What have we achieved so far -December 2019
From the start of projectimplementation, the following activities are implemented:
Result 1.Local governments and CSOs have basic understanding on the comprehensive transparent model for funding of CSOs from municipal budgets.
1.1 Establishment of the project structures.
All project structures: Project Board, Board of Partners, Advisory Group and Project team are in place. The Board of Partners for Albania includes representatives of Delegation of European Union to Albania, Ministry of Finance and Economy, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Agency for Support of Civil Society, Albanian Association of Municipalities, Association for Local Autonomy, European Movement Albania/CSO and UNDP. These institutions represent the main bodies dealing with local government and civil society organisations both in central and local level.
The Advisory Group (AG) of the ReLOaD project in Albania includes 23 representatives from civil society and academia. The first introductory meeting of AG is organised on 18th of July 2017. While, the AG is consistently informed and consulted through meeting organised and e-mail for the milestones activities of ReLOaD.
The Project team in Albania consists of the Project Officer, the Project Associate and the Governance and CSO Associate. From May 2018 the project has been engaging continuously interns too. Their contribution has been valuable in several aspects of ReLOaD project.
1.2 Organization of kick-off meeting
Kick off meeting was organised in Tirana/Albania on 26th of May 2017, with the presence of around 60 participants from Delegation of European Union to Albania, Agency for Support of Civil Society, municipalities, civil society organisations, international partners, UNDP etc. The meeting aimed at informing all stakeholders on ReLOaD and discussing the modus of collaboration with all the partners. Both representatives from municipalities and civil society organisations ensure the staff for their collaboration and contribution during the implementation phase.
1.3 Promotion and awareness raising.
A Communication and Visibility Strategy for Albania as the key guidance document for promotional activities within the implementing region was drafted. It reflects the main principles of the Regional Strategy for communication and visibility and is in line with EU-UNDP guideline on visibility.Various communication channels targeting both local governments and CSOs to build basic understanding on a comprehensive transparent model for CSOs funding are organised.
Close coordination is ensured with representatives from Albanian Association of Municipalities and Association for Local Autonomy, as two main representatives of municipalities in Albania, using their formal channels to inform municipalities but also other key stakeholders on the Action. Directors of both Associations are members of BoP.
Information on the action is regularly distributed to all partners, as well as members of the BoP. All partner municipalities launched publicly the First Call and Second call by publicizing it in their website. Local media participated in some of the Open day events held in all partner municipalities.
Several promotional/visibility tools (i.e. project brief, visual identity, etc.) are developed and distributed, through different communication channels, including audio- visual press, social medias, etc... aiming to build basic understanding on a comprehensive transparent model for CSOs funding. Awareness raising was done in strong collaboration with all our BoP. To better communicate the results of projects that are under implementation (funded through the first public call) three video stories are produces and shared by all our partners, reaching a high number of people.
Important visibility tools have been used from all implementing CSO-s related to 71 projects implemented under ReLOaD project in Albania. The partner CSOs has been using Facebook, Twitter, websites, local televisions and radio to promote activities of the implemented projects. A visit of the Head of EU Delegation in Permet is organised, aiming to promote visibility of the action and projects implemented in this municipality.
In order to contribute with high quality visibility tools and to know more about visibility rules of the donors (EU and UNDP), the project organized a training for all partner CSOs in December 2018. The training was focused on visibility strategy of ReLOaD, visibility guide specifically for partner organization of ReLOaD, visibility rules of EU and UNDP.
Result 2.A model of transparent and project-based funding of CSOs by local governments is introduced and institutionalized in all participating local governments, and thus promoted and anchored across Western Balkan countries
Activity 2.1 Selection of partner municipalities in participating WB countries - Call for proposal to be launched
Call for proposal for partner municipalities in Albania waslaunched at the beginning of July 2017 and remainedopen for more than 4 weeks, until 4. August 2017, including predefined set of criteria (obligatory and additional) endorsed by the BoP. A competitive and transparent process took place for selection of municipalities. The Call is launched in UNDP Albania web page, EUD in Albania as well as others stakeholder’s website. Three information sessions were held in July 2017 (while the Call was opened) informing the municipalities’ representatives on the modalities of the Call.
35 from 61 municipalities in Albania applied to be part of the Action, constituting around 62% of total number of municipalities. The selection process was competitive and transparent. The ReLOaD team in Albania reviewed all applications in conformity with the agreed criteria and provided detailed information to the BoP for each of the applicant municipalities.
Considering the high interest of municipalities and the needs on local level, in the meeting organised on September 2017, the BoP decided to select 12 top ranked municipalities instead of 10 foreseen as partner in the Action for Albania: Durres, Diber, Elbasan, Korce, Librazhd, Prrenjas, Tropoje, Permet, Lezhe, Shkoder and Tirana. All partner municipalities committed to co finance 20% to 25% of the budget granted. There is a geographical distribution of partner municipalities as well as a combination of big and small municipalities. 4 municipalities are from North part, 3 from South and 5 from Central part of Albania. In terms of population size, 4 of them are large municipalities, 3 medium and 5 small municipalities.
The selection process included also field assessment in the 12 top ranked municipalities to validate the submitted documents and confirm the commitment of the mayors in the new partnership. All municipalities that submitted applications with ReLoAD were notified on the results of the selection process.
Memorandum of Understandings between mayors of 12 municipalities and UNDP Country Director were signed on 1 November 2017 in a public event.
Activity 2.2 Conduct assessment of existing in-country mechanisms for disbursement of public funds to CSOs and provide specific recommendations for improvement looking at experiences and lessons learned from the viewpoint of the principal model from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
An assessment in relation to existing financing mechanism and regulations for disbursement of public funds to CSOs in Albania was finalised on August 2017. It includes a detailed analyse of the situation in central and local level on the procedures and mechanisms in place to finance CSOs from public funds. Assessment serves as a preparation for the introduction and institutionalisation of the transparent project-based funding, especially at local level as well as a baseline for the situation. Findings and recommendations for improvement and alignment of practices with EU rules and standards, especially those foreseen in the LOD Methodology are included in this Assessment. The assessment is presented on a public event on 12th of July 2018, gathering representatives from state institutions, municipalities, civil society organisations and other partners.
2.3. Assessment of existing (budgets) mechanisms for disbursement of public funds to CSOs in each selected local government
After selection of 12 partner municipalities a detailed assessment on existing mechanisms in these municipalities was conducted. It presents a tableau of the situation in partner municipalities and a comparison between existing procedures and LOD requirements. The assessment outlines a series of recommendations for full alignment with LOD methodology for each of municipality. The assessment is presented on a public event on 12th of July 2018, gathering representatives from state institutions, municipalities, civil society organisations and other partners.
2.4. Discuss and formalize a methodology and accompanying tools, as well as monitoring framework for funding of CSOs by local governments’ budgets within all target localities.
Methodology for disbursement of public funds to civil society organisations (LOD Methodology), as a central document of ReLOaD project,is a step -by-step guide that helps local governments to standardize their work related to civil society funding. It is based on EU best and it covers from planning and execution, to monitoring and evaluation. LOD is a tool for CSOs too, helping them to be more focused on the real needs of their constituencies
LOD Methodology is a biding document for 12 partner municipalities, approved by Municipality Councils. However, based on recommendations set in both Assessments on financial mechanisms for disbursement of public funds to CSOs in Albania it is noted the need for further alignment of internal procedures to standards set up in LOD.In this regard, consultations with different stakeholders are in place to formalise a structure/template on how to align internal procedures with LOD standards. Support is needed both from central and local institutions. During the two public calls, it was highlighted the need to align internal municipal procedures with the Methodology for disbursement of public funds to civil society organizations. 12 partner municipalities will implement the Methodology during the third public call for CSOs, as well.
A consultative meeting on public funding mechanisms of CSOs in Albania, focused on 12 partner municipalities was organized by ReLOaD staff Albania on 12 July 2018. This meeting was an opportunity to present findings of two researches conducted in 2017 and 2018 “Existing public mechanisms for funding CSOs in Albania” and “Assessment of existing mechanisms for disbursement of public funds in 12 partner municipalities in Albania”. During the meeting partners and stakeholders discussed the idea of a dedicated line in the budget of each municipality for funding CSOs. Task manager of EU Delegation in Albania and representatives from Ministry of Finance and Economy, Agency for Support of affairs agency for support of civil society were present and held short speeches on the topic. The General Director of the Agency for support of local self-governance expressed his commitment to open a discussion on the topic with all municipalities in Albania in the following processes for approval of municipalities’ budget 2019. In this regard, meetings are organised with representatives from Ministry of Finance and Economy and Agency for support of Local Self-Governance, as new members of Board of Partners. They are committed to support municipalities in implementation of LOD Methodology.
Activity 2.5. Awareness-raising and familiarization of local government leadership and staff, as well as CSOs with the methodology for disbursement of public funds to CSOs.
The project team has undertaken a series of meetings with municipalities representatives including mayors, to introduce the Methodology to inform them on the advantages of using unified and transparent tools for funding CSOs. On the other side, Methodology is presented to CSOs during information sessions and Open day events for the first and second call. LOD Methodology was an integrative part of the Project Cycle Management training for both local government staff and civil society organization representatives. The focus was on practical implementation of LOD in financing CSOs and special attention was directed to the detailed explanation of the eligibility conditions and evaluation process, evaluation matrix and publication of the results. Printed copies of LOD Methodology have been shared with municipalities staff while soft copies have been shared widely with CSOs representatives.
LOD methodology has also been discussed in several occasions (meetings and contacts during the open call, evaluation commissions and publications of results) with municipality representatives. Furthermore, in regard to the awareness-raising towards LOD methodology, ReLOaD project officer in Albania held a presentation of LOD methodology and ReLOaD project for representatives of 61 municipalities in the frame of an activity of “Municipality for Europe” project, an EU funded project in Albania. LOD as also being shared in several platforms of the project and of partner municipalities and CSOs.
Partner municipalities that have already opened the third public call for CSOs are implementing LOD Methodology.
Activity 2.6 Set a financing mechanism in line with national legislations (i.e. specific municipal budget line(s)) to fund CSO activities within each participating local government
In case of Albania this is a challenge considering the legislative and financial environment for funding CSOs. The main financial mechanism for financing CSOs from public funds is the annual grant distributed by the Agency for support of civil society through an open call, while the donors are the main contributors for funding CSOs. Albanian government is working to establish a friendly environment for civil society aiming at improving the legislation and financial mechanisms.”.
Partner municipalities are committed to support the CSOs. The approval and implementation of the Methodology and co-financing under the First and Second call for CSO with at least 20% of the total grant given by ReLOaD are significant steps ahead. On the other hand, 12 partner municipalities have foreseen a specific amount from their budget to be used during the Third call. The Assessment for in - country mechanisms for disbursement of public funds to CSOs might be used as a guide to improve the situation. The importance of such mechanisms is presented also during presentation of findings from two Assessments conducted: 1. Assessment on existing public financial mechanisms for Civil Society Organisations in Albania and 2. Assessment of existing mechanisms for disbursement of public funds to Civil Society Organisations in 12 ReLOaD partner Municipalities in Albania. ReLOaD team assisted partner municipality to use LOD methodology as guiding principle for internal call such as the case ofRoskovec municipality.
Result 3. Services delivered by civil society organisations address the needs of local communities within partner local governments across the Western Balkans countries.
Activity 3.1 Design tailored grant schemes for CSOs in each target local government
Consultative meetings with CSOs were held in the 12 partner municipalities to define the priority development areas for each municipality for the first call in 2018 and the second call in 2019. 330 representatives from grassroots CSOs actively participated in these meetings which led to the identification of 3-4 priority topics for the upcoming call for applications by civil society.Specifically, in the second call the selection of priorities was done taking into considerationthe fields that were not included in the first call in order to touch as many fields as possible and give the opportunity to more CSOs to be part of the call.
The grant scheme includes contribution from EU and UNDP (up to 80%) and municipalities (at least 20%). Considering the needs and capacities of each municipalities the amount funded by the Action will varied between 65.000$ to 100.000$. However, the final grant amount was affectedby the absorption capacities of each municipality, and the number and quality of submitted project proposals for the two public calls.
Activity 3.2 Launch of Public Calls for CSO Proposals, selection and contracting of CSOs
First public call for CSOs in Albania was launched in January-February 2018 and second public call was launched in January-February 2019 in 12 partner municipalities. While, some partner municipalities, such as Shkodra, Tirana, Roskovec, Permet launched the third public call for CSOs as well. While other municipalities are working on this. During this call, the total budget will be provided by partner municipality, following LOD Methodology standards.
The Callswereopen to all formally registered CSOs while activities wouldbe implemented in the territory of the respective municipality. However, the focus of the grant scheme was on local/grassroots’ CSOs, aiming to strengthen the capacities of small and inexperienced organisations working in partner municipalities.The Call remained open for a minimum of four weeks for the first call an six weeks for the second one. Open day events were organised in each municipality during this period, aiming to inform the CSOs on the details of the Call. More than 400 representatives from CSOs participated actively in these events. In the same time, a two days training on PCM wasprovided to CSOs, focusing on Methodology principles and elements.
The evaluation committees were established through formal decisions of Mayors in each municipality. The evaluation committees consisted of: 2 representatives from each municipality, 2 from UNDP, 1 CSO representative as evaluation committee member and the second CSO representative as alternative member. The representative of CSOs in the evaluation committee was selected through direct voting in meeting in each partner municipality in the first call. Meanwhile in the second call a competitive process through a national vacancy was opened and managed by UNDP and the municipalities in order to select the representatives. The Committees evaluated all received CSOs project proposals and provide recommendations to the Board of Partners, as the final structure that approves projects for funding.
All applications were scored based on these five criteria: (i) financial and operational capacity, (ii) relevance, (iii) methodology, (iv) sustainability and (v) budget and cost rationality. The Evaluation committee selected and proposed the projects for funding to the BoP, which reviewed all the decisions of the evaluation committees and endorsed the winning projects. The final decision was made public for each municipality in the UNDP website and all partner municipalities websites. Municipality’s staff were supported for correct publication of the results in their websites and other visibility platforms they have.
After the notification of the results, all the CSOs that applied in the call were individually notified by ReLOaD staff for the outcome of their application. Furthermore, ReLOaD staff assisted Municipality’s staff in responding to complaints after the publication of the results.
All the successful CSOs were invited in negotiation meetings with representatives of municipalities and ReLOaD staff. The negotiation phase lasted 4weeks as most of CSOs had difficulties to align logical framework and the budged especially related to the performance target and tranches forecasted. By the end of this process all the MCGAs/LVGAs were ready to be signed for 30 project proposals to be financed.
ReLOaD team in Albania supported 12 partner municipalities in preparation of two Public Call for CSOs.
· Daily assistance to 12 partner municipality staff in responding in adequate timeframe an accordingly to all the questions/complaints/issues raised by civil society organization during the open call phase, as foreseen in LOD methodology.
· The establishment of the evaluation committees for project proposals received for the call was advised by ReLOaD team only on two aspects; the procedures as per LOD methodology on how to formally establish the commission and advises on the background needed for the evaluator when it was asked from the municipality. After the commission was established, ReLOaD team has had ongoing communications with all the members in order to introduce and explain all the process in details.
· During the evaluation process, ReLOaD team initially presented to all the evaluation members the approach and technicalities of the process, always based on LOD methodology and the annexes ideated for the evaluation process. Several examples were given to the members in order to explain all the elements of the evaluation matrix. The whole evaluation process was directed towards an equilibrium between the individual evaluation and the group decision-making for every proposal evaluated. Special attention was paid to the conflict of interest issue for which in many occasions human recourses of the municipalities were involved for formal confirmation for persons related to the project proposals and working for the municipality or institutions related to the municipality budget.
· Publication of the results: Municipality’s staff were supported for correct publication of the results in their websites and other visibility platforms they have. Furthermore, ReLOaD staff assisted them in responding as adequately as possible to complaints after the publication of the results.
Result 4. The capacity of civil society organisations and local governments in implementation of municipal grant schemes and delivering of good quality projects is strengthened.
Activity 4.1 Capacity development of local government staff within targeted localities in Project Cycle Management
To strengthen the capacities of municipalities staff, specialised training on Project Cycle Management was designed and organised from November 2017 to March 2018. The curricula are prepared based on a Training need assessment, prepared in collaboration with the EU funded project “Municipalities for Europe”. The curricula included five modules as follow: (i) Introduction to PCM, (ii) Logical Framework, (iii) Project preparation, (iv) Monitoring and evaluation and (v) Implementation of LOD Methodology.Two trainers are engaged for preparations and delivery of training.
At least 3 representatives from 12 partner municipalities participated in training. Representatives from municipalities that applied to be part of ReLOaD but were not selected were invited to participate as well. Around 50 representatives (65% women and 35% men) participated in the training, including 5 non-partner municipalities, such as Pogradec, Patos, Cërrik, Çorovodë and Malësi e Madhe.Certificates for attendance of training to participants were delivered upon completion of all five modules on March 7 and March 13, 2018.
Daily assistance to partner municipalities was provided as well, especially during the preparation of the application package for the first and second public Call, preparation of meetings of priorities, management of the calls,evaluation of proposals, notification of results and negotiation process.
Activity 4.2 Capacity development of CSOs within targeted localities in Project Cycle Management
Considering the capacities of CSOs, especially small-scale CSOs, the Action foresees a component to strengthen their capacities as well. Therefore, during the First call for proposal, a two-day training on PCM is organised with participation of around 273representatives from 224 CSOs (60% women and 40% men). Trainings were organised during January – February2018, focused on project proposal writing, logical framework, visibility, monitoring, reporting, etc.
Open day events wereorganised in 12 partner municipalities, with the participation of 250 representatives from CSOs, aiming at informing them on the technicalities of the First call. CSOs were encouraged to send questions on any uncertainties to ReLOaDproject e-mail address. A document with frequently asked questions was prepared and published in UNDP webpage.
While, additional tips on project implementation are given to selected CSOs during negotiations processa guideline on implementation of project for CSOs was preparedtogether with a Communication and Visibility Guide. Both guides were shared with CSOs before starting implementation of projects, and additional presentation/training was conducted with all awarded CSOs in three groups: in Tropoja, Prrenjas and Tirana, with the participation of representatives from CSOs and partner municipalities.
During the second public calls open by all 12 partner municipalities in January-February 2019, mentoring sessions has been organized in each municipality. These mentoring sessions were a novelty of the second call based on the information processed and feedback from the first calls in 2018. It was noted that the needs of CSOs potentially applicants of the call were specific and these needs could be better fulfilled in small mentoring groups compared to trainings for all interested CSOs and open days. Mentoring sessions were organized in all partner municipalities and 44 people/organization took part.
Activity 4.3. Monitoring of CSO projects’ implementation through combined monitoring teams
From October 2018 ReLOaD staff in Albania has been conducting continuous field visits and monitoring visits in all CSOs that were/are implementing projects related to call one and call two. Furthermore, coordinators/representatives form partner municipalities were present in most of the visits. Besides the ReLOaD team Albania, three monitoring experts were engaged for the monitoring and evaluation process. A guide and instruction were prepared for the stakeholders of the monitoring process. Field visits also served as an opportunity to check the organization/quality of activities but also to discuss in person with them difficulties, problems and potential risks.
Activity 4.4 In-country promotion of the methodology for disbursement of public funds to CSOs and its tools, as well as successful practices in each participating WB country
Promotion of Action in Albania is done through different channels such as TV, social media, press etc…Main promotion activities are organised during launching of Call for partner municipalities and launching of First Call for CSOs as well as signature of cost sharing agreements, presentations of findings for two studies, field visits in activities of the partner CSOs and other events . All partners, especially members of BoP, such as EUD in Albania, Agency for support of civil society, Albanian Association of Municipalities, Association for Local Autonomy, etc… supported the widely dissemination of information. Promotion is done country-wide. An action plan for communication and visibility is prepared by Albania office and all the activities will be done based on this plan. A press trip with 10 journalists is organised, aiming to inform them on the results of some of the projects implements in Elbasan, Librazhd, Prrenjas and Korca municipalities.