Vibrant civil society is a cornerstone of democracy. Civil society organizations, independent media outlets, civic initiatives, watchdogs, and advocacy and charitable groups play a key role in empowering citizens, building communities, fostering societal debate, shaping public policy, and holding governments accountable. In so doing, civil society defends and strengthens older and newer democracies alike, challenging authoritarian regimes and working toward their democratization.  

GMF has supported civil society in Central and Eastern Europe for more than three decades. Despite considerable progress, democracy remains vulnerable or absent in many countries in these regions. GMF, therefore, has not only remained committed to supporting civil society but also recently doubled down on its assistance, which it provides through: 

Grantmaking: GMF gives hundreds of small to medium-sized project and operational grants every year to civil society organizations, independent media outlets, civic initiatives and, if needed, diaspora groups. Funding programs support the needs, ideas, and approaches of local civic and democratic actors. 

Capacity-building: GMF acknowledges that skills development and professionalization are essential to sustainable and impactful civil society. Tailor-made capacity-building programs are offered to key democratic actors, including journalists, social media activists, local community organizers, youth and student leaders, cultural managers, and policy experts.  

Networking: GMF fosters networking and cooperation among civic leaders and organizations within countries, across Central and Eastern Europe, and with Western partners. Support is available for convening, coalition-building, mutual learning and best-practice exchange, and advocacy at national, regional, and international levels. 

Policy research: GMF supports analyses of current challenges facing Central and Eastern Europe. Carried out by policy experts from the region, and addressing a broad range of political, social, and security issues, this research builds informs civil society organizations’ strategies, policies, and approaches.  

GMF assistance for civil society in Central and Eastern Europe is jointly implemented by the Transatlantic Trusts (see programs) and is based in the GMF Democracy hub. 


Program Experts