Civil Society

Civil Society
Photo Credit: Alex Baranov,

Civil Society

At ISC, one of our primary goals is to help ordinary citizens participate more fully in all aspects of public life. We often do this by strengthening civil society. Civil society is the social fabric that connects individuals, families, institutions, and business to one another. Because nonprofits are the primary way through which ordinary people can make their voices heard, we focus much of our resources on strengthening nonprofits and their ability to represent and serve their constituents.

At every step, we engage local partners working on local issues and local initiatives. These nonprofits address a broad range of issues of their own, choosing, advocating on behalf of their constituents, connecting people, or providing services where the government is not able. Social service organizations, think tanks, watchdog groups, and consumer and business associations all play a critical role in helping people make their communities better places to live.

ISC gives nonprofits the tools, skills, and resources they need to get what we call a "seat at the table" alongside government and business in decisions affecting public life. By "seat at the table," we mean that the nonprofit sector is seen as a trusted, influential, and permanent partner in public decision making.

Tangible Results

  • While we help individual nonprofits better represent and serve their constituents, we also promote ways in which the nonprofits can raise the revenue that will sustain them in the future. We have helped spawn community foundations, for example—a relatively new concept in many countries. We also are working with business and corporations to encourage corporate philanthropy, and we have helped nonprofits launch businesses whose profits fund their social services.
  • In many countries where we work, nonprofits are stepping in to provide services where the government used to—and legislation has not followed this trend. So we help nonprofits advocate for or change laws that will support the nonprofit sector, such as changing the tax code so that nonprofits will pay less or no tax, or so that they won't be taxed on earned income that supports their mission. We help them draft laws that will permit nonprofits to register more easily, encourage volunteerism, or allow individual or corporate donations to be exempt from taxes.
  • We help nonprofits form coalitions and networks to achieve more with fewer resources. In Serbia, a coalition of nonprofits developed the first national policy on youth, who, facing high unemployment and disillusionment, need more support to strong leaders in the future. In Macedonia, a coalition applied for and won the country's first grant from the Global AIDS Fund to stop HIV from becoming an epidemic at home. And in Ukraine, a network of nonprofits developed a new system for homeless people to register for social services from the government without a home address. Also in Ukraine, more than 100 nonprofits have signed a Code of Ethics that takes an important and strong stand against corruption and for transparency.

Supply-Side Philanthropy: Building on the Impulse to Give

In Ukraine—and now in Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo—ISC worked with nonprofits to help them get donations—but we also worked on the supply side, encouraging corporations and individuals to give time, money, and expertise to their favorite causes.


Helping Macedonia's Roma Secure Their Rights

The mood at Mesecina, a local nonprofit that provides much-needed assistance to the Roma in Macedonia, is brighter these days as it uses the training and mentoring provided by ISC to ensure that their valuable work will thrive well into the future.


The Magical Multiplier Effect

By funneling energy efficiency savings back into communities, ISC’s grass roots approach to combating climate change is galvanizing people toward making their communities better places to live.


Supporting Socially Disadvantaged Groups in Serbia

ISC helped organize Serbia's first Pride Parade since 2001, which drew more than 1,000 activists marching through the streets of Belgrade to demand equal rights and celebrate their place in Serbian society.