In many countries NGOs are competitive. I can’t say NGOs in Serbia and in Montenegro are not competitive, but I see many of them caring about each other which makes me proud of our two partners, Young Researchers of Serbia and Green Home
Christoph Stein lives in Barcelona, but being WWF capacity building officer, his working area, apart from Spain, includes Northern Africa, Middle East and Western Balkans countries. Through the IPA project “Partnership actions for biodiversity protection in Western Balkans”, Stein has trained several NGO representatives from Montenegro and Serbia for lobbying and advocacy.
The Project ”Partnership actions for biodiversity protection in Western Balkans” is in its final phase. Being capacity building officer, what is your opinion on this project?
Capacity building is one of the main line of the project. If you start a new policy process, such as Natura 2000, you have to find a way to connect it to civil society for many reasons. Civil society has to push the government to be active on Natura 2000 and later on to monitor the process. This is something that needs to be built up, and you can’t do it in few weeks. We are very lucky with this project that we have two years to work with the group that slowly grows within the project.
This is your second project in the region, after the one you’ve already worked on with Young Researchers of Serbia and Green Home. Are you satisfied with these collaborations?
We had another capacity building project that was a small project. It is really good to see those NGOs are both champions in their countries with an interest in other NGOs. In many countries NGOs are competitive. I can’t say NGOs in Serbia and in Montenegro are not
competitive, but I see many of them caring about each other which makes me proud of our two partners.
Photo: Christoph with the IPA project team in Zagreb
How long have you been interested in capacity building?
Capacity building is about how to use educational processes in the best way to achieve previously established learning objectives. In this, I started in early 1990s, first as a teacher in different schools, then I worked for other NGOs on educational projects. In 2000 I came to WWF and this is when we started talking about capacity building and education. I have worked in the region for 10 years with capacity building. But, my job is divided – I work in the Western Balkans and in Northern Africa and Middle East.
Is there any fundamental rule of capacity building?
No main rules. Capacity building is about pushing for transformational changes. We all want to change something in a positive way. First you want to change yourself. You need to learn how to do it and how to apply it to other people. So, capacity building is about transforming your society, starting with you and your organization. It’s about listening and asking the right questions, it’s about being open to learning and changing and for an organisation it means a permanent process.
Lobbying is a part of your training. Do you have good experience with NGOs learning about lobbying?
Lobbying is part of most NGO work – there are few NGOs who are not dealing with advocacy or lobbying in a different context. If you work for an environmental or social NGO, you need to know how to lobby. You need to lobby people and advocate institutions. There is a lot to learn and a lot to improve. When you start to plan that process, you see how difficult it might be. Many NGOs say: “We have no power, we are too small...” That is not true! NGOs need to understand that their power starts at the community level where they work. From there it goes up… But, yes, they have power – not to change alone, but to push that change with their partners.
And what about lobbying and advocacy, is there a golden rule?
You have to be very clear what exactly you want a person or an institution to do. You have to ask yourself the question: what exactly do I want and what can this person or organisation really do to help me to achieve my goals. A golden rule in most advocacy processes is that you have to evaluate your progress and to be flexible enough to adapt to changes on the policy level.
Do you get feedback from stakeholders you have trained?
We have different feedback – from evaluations that people write after training, in personal contact… As I see it, people are positive. Organizations come back to our training courses. This means they were satisfied with the previous training, and we have a relationship of trust, we are on a good track. What they learn, they try to apply. We can see this from small grants that we gave to 17 NGOs within the project “Partnership actions for biodiversity protection in Western Balkans”. It’s a pity this project is ending this year, there is so much more we could do. Hopefully there will be funds to continue this project…
What would be the next steps of the follow up?
We could keep this group together to work on the implementation of Natura 2000. This is not a process of one of two years, but of 10 years! We should motivate this group to keep on this process, to work with public institutions, for which they need a lot of energy. This follow up could be on socio-economic assessment, on communications… There are so many possibilities and if we want to work on it for the next 10 years, we could. The group of NGOs is very motivated and all we need now is to find funds to continue the process….
Petra Boic Petrac, WWF