I. Introductiona. CroNGO
The Academy for Educational Development (AED) implemented the highly successfulUSAID-funded
Support for Croatia’s Nongovernmental Organizations Program(CroNGO)
from 2001-2007. The $12.5 million program increased the ability of Croatiancivil society to contribute to Croatia’s democratic, economic and communitydevelopment. CroNGO made major contributions by supporting civil society advocacy, building nongovernmental organization (NGO) capacity, reforming the legal environmentfor civil society and improving the public image of NGOs.
b. NGO network capacity building
One hallmark of a vital and sustainable civil society is the presence of collaborativerelationships and networks among NGOs, and between NGOs, government and the private sector
. If NGOs and other kinds of civil society organizations (CSOs) are the building blocks of civil society, civil society networks make up the civic infrastructure of democratic societies, linking diverse groups in common action on shared priorities. Networks can yield numerous benefits: strengthening citizen voice in advocating for policy or social changes; increasing the reach, scale and impact of projects to improvehealth services, schools or agriculture; and opening civic spaces for citizens to cometogether to discuss, debate and take common action on issues affecting them. Strongnetworks lessen the risk for citizens to speak out against sensitive issues like corruptionor human rights abuses. Networks help CSOs gain more influence with government and,in turn, make it easier for government to respond to organized citizen interests. However,in many countries globally, including Croatia, international donor funding for civilsociety is on the decline. Networks will need to be very committed and resourceful tosustain their collaborative capacities and social impacts.The Network Capacity Building Program was an important component of CroNGO for promoting collaborative NGO networking in Croatia. The CroNGO Network CapacityBuilding Program was strategic for network development in Croatia in that it was theonly grant program in the country designed specifically to strengthen the organizationalcapacities of networks. Moreover, it was offered at a time in the development of thecountry’s civil society when a number of networks were ready to make use of such funds.Although the program was not part of the original design of CroNGO, project staff,during the first phase of the program (2001-2004), realized the need to provide support to NGO networks. CroNGO staff found that many NGO networks had been established andwere making important contributions to social development, but the networks oftenoperated informally or only sporadically, limiting their opportunities for growth and3
NGO Sustainability Index
(2007) USAID/MSI/ICNL; Bezovan, Gojiko (2001)
Croatian Civil Society: Onthe Path to Becoming a Legitimate Public Actor
, CIVICUS Index on Civil Society Occasional Paper Series.Volume 1, Issue 4.