This television ad marked the official launch of ISC's Visibly Better campaign in Serbia.

‘Visibly Better’ in Serbia

For years, the Serbian civil society sector has faced challenging circumstances in the emerging democracy. Now, through a new campaign, Serbian citizens are seeing the ways in which civil society helps their country become Visibly Better.

Reclaiming the image of civil society is no small task in a country with Serbia’s recent history. For years, regular government and media manipulation of information—along with a lack of transparency—painted an adversarial picture of Serbian civil society in the public eye. Many perceived the sector as anti-Serbian, overtly political, and working on behalf of outside interests rather than the Serbian people.

Yet in a functioning democracy, an active and healthy civil society plays a crucial role by providing services to citizens, advocating on their behalf, and ensuring their voices are represented in public decision-making. Despite public perception, nonprofit and community organizations across Serbia are cleaning up trash and illegal dumps, helping children with disabilities receive an education, supporting victims of domestic abuse, or striving to reduce ethnic tension—and have been for years.

The Visibly Better (Vidljivo Bolje) campaign is drawing attention to the ways in which civil society organizations serve the needs of ordinary people and making Serbia a better place to live. Rather than focusing only on the efforts of individual organizations, the campaign is working to improve the image of the civil sector as a whole.

Partnering with both new traditional and new media—including, importantly, the network RTS, which was vehemently anti-civil society as the official state media arm during the Milosevic regime—ISC and its partners launched the campaign in 2011. It features a website—which includes blog posts by the likes of former Los Angeles Laker star and Serbian hero Vlade Divac—Facebook and Twitter accounts, radio spots, and several television ads, including the one posted above. Videos highlighting the work of local organizations are airing on national television during prime time.

Visibly Better is part of ISC’s USAID-funded Civil Society Advocacy Initiative in Serbia, which is working to build a stronger, more effective civil sector in Serbia. By helping ordinary citizens understand the positive role civil society plays in their everyday lives, the the sector is receiving more public support, is better  equipped to serve its constituents, and becoming a more influential and sustainable partner alongside business and government.