Foundation for Local Government Reform
2006/07: Improving Social Environment Successful Practices National Conference
On July 13, 2006, the Foundation for Local Government Reform held a national conference on Best practices for improving social environment. The conference summarized results on Improving Social Environment Program, administered by FLGR in municipalities of Bobov dol, Bratsigovo, Godech, Ihtiman, Kostenets, Kresna, Peshtera, Sapareva banya, Sopot and Strumyani. The program was funded by Charles Stewart Mott Foundation within the last 18 months. Participants in the conference were over 70 representatives of local governments, national and local NGOs, chitalishta, funded programs, state agencies, ministries and Council of Ministers.

Within the conference Mr. Krassimir Popov, Department Director "Pre-accession funds, international programs and projects" in Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, presented opportunities in implementing successful social policy in the context of future Bulgaria's joining the EU.

Mrs. Maria Petkova, Director Tulip Foundation, shared her impressions by Bulgarian NGOs activities in the social sphere and by the first competition held "2005 Project in the Social Field".

Mrs. Rositsa Raycheva, FLGR, presented the methodology and activities within Improving Social Environment Program, as well as some major outcomes and recommendations extracted in the process of implementation by FLGR team.

Improving Social Environment Program of FLGR/Mott enables active members of local community go through the whole process of training (preparation of successful projects, local community development, citizen participation in decision taking at local level), management of small projects and financial and technical reporting.

The FLGR practice shows that forum approach is extremely result-oriented and necessary in regard to future development of rural areas and applying LIDER approach in Bulgaria. Building local capacity in communities where little has been done, gives self-confidence to local people and makes them look in the future with belief in their own knowledge and skills.

On the basis of applying Program methodology and strengthening as working model for developing social capital at local level, the FLGR team outlined two recommendations:

    1. Local governments are to realize the role of local citizen groups and to give them the opportunity to implement their own project ideas by creating Municipal Project Fund. The Fund will fund local initiatives which will result in: sustaining local, municipal and citizens' capacity; solving concrete local problems and improving living environment; strengthening partnership as working principle; motivating volunteer work; joining local business as corporate citizen; joining citizens in local government; creating basic conditions for work in the context of implementing EU Structural Funds and National Program for Rural Development 2007 - 2013.

    2. Applying the learning by doing approach and the principle "from downwards to upwards" in elaborating policies and programs at national, regional and local level, will contribute to sustainable local development by empowering local people, developing social capital and solving local problems of local people.

The second forum session was dedicated to presenting 10 of 23 implemented projects within the Program. The projects were presented by their coordinators.

Maria Petkova, Director of Tulip Foundation:

    Local communities made a big step because their stopped waiting for someone else to decide and solve their problems. They began to work on their own. It impresses how much they have been done having so little resources. I think, this is enough to make us proud. I am glad that today we have mentioned not once about cooperation, partnership and their significance for the success of our efforts. I think that it is very important to distribute with great responsibility duties among our partners at the beginning of every initiative in order to achieve desired results.
Yuri Valkovsky, Financial Manager, Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation:
    The conference that FLGR have organized is not only interesting but inspiring. There is big sense to organize such events at which local organizations present their success, joy, difficulties that have been met. It is obvious that Improving Social Enviroment Program is successful. For me though, more important are all the many small successes achieved in local communities. Congratulations!

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