Shaping Macedonia’s Future
Nonprofits give a voice to ordinary citizens working to make their communities stronger
In 1995, ISC launched our first program in Macedonia, designed to give voice to ordinary citizens by building a critical mass of nonprofit organizations able to address significant problems facing their communities.
At the time, Macedonia was just emerging from nearly 50 years of socialist rule, where the government had provided many social services. The country’s civil society—the nonprofit sector—was very much a grassroots effort. Most citizen groups were less than five years old, and many operated out of people's homes. But as the new government grappled with a faltering economy and an unstable democracy, these new nonprofits played a critical role—stepping in to provide needed services to the country’s people.
In Spring 2010, we celebrated 15 years in Macedonia by completing our most recent project—the Civil Society Strengthening Program—designed to help a core group of nonprofits become strong leaders that can support the larger sector into the future. The five-year program provided training, mentorship, and grants to 150 nonprofits in 34 cities—resulting in 120 local and national advocacy campaigns—and provided support to organizations throughout the Balkans.
One of these groups, Planetum, set out to transform the way Macedonia handles its trash. In much of Macedonia, the country’s beautiful landscapes are marred by piles of trash, much of which is recyclable, but few municipalities have formal recycling programs to handle the waste. With ISC’s help, Planetum developed the first solid waste management plan for the city of Strumica in 2005, and was asked to roll out the plan to four other municipalities.
Planetum soon found that it needed more capacity and managerial skills to become the environmental leader it wanted to be. With training and mentoring from ISC, Planetum is now seen as an expert in waste and environmental issues and is often called upon to advise other nonprofits throughout the country.
Another organization, the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (ESE), spearheaded a national advocacy campaign with ISC support to address the widespread problem of domestic violence. While Macedonia had passed laws in 2004 to protect victims and strengthen penalties against domestic abusers, a lack of agency coordination and little awareness of the issue meant those laws were poorly enforced.
ESE developed a National Strategy for Protection Against Family Violence, which has since been adopted by the central government. “The most positive change has been the professional attitudes of police and others,” says Deputy Director Maria Gelevska. “Their approach when victims come and ask for help is now more skilled and efficient.”
Today, nonprofits in Macedonia are more adept at advocating on behalf of citizens and working within the government system. And two organizations founded by former ISC staff, the Center for Institutional Development and Konekt, continue to provide training and services to the nonprofit sector.
As Macedonia’s young democracy continues to mature, ordinary citizens still face difficult challenges within their communities. Fortunately, a newly active civil society is poised to play a crucial role, giving Macedonia’s people a voice—and a mechanism for positive change.
Stories from Macedonia
For the last five years, ISC has supported the development of civil society organizations in Macedonia. We have worked with 150 nonprofits in 34 cities throughout the country, building their capacity to meet local community needs.
These are some of their stories.