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Activities : Working Group on Non-Governmental Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe
Call for papers 2020
WG Programme Coordinators:
  • Michael Brintnall, Montgomery College, US, mabrintnall@gmail.com
  • Gyorgy Hajnal, NISPAcee President / Professor, Head of Department, Corvinus University of Budapest / Senior Researcher, Institute for Political Science, Center for Social Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (IPS CSR HAS), Hungary, gyorgy.hajnal@uni-corvinus.hu
  • Iga Kender-Jeziorska, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary, iga.jeziorska@sin.org.pl
Aims of the Working Group:
The working group is focused on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and their participation in governance in the states and regions of Central and Eastern Europe. Our broad objective is to create a forum for the intellectual and practical exploration of the role that NGOs play – independently and in collaboration with government institutions – in governance and in defining, shaping and achieving the public good. We define non-governmental organisations broadly and are especially interested in those whose mission is strongly related to the public interest and whose work is in areas such as governance, social and health services, public policy, citizen participation, human rights, and/or humanitarian aid, from all sides of the political and social spectrum.

Focus, expectations and topics for the 2020 conference:
The general theme of the Working Group on NGOs’ panel for the 2020 conference continues to be the role and performance of NGOs in governance in CEE countries, neighbouring regions and within the context of European integration. While we welcome work on all aspects of this broad theme, we are particularly interested in learning about the following topics:
- Factors affecting the sustainability of NGOs in CEE countries. Sustainability invites attention, of course, to levels of financial support available, to sources of such support, as well as to the character of such support and the role of donors from within and outside the region. How do entities relying on government support differ in their initiatives and functioning from those supported independently of the state? In 2020, we hope to organise a special Donors’ Panel with representatives of funding entities within and outside the region.
- Sustainability also raises questions about NGO management and leadership. How are NGOs and related organisations attracting, developing and retaining talented personnel for management and for oversight, and what are the prospects for the future? What management strategies are adopted in different contexts (e.g. friendly versus hostile operational environment)? What is the role of volunteers in various organisations?
- Bridging the gap between academia and praxis in the analysis and management of civil society also continues as a priority for 2020.  Building bridges between scholars and practitioners can have benefits for NGOs and academia alike, such as joint initiatives involving applying participatory action research to policy challenges, fostering service learning in the classroom, and better sharing of practical experience. What are the examples of existing multisector models of governance in the region, in which NGOs and government are seeking to work together? What are the points of conflict? What is the role of civil liberties/watchdog NGOs in countries of Central and Eastern Europe?
- Following suggestive work from previous working group sessions, we are interested in the intersection of gender and the work of NGO’s in the region – both in terms of how the agendas of NGOs address issues related to public policies relevant to women or ethnic minorities; and in terms of how the creation, management and oversight of NGOs may be gendered. Are NGOs a potential entry point into the policy-making and public management systems for groups traditionally less included (either directly or as an entrance point for later engagement)?
- Government policy perspective, i.e. government views on and responses to the activities of certain NGOs. How do governments perceive and act upon the policy issues (both opportunities and challenges) set for them by NGOs operation? How does government policy change in this regard? What are the similarities and differences between policy sectors and/or between countries?
In addition, themes such as the following are pertinent and of interest:
- What is the role of NGO’s in governance and provision of public services at the national and local level in CEE countries, and how is this shaped by public attitudes, government policy, legislation, and financial support?
- What is the state of human rights/civil rights/ watchdog NGOs in various countries in the region? Does their situation differ from that of service-delivery organisations?
- What conflicts arise between the state and the organisations in the voluntary sector? What are their causes, consequences and ways to overcome them?
- What are the relationships between organisations within the third sector itself, in the region and globally, and how are they shaped?
- How do NGOs operate and how are they managed?
- What is the level of professionalisation of NGOs? What are the tools and methods that are applied by NGOs to plan interventions/programmes, monitor them, and evaluate their effectiveness and efficiency?
- How are emerging digital technologies and social media influencing the work of NGOs in civil society, both in terms of efficiencies and of engagement?

Recently, both the non-governmental sector and the geographical area of Central and Eastern Europe have been attracting the attention of some first-class international publishers. Our Working Group, being in the process of negotiations with a few specific top publishing houses, invites high-quality papers that, given their sufficient number, would have a chance to be compiled in a planned monograph addressing the third sector in the region.

Guidelines for the contributors:
We welcome abstracts from all scholars and professionals with an interest in the non-governmental sector and in multi-sector governance processes, including from practitioners working in the sector and we invite all to join us for the 28th NISPAcee Annual Conference in Split (Croatia). We welcome papers with a theoretical, empirical, and/or analytical focus that relate to the above mentioned themes.

Abstracts will be judged on the relevance and quality of the submission based on the following criteria:
• Clear and concise description of the paper, conveying its importance and significance in the field.
• Originality of the work.
• Quality of the research design and methodology.
• Relevance of the proposal to the Conference’s theme.
Guidelines for abstracts:
Submitted abstract should include the following elements:
• Title: Clear title reflecting the paper content.
• Authors and their affiliation.
• Abstract: We expect abstracts between 200-400 words. In the case of empirical studies, it should include the research design, clearly stated research questions, data sources, data collection procedures, the analytic approach and, if possible, results.
• Practical applications to the field should be also mentioned.

Activities in 2019
Meeting of the Working Group on Non-Governmental Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe

WG Programme Coordinators:
Michael Brintnall, Montgomery College, Rockville, United States
Gyorgy Hajnal, Corvinus University of Budapest and Centre for Social Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (CSR HAS), Budapest, Hungary
Iga Kender-Jeziorska, Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Place: 27th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Prague, Czech Republic
Date:  May 24-26, 2019
Working Group 8: Non-Governmental Organisations in Central and Eastern Europe held four sessions at the 2019 Prague conference of NISPAcee, with 12 papers prepared by 17 authors and co-authors:

Session 1: From Policy Design to Policy Practice in the European Integration Context (ERASMUS+ Jean Monnet Project PRACTIC)
Session 2: Bottom-up and Top-down Civil Society and Policy-making
Session 3: Partnerships and Tensions between Civil Society and Government
Session 4: NGOs in Advocacy and NGOs as Watchdogs

Each of the papers broadened the understanding of the role and performance of NGO's in the region, with the focus on policy design and its effect on practice, on the influence of practice on policy design, and on the organisational complexity of the space within which NGO's work.

The work in the working group stood out, as much for the methodological and conceptual advances as for its thematic content. Much of the work was built on comparative analysis – either among nations, between levels of government, and across institutional types. All papers showed careful attention to methodologies of inquiry, and many were methodologically quite adventuresome – including the construction of new multinational datasets and quantitative analysis of qualitative data, and the application of theoretical work from other fields, such as identity theory and post-modernism. This scholarship focused on ideas – new, provocative, and insightful ways of thinking about the place and effect of NGO's on policy and practice (in the region and generally) and every paper contained insights into the value for others.

Thematically, the work showed how NGO's and their performance are shaped by many forces beyond the direct relations with government which are typically examined. Compelling evidence was given on the role donors can play in shaping the direction of NGO work, and of aligning NGO's together in their effect – a process of isomorphism. Other work showed ways in which NGO activity operates conditionally in conjunction with other social and political structures – local and state values, the conditional and interactive effect of the media, and the openness of the state to co-governance models, etc. Citizen clients affect NGO performance from below as do international and EU pressures from above.

Patterns emerged across this work, making it clear that NGO's are not isolated actors in the policy process but are part of a web of relationships across the EU, international donors, national governments, local governments, other NGO's, churches, professional values, and so on.  Research must take this into account, and several papers offered quite sophisticated methodologies for addressing it. Additionally, the work reached outside narrow definitions of NGO's to look at other models of non-governmental policy processes – such as mass political behaviour and public advisory boards.

Future plans suggested by panel participants, included continued focus on the sustainability of NGO's, both in terms of the way donors sustain NGO's and how they shape their direction.  The idea of a Donors' Panel was proposed, with presentations from major donor organisations in the region, which focused both on the prospects for funding and on donor perceptions of their role. Gender also emerged as a particular theme of interest – both in the context of the role that NGO's play in advancing issues related to women in policy, and also with a look at the role women play in leading and promoting NGO's. Additionally, suggestions were made to look further into illiberal NGO's – most analysis reported in the Working Group has focused on progressive themes promoted by NGO's, but all participants noted that NGO’s with a conservative or illiberal focus are not well examined.

Activities in 2018
Meeting of the Working Group on Non-Governmental Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe

WG Programme Coordinators:
Michael Brintnall, ASPA Council, US
Gyorgy Hajnal, Corvinus University of Budapest, Institute for Political Science, Centre for Social Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (IPS CSR HAS), Hungary
WG Assistant Coordinator:
Reka Zsuzsanna Mathe, National University of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary

Place: 26th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Iasi, Romania
Date:  May 24-26, 2018

The Working Group on Non-Governmental Organizations (in CEE) held two important sessions during the 26th NISPAcee conference in Iasi, Romania.  These sessions focused on prominent themes, consistent with our interest in the functioning of non-governmental and civil society organizations in governance in the region.  The themes addressed the effective performance and accountability of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) and Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) and the role that these organizations play in the policy process. All planned presentations were held and each of them provoked an interesting discussion.
The first group of presentations and subsequent discussions explored NGO performance.  Work addressed principles of performance accountability and independence;  the practices and organizational structures that support these principles;  capacities and strategies for organizational learning by which NGOs can develop capacities to monitor their own effectiveness across multiple dimensions and then to improve performance based on this information; and models by which NGOs have sought to institutionalize collaborative practices, both with each other and with the public sector, in advancing development agendas.   Each of the papers in this group drew on empirical explorations and sought to anchor findings, both in a broad conceptual framework and practical experiences.
Work by Dina Abdelhafez examined the relevance of ethical standards, such as those articulated by BoardSource, for NGO leadership accountability; that presented by Corina-Georgiana Antonovici et al. reported on scholarships regarding learning organizations; and that from Agnes Horvath drew out locally specific contextual information and relevant national legal frameworks to understand capacities of NGOs to cooperate in such local economic and political developments. Individually and, importantly, taken together these papers advance our understating of NGO performance and of the nature of the sector as a whole.
The second group of papers explored the policy process. They examined ways in which non-governmental and civil society organizations in the policy system appear to broaden or enrich policy outcomes even when these organizations were not successful, or were actively opposed, in achieving formal legal or executive decisions.  These studies explored the role of NGOs in fields as diverse as energy policy, services for the homeless, and specific responses to illegal drug use.  NGOs had a positive effect on formal policy in some cases and not in others – indeed in some settings involving social policies, the positions advocated by the NGO's were officially rejected.   However, and perhaps most important, the studies showed the policy process cannot be assessed by looking at formal outcomes alone;  the presence of the NGOs in the policy system led to informal outcomes that enriched the overall policy arena and changed outcomes for many individuals.
For example, work by Reka Mathe showed that when the state acted to criminalize homelessness, NGOs were able to provide services that mitigated the harm to the homeless in other ways.  In energy policy, Lyubimka Andreeva showed that NGOs made it possible for smaller and alternative fuel producers to have a voice. Iga Kender-Jeziorska in a cross-national study of drug use showed how the size and character of the effective policy space can vary widely based on national culture, legal frameworks, and NGO experiences and policies. NGOs can operate in the policy arena in ways that change informal as well as formal outcomes and decision-making – effectively enlarging the array of policy outcomes relevant to citizens – even when the state has acted to shrink this space, restrict policies or deny civil society access to formal decision-making. 
Activities in 2017

Meeting of the Working Group on on Non-Governmental Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe
WG Programme Coordinators:

Gyorgy Hajnal,Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
Michael Brintnall, ASPA National Council, Washington, USA

Place:  25th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation
Date:  May 18-20, 2017

Our Working Group heard five papers related to our theme regarding the role of NGO’s in shaping governance and on multi-sector strategies for meeting the public interest. The papers included a focus on the ways NGO’s have sought greater transparency in the public sector, have sought to refine democratic processes, and have mobilised for advocacy across the European Union as a whole.Others explored how the internal structures of NGO’s, such as the values held by their staff, and influences from external donors affect outcomes, such as by introducing traditional values into their practices, and stimulating a more vibrant locally oriented civil society presence.

Summaries of working group papers:

1. Civil society organisation can be effective, within limits, by seeking to improve the quality of the electoral and policy process without intruding into the substance of politics and policy. Limits involve scale, working locally not nationally and scope, obtaining formal commitments from politicians, but not reaching behind the scenes to influence political operatives and staff. Action is possible because of public pressure for a change to the process.

2. There are a number of important linkages between the NGO’s and local civil society and policy, including local staffing, personnel connections between the NGO and the public sector feeding ideas and objectives back and forth, a revolving door of staffing between the NGO and government, and on job training for interns and future leaders.

3. Social movements in the European Union; the role is enabled by the multi-level/polycentric structure of the EU; possible emergence of a European civil society; cooperation centred but not conflictual, and advocacy/lobbying not mass mobilisation.

4. The European Union subsequently redesigned and managed itself. While this in itself seems to be a success for civil society, in fact, the resulting product is so large and so ill-designed that it cannot be effectively utilised, and appears to be out of the hands of civil society organisations to fix. An apparent collaboration between a civil society initiative and public sector implementation appears to result in something that is not effective at either level.

5. Values expressed by workers in civil society organisations are not consistently oriented to altruistic, pro-social principles, but include materialistic perspectives and are closely oriented to values in national culture as a whole. There is caution that there may be a distinction between values of workers and of volunteers and that NGO’s can also be focused on traditional values as values of reform or change.

Our goals for next year include a focus on the role of the NGOs in service delivery: independent service provision and co-design of public services, as well as an outreach to institutions carrying out research in the region. Further discussion is needed for us in order to elaborate on topical priorities for the coming call for papers.

Activities in 2016

Meeting of the Working Group on Non-Governmental Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe
WG Programme Coordinators:

Gyorgy Hajnal,Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
Michael Brintnall, ASPA National Council, Washington, USA
Reka Zsuzsana Mathe, National University of Public Service, Hungary

Place:  24th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Zagreb. Croatia
Date:  May 19-21, 2016
Working Group on Non-Governmental Organisations held its first meeting at the 24th NISPAcee Annual Conference in Zagreb, Croatia.  We launched our working group with the focus on four broad questions:  what is the role of NGO’s in governance in CEE countries; what are the examples of multi-sector models of governance in the region; what are the appropriate techniques for the measurement and assessment of performance, and what is the current state of teaching and curriculum development about NGO’s?
We heard seven excellent presentations which advanced our understanding along three of our four identified areas (leaving open for us still attention to teaching and curriculum development.)  Two presentations,  one by Agnieska Demczuk about the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland and one by Natallia Rabava, Iryna Vidanava, Tatsiana Chulitskaya, and Dzmitry Markusheuski about watchdog organisations in Belarus, focused on the role that can be played by NGO’s as watchdog and advocacy groups monitoring public policies and implementations.  The studies focused on themes for which advocacy is more or less effective, on tradeoffs between missions as a watchdog and other organisational activities and concerns, and on the importance of public sector officials’ understanding, training, and perception of the NGO’s role.
Three other presentations focused on formal and informal models of cooperation between NGO’s and the public sector, with a case study of an active collaboration between sectors in Hungary by Réka Mathé and György Hajnal, of legal authorisations and practical implementation issues of sectoral collaboration in service delivery in Poland by Mariusz Sienkiewicz and Marie Curie-Sklodowska,  and of the practical aspects of implementation of a global protocol for implementing sustainable development at local levels, Local Agenda 21, as a cross-sectoral partnership, by Zuzana Khendriche Thrlínová and Jacqueline Vochozková.
And finally our working group explored case studies of actual NGO performance and its assessment, drawing on case studies of the financial consumer protection programme in Hungary by Izabella Tebeli, and of NGO public relations strategies of NGO’s applied to the preservation of the cultural heritage in Turkey by Hanzade Uralman.
All of these studies add important insights to the conceptual and empirical literature about NGO’s working in the public sector, and we found this work to be a rewarding and promising first round for our working group. The working group coordinators gave detailed comments and suggestions to the authors of most of the presented papers. The final versions of the papers will therefore ne further improved so that their chances of inclusion in the edited conference volume increase.
We agreed to continue our efforts focused on the broad questions we have posed.  We also acknowledged that the themes of our working group are especially attractive to practitioners seeking to present and analyse their programmes as well as to academics conducting more formal research and planning curriculum development.  We especially welcomed this role of practitioners, and seek to work with them to refine the formats and methods of analysis and interpretation appropriate for the work being presented.

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