Former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin traveled to Bulgaria in 1990 as an observer of the country's first-ever democratic elections. The burgeoning passion for democratic reform that she witnessed during her visit inspired her to start the Institute for Sustainable Communities in order to help new democracies, like Bulgaria, address environmental, economic and social challenges.

During the tumultuous transition from communism to capitalism, ISC became one of the first U.S. organizations to develop projects at the community level in Bulgaria, with the goal of building a strong, vibrant and sustainable NGO sector capable of filling the void left at the end of centralized rule. Our work has fostered a distinct and competent nongovernmental sector that works with the government and the private sector and is a voice for the people.

Tangible Results

  • We trained over 120 civil society organizations to become more effective at influencing public policy issues, mobilizing resources, forming networks, and sharing information. This has led to more than 50 new policies and laws affecting the election process, the environment, worker safety, child protection, and social assistance.
  • We provided 13 "support NGOs" with the training they needed to continue ISC's NGO strengthening work in Bulgaria after we left.
  • We supported the creation of the 3NET Association which promotes and shares the best international and national development practices in Bulgaria.
  • Our two-year solid waste policy demonstration project significantly reduced the nation's dependence on open dumps and landfills through a policy that became Bulgarian law.
  • We helped the city of Troyan preserve its water supply through a low-cost leak detection and repair program that resulted in water savings of 10 percent.