serbia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through collaboration with civic initiatives, leveraging existing databases, utilizing various communication channels, engaging local public figures, and exploring unconventional cooperative platforms, communities actively participated in addressing the issue. The government eventually recognized the importance of this community-led initiative, resulting in its adoption under the same name, which was considered a significant success.
Liljana Jonoski showcased an initiative for anti-fire cooperation between rural municipalities in the Balkans. This initiative emphasized the importance of community forums, capacity building, and inclusive decision-making processes. By empowering communities to drive their own development and fostering a sense of ownership, sustainability was achieved.
During the event’s Q&A session, participants raised important concerns about sustaining community-led engagement and the role of grassroots organizations. Dragoslava Barzut stressed the necessity of ongoing engagement and addressing evolving community needs. Constant communication and sharing of knowledge and resources with communities were identified as key factors in achieving lasting impact.
Christine Mbito highlighted the potential challenges posed by the “Big Brother syndrome,” where larger organizations unintentionally overshadow grassroots activities. She emphasized the importance of creating comprehensive partnerships between NGOs and grassroots organizations, ensuring that the latter’s contributions are recognized, supported, and not undermined.
Participants drew attention to the need for inclusivity within the concept of community-led development. She emphasized that women, often excluded from decision-making processes, represent an integral part of the community and should have their voices heard. Civil society organizations were encouraged to work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable space for all.
In conclusion, the second thematic event of the Regional Accountability Community of Practice (RACoP) provided valuable insights into the significance of NGO partnerships in fostering community-led development in the Balkans. By exploring practical examples and engaging in discussions, participants gained a deeper understanding of what community-led development looks like in practice and how it can bring about meaningful change. The event underscored the importance of sustained engagement, direct communication between NGOs and communities, and the value of grassroots partnerships. By embracing these principles, organizations can truly support community-led development and drive positive transformation in the Balkans.